"Every child has the right to live in a family" Campaign
By Olga Grebennikova, UNICEF Kyrgyzstan
April 4, 2008. Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan: “Every child has the right to live in a family” – a publicity campaign with this title has been underway in Kyrgyzstan with the support of UNICEF since the beginning of 2008.
The campaign began at the time of the International Conference on Media Support of of Women and Children Rights in Central Asia organised in Bishkek with the support of the European Commission in the framework of a BBC World Service Trust project and with the active participation of UNICEF in February 2008. It has continued since then with the aim to change the situation of children living in children’s institutions in Kyrgyzstan.
“It is paradoxical that at the same time as economic growth in the country, the number of children in children’s institutions is also increasing, and more and more children are being thrown out on the street,” noted Tim Schaffter, Representative of UNICEF in Kyrgyzstan in his address to conference participants – journalists, representatives of government structures and NGO activists from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
“If we compare figures with the beginning of the 1990s, the number of children in institutions has grown from 2500 to 6000, and this growth is continuing,” he said.
Despite the fact that Kyrgyzstan was one of the first signatories to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and remains the only post-Soviet state to have developed a Children’s Code (in 2006), there still remains a lot to do in the country to protect the rights of children, and first of all their right to live in a family.
Currently there are 62 children’s institutions in Kyrgyzstan – including orphanages, boarding schools, and homes for children with special needs. Meanwhile, almost 80% of those living in such institutions have either one or both parents.
The current practice of raising children in such institutions has been decried by international and local experts as highly ineffective and having a negative impact of the development of the children. Systematic violations of their rights, cruel treatment and violence against children have been highlighted during recent research entitled “Destinies that walls keep silent about”, which was carried out by the SIAR-Bishkek Sociological Agency with the support of UNICEF.
The issue of a steady move in the Kyrgyz Republic to alternative forms of care for children on the initiative of, and with the participation of, UNICEF was discussed on 25 March 2008 at a round table organized by the Child Protection Department under the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic.
Participants in the form represented key Ministries, regional administrations, non-governmental organizations, Child Protection Department, directors of family type children’s homes, international organizations and the mass media.
“In Kyrgyzstan the issue of reviewing social policy as a whole and particularly with regard to the protection of children has come to a head a long time ago,” noted Marila Adieva, head of the Social Policy Department of the Presidential Administration, at the forum.
Round table participants, local and international experts noted that for development, a child needs to feel protected and that this feeling can only be experienced in a family. “Humanity has thought up nothing better than the care of parents for the growth and development of children,” noted child psychology specialists.
“It is not important where a child lives – in Talas, Issyk Kul or Osh – they are all our children and we all need to think how we can provide a better future for them,” said Tolkun Bekbulatova, head of the Child Protection Department under the Government of Kyrgyzstan, during the discussion. “Traditionally there were no orphans among the Kyrgyz, and we need to return to the old values system of the people,” she said.
Participants at the discussion noted that in the country it is necessary to expand the practice of guardianship of children, introduce the concept of foster families, develop family type children’s homes and use other forms of care for children as close as possible to the family model. For this, it is necessary to develop a legislative base in the country, make necessary resources available and create working mechanisms at the community level.
The “Every child has the right to live in a family” campaign is continuing in Kyrgyzstan and already Parliament is planning at the end to April to hear a Government report on realization of the Children’s Code in an open parliamentary hearing. The hearing will see the participation of community and international organizations, specialists and the mass media. UNICEF will be an active participation in preparing for the hearing. This was agreed by Timothy Schaffter, Representative of UNICEF, and Adakhan Madumarov, Parliamentary Speaker, at a meeting on 28 March 2008.