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UN Study on Violence Against Children

© UNICEF CEE/CIS 2005 / Chris Schuepp
Professor Pinheiro took time to listen to youth delegates like Tatiana (14) from Moldova.

Independent expert Professor Pinheiro meets with young experts in Slovenia

By Chris Schuepp, UNICEF CEE/CIS

Professor Paulo Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro has covered thousands of flight miles since he was appointed to head the UN Study on Violence Against Children. But wherever he goes to participate in the regional consultations, the face-to-face meetings with the young people are among the highlights of his trips.

On this rainy Tuesday morning in the Slovenian capital Ljubljana, 24 young people from Europe & Central Asia are waiting for “the expert” to arrive. They have come from all over the region – from Lithuania in the North, Italy in the South, from Northern Ireland in the West and Tajikistan in the East. For two days they have prepared their participation in the regional consultation meeting that will be opened later in the day – but before that, they have a chance to talk to the man who has the global mandate to collect information on violence against children. And collecting information today first of all means to listen to the children. 

“I am very happy to be here and meet all of you today. I will introduce myself briefly, but I really want to listen more than I want to talk,"Prof. Pinheiro makes clear from the very beginning. Holding a print-out of the children’s recommendations from the day before in his hands, he asks them to come forward with concrete experiences or suggestions. After a somwhat shy start, the questions come rolling in. Katarina from Slovenia is concerned about parents beating their children, Max from Romania shares similar worries, especially when talking about the rural population and traditions in his homecountry. The teenagers from the United Kingdom bring their fears about alcohol abuse forward and Zarina from Tajikistan demands more hotlines for children who have been victims of domestic violence.

Prof. Pinheiro does what he promised to do. He listens and takes notes. He also gives answers wherever possible and shares his experiences from the other regional consultations. From Mali where he visited children from single mothers who were left alone in a crib, from China where “many parents seem to think that beating their children is part of their rights as parents” and from Thailand where youth participation has improved significantly over the last decade, just like in Europe & Central Asia.

"However", Pinheiro adds passionately,  “we cannot expect children to completely stand up for themselves. The states, the governments, should promote your participation. We have to do more!”In the discussion with the young people, the idea of a “school for parents” comes up. Pinheiro sees a huge potential in this, saying that “a lot of parents have not the slightest idea about children’s rights. We cannot put all the responsibility on the children’s shoulders. The parents have to help, but many of them need help themselves in the education of their sons and daughters.”

After more than an hour with his young interviewers, Prof. Pinheiro has to leave to prepare for the opening of the regional consultation meeting. A picture with Tatiana from Moldova, a present from Milos from Serbia-Montenegro, some hand-shakes with the children and then he leaves the Youth Hostel where the meeting took place. But he will soon see the young people again, at the conference later in the day. And nobody has the slightest doubt that he will again listen to them carefully and takes their suggestions and concerns into account.

 

 

 

 

 

Young people meet Prof. Pinheiro

Slovenia -  July 5, 2005

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