"We used to feel bad when she spent her time gambling because she was never with us."

It is the last day of school and Wasna has prepared a special meal for her six children: steamed rice with cabbage, noodles and canned tuna.

Her children are ecstatic. Usually, they eat boiled sweet potato for breakfast before rushing off to the classroom. It is a grand gesture from mum and something her children don’t take lightly. They have seen a big change in her.
Nick, 4, eats breakfast alongside his siblings at their home in Goglme, Chimbu. ©UNICEFAustralia/ChristinaSimons

“My mother used to gamble a lot,” says Wilne, 12. 
“We used to feel bad when she was never home and when she spent her time gambling because she was never with us. Most of the time, we would help ourselves, cook for ourselves or sometimes dad would cook for us.”
“Now, we see a big change in our mother,” he adds.
The change started when the local priest in the remote village of Goglme, in the province of Chimbu, Papua New Guinea, came to tell Wasna about a UNICEF-supported program on parenting.

The program - which now runs in five provinces across PNG including the Western Highlands, Chimbu, Jiwaka, Mandang and Morobe - teaches parents how to use positive techniques to communicate with children, rather than using physical and verbal abuse which is common in parts of PNG.  
“I attended the training and ever since my life has changed,” Wasna says.

Wasna outside her home in the mountain village of Goglme, Chimbu. ©UNICEFAustralia/ChristinaSimons

“Gambling was wasting a lot of time and keeping me from spending time with my children.

“I would lose track of the time and my children would do all the chores because I would come home late. But now, I have stopped. I am organised and I spend a lot more time with my children.”

Wasna also used to hit and shout at her children. But after learning through the program that violence could leave an emotional mark on her children forever, she immediately stopped and started using new ways to communicate with and discipline her children.

“I am so happy that I got the training, but I regret not knowing these things before,” Wasna says.

“I am happy because I have
improved myself and now, I want
other parents to attend the program.”
Wasna outside her home in Goglme, Chimbu. ©UNICEFAustralia/ChristinaSimons

When Wasna completed the program her husband David, who is a nurse at the local health centre, put her certificate in a folder with their important papers.

“Wasna told me they learned many things from the training including treating children properly, respecting our own children and respecting their rights, allowing them some freedom and time to play and not to force them to do too much work,” David says.

“Previously, I always forced my children to work in the gardens and by the time they got back home, they would have no time to rest and were too tired to do their homework.
“If they did something wrong, I shouted at them, but Wasna always told me there was a better way to deal with them instead of shouting at them. From my side, I thought I was doing the right thing by forcing them to do a lot of work.”
As soon as David started prioritising the needs of his children, their behaviour rapidly changed.
David helps his children get ready for their last day of school for the semester. ©UNICEFAustralia/ChristinaSimons
“I saw that my children were starting to grow well, physically and mentally, and I knew that some positive changes were happening in my family,” David says.

He also noticed his children’s marks were improving at school.

“Previously their reports were not good because…we didn’t give them time to do their school work,” David explains.

“But now, after we allowed time for different activities, especially when we gave them time to relax, play, help us, do their homework and get enough sleep, there has been a big improvement in their reports.”

For 12-year-old Wilne, the biggest change has been in his mother’s behaviour. Wasna is home more often, prepares their meals and spends a lot of time in the garden making sure they have enough food to feed the whole family.
Wasna playing with her son Nick, 4, and neighbouring children. ©UNICEFAustralia/ChristinaSimons

In Papua New Guinea and other countries in our region, UNICEF is focused on supporting parents and governments to create safe communities for children. 

Wilne says the program, supported by the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, has made his family a lot happier.

“Before the program, I felt that our parents used to force us to do a lot of work without giving us enough time to play so we were rebellious, we would talk back to our parents, we refused to work,” Wilne says.

“Now, they give us time to play, relax after school and also time for us to do our homework so we are happy to listen to them and do whatever household chores they need help with. We are really happy now.”

“We are really happy now.”
Wasna with her youngest child, Nick, 4. ©UNICEFAustralia/ChristinaSimons