Thursday, 5 June 2014

Violence against children - it can happen to anyone

By Ali Aulia Ramly, UNICEF Child Protection Specialist

Last week in front of more than 100 academics, civil servants, politicians and experts from around the world, one woman - a high-level, experienced professional herself - ended her presentation by telling the story of how she was sexually abused as a child.
I, and everyone else in the hotel conference room, including a delegation from the Government of Indonesia, was shocked to find out that one of our peers had experienced this and admitted it in front of colleagues.

We were all child protection experts attending a three-day Global Meeting on Violence against Children in Ezulwini, Swaziland. But we had not thought that one among our number could have been a victim of violence during childhood.

She told us she was a survivor, and she thanked all of us for our engagement to prevent violence against children. She said she had been lucky because she received help and support to deal with what had happened to her, so she could overcome it. The whole room applauded her.

I have worked in child protection for 15 years and never heard something like this from a high-level colleague. But this woman’s story reminded me and all of us why we do the work we do.  
The conference "From Research to Action: Advancing Prevention and Response to Violence Against Children" was the first global meeting of its kind - a chance for experts and practitioners from countries like Zimbabwe, Kenya, Tanzania and Cambodia to share information about how they are tackling violence against children.

In several of these countries, UNICEF has been helping governments and the CDC to carry out surveys to find out how widespread the problem is, what the risk factors are and what can be done to protect children better from abuse and violence. We need this kind of data in order to work out how best to respond to the issue.

The survey results show that worldwide, violence is all too common in the lives of children, and that many children who are victims of violence are not getting the help they need.
But the conference delegates also shared information on what can be done to prevent violence against children from happening in the first place – that men and fathers must be involved in such protection efforts, the important role schools have to play, including by using constructive, non-violent forms of discipline to keep children safe and motivated.
A delegation from the Government of Indonesia explained that the results of the country’s first ever national survey on violence against children will be published shortly. The delegation stressed that child protection was a priority for the Government.

I believe that the Government of Indonesia is moving in the right direction on this issue. My role is to help them really understand the data and develop policies to tackle the problem.  Like I tell my son - it’s my job to make sure he, his cousins and other children in Indonesia are free from violence.