NAME: Melita Cavallo
BACKGROUND: University Degree
POSITION: Former President of the Juvenile Court of Rome, now retired
My Background and Career
My name is Melita Cavallo. I recently retired after serving as President of the Juvenile Court of Rome. Before becoming a judge I taught history and philosophy as a substitute teacher in a number of high schools. I really loved the relationship with the students and I liked teaching, but unfortunately in my teaching life I met headmasters with whom I failed to get along and who contested my teaching method. I was a young graduate of 25 years who wanted to attract her students and engage them in the study. I did not want them to study in a mnemonic way, just reading a textbook so, for example, I read several newspapers in the classroom and showed the students how the same news was presented differently by each newspaper. This way of teaching created a huge scandal and one headmaster told me that he would revoke my contract, so I thought that it was not the right time to create a new way of teaching. So I left teaching and I took the public examination to enter the judiciary. I passed the exam and chose Milan, a big city, as my first location, mainly because there was a place at the Juvenile Court. Therefore I started working in the juvenile court almost by accident, but I became passionate about this work immediately. Later I returned to Naples, again at the Juvenile Court and stayed there many years, fighting many battles, like the one against the institutionalization of minors and the “children's market”. Since 2009, I became president of the Juvenile Court of Rome. I fought together with the other juvenile court judges, and together we were able to achieve big changes: we obtained the institution of foster homes, which are very different places from the old institutions and the old orphanages. In foster homes, children are better cared for, protected and safeguarded; in addition, social services are also able to gather much more information to properly evaluate the situation of the child in question.
In my professional career I have witnessed great social changes. In fact, the family is no longer a patriarchal structure, but it has turned into a nuclear family; it is often a family with a single mom, and it is a conflictual family. For this reason I worked on family mediation. I also worked on school mediation to reduce bullying, which unfortunately was very popular in Neapolitan schools. Every year I chose a topic to work on and with the other judges I carried out my fight.
I understood that difficulties can be overcome with will, free-thinking and the help of people who are close to you. I have had a solid and strong family next to me; my family has supported me in my battles and in my professional career. My work has given me a lot of satisfaction but has also led me to work away from home. My children, however, told me: "Mom do not worry, you've always worked hard, so it's right that you go to take credit for what you've done." Being a woman has not been a problem for my career, even though I started working when women had just been allowed to work in the judiciary. At the beginning of my career they gave me the simplest and most boring tasks: this was the biggest problem I encountered as a woman.
Hints & Tips
What to say to a girl who wants to have her own professional career? Never give up! How should she be? Dynamic, positive, always looking to the future, and should never lose heart, never despair, never think that everything went wrong. Even when everything seems to go wrong, the situation may change for the better