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What to do When People Say “It’s none of my business” When a Child is Suffering

Updated: Oct 13, 2022

by kate mcalpine

Insights from C4C Community Connect — 8th August

Kate McAlpine’s PhD explored the worldview of Tanzanians who protect children.

She discovered that child protectors are primarily motivated by compassion and a moral responsibility to do the right thing. They do not always have the skills, knowledge or social networks to advance children’s best interests and are required to improvise as they protect children.

Many child protectors face social stigma; becoming the victims of gossip or accusations that they are interfering in others’ business. Consequently, they may feel isolated.

Citizens 4 Change tests Dr McAlpine’s theory about how we can protect more children better.

We hypothesise that there are thousands of people across East Africa who are trying to do the right thing by children and that they could constitute a crowd of child protectors. We use virtual meetings like Community Connect Cafe, SMS messaging, and our social media to listen to, celebrate and mobilise protectors. We then use data analytics to take all the individual insights and to learn from the wisdom of the crowd about how to protect children better.

Community Connect Cafes enable protectors to build solidarity and develop their toolbox so that they protect children better. The cafes are generative conversations where we talk about our motivation to protect children and how to resolve the dilemmas we face. They energise us, and help us to open our minds and think differently.

“When you are alone you may think your actions are not important, but when we come together, talk and share experiences, it really gives energy.”

What follows are the insights from our August 2020 cafe.

We are motivated by our Ujasiri mindset.

Protectors are driven by their care, compassion, and sense of responsibility. They

  • Fear for children, worrying that children are innocent and powerless and that they may be taken advantage of or abused.

  • Have imbued a cultural expectation that adults are responsible for caring for those who are younger.

  • Want to be a positive role model to children, so that the younger generation fulfil their personal potential and advance national development.

“I will need to invest in protecting children now so that we get the sustainable, inclusive development that we want.”

Given that protectors’ motivation is informed by their empathy for others what is going on in the minds of individuals who see a child suffer and yet say “It’s none of my business”?

  • The costs of taking protective action are too high, so it is easier to blind oneself to a suffering child. If I get involved, it’s going to take time. It might cost me money. It might cause conflict. It’s better to avoid the situation.

  • I don’t want to be the odd one out. No one else is taking action to address this child’s suffering so why should I?

  • The child will suffer no long-term harm. I was treated in a similarly punitive way as a child and it didn’t harm me.

  • It’s not my child. It’s the parents’ responsibility.

If we are to build a critical mass of child protectors across East Africa it is critical that each Citizen 4 Change can influence people who would normally say “It’s none of my business”.

Protectors suggested 5 things we can each do as individuals.

  1. Spread the education — help people to understand the long-term harm that occurs when children are victims of violence.

  2. Show people that protectors are not alone — Introduce them to movements like Citizens 4 Change.

  3. Speak out and condemn acts that violate children. Do not be afraid to say “This is not right.”

  4. Give children the opportunity to express their opinions and in doing so empower them and inform adults that children have their own wisdom.

  5. Ask people to put themselves in the child’s shoes.

Citizens 4 Change is trying to demonstrate that there is a critical mass of individuals who are protecting children. We believe that in doing so we will start to challenge social norms that accept violence against children. If you want to do the right thing,

Join us by registering here.

Follow us on social media.

Participate in our Community Connect Cafes.

Spread the word to your friends.

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