A Discussion with Sister Rejoice Hoedoafia, Psychology Research Team Member, Centre for Child Protection, Rome, Italy

With: Rejoice Hoedoafia Berkley Center Profile

July 2, 2018

Background: As part of the Education and Social Justice Project, in July 2018 undergraduate student Mayeesha Galiba interviewed Sister Rejoice Hoedoafia, SOLT, a psychology research team member at the Centre for Child Protection (CCP) in Rome, Italy. In this interview, Sister Hoedoafia discusses best practices for safeguarding minors.

What is the mission of the Centre for Child Protection?

The mission is to form people. We also promote awareness of the important issue of safeguarding and protecting of minors. We really treat the victim as the core of our work. The CCP wants to train people in order to stop or prevent abuse and create awareness. We create multiplying agents who can change society with regards to safeguarding and protecting minors. Also, we have to build knowledge and a database—this is what research is all about. The e-learning program, the diploma program, and the licentiate are all about education. When we really understand the issues and have a knowledge base, then we can go out into society and share this information. 

How do you align with that mission?

I collaborate with others and try to advance our mission here in Rome and also outside of Italy. I have gone to Nairobi, Kenya to help form priests who are safeguarding officers. I’ve been in Ghana, my own country, to be part of the collaboration with the Catholic University of Ghana. I have taught a course and talked about the programs in my own diocese and seminary. In fact, the seminarians are taking the courses in safeguarding. 

The center focuses on the abuse of power inside of the Catholic Church, especially the treatment of minors. How do you think that work is connected to your research on intrafamilial assault and abuse in Ghana?

Who goes to church? It’s the families, right? Mostly women and children. The church is made up of everybody and these families make up the church. When the family is hurting, it affects the church and the body. If the children move to the church and somebody abuses them, it goes back home. There is a link in the sense that it’s important what happens at home. It’s important that children are formed to be assertive, to be able to say no, and to be able to say “somebody touched me wrong.” We can listen and be present for people who are abused, even if they aren’t talking or are using nonverbal cues. 

Let’s talk about this idea of teaching autonomy to children. How do you teach children that they are able to say no?

We try to form the people so that they can learn best practices for protecting children. At the same time, we also need to involve the minors. They also have a voice in what they think will be the best way to protect themselves. This is one of the things that I love about the center. Whoever asks for and needs training can tailor the program to their own countries’ needs. This way, they can get to work on the issues that matter in their countries. In some areas, we need to do a lot of work teaching children to be more assertive and helping children be themselves in front of adults. When they learn these skills, they can speak up with something inappropriate is happening.

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