UNICEF Mauritania has established a partnership with the Imams and Religious Leaders Network for Child Rights to address the widespread use of corporal punishment in mahadras (Quranic schools) and secular primary schools, as well as within families. The Network carried out a study to assess whether corporal punishment is allowed in Islam and concluded that violence has no place in the Qur’an. This led to a fatwa barring physical and verbal violence against children in the educational system as well as in the home. “The evidence that corporal punishment is forbidden by Islam is clear and abiding for all of us,” declared the President of the Network, Hademine Ould Saleck.
UNICEF and Religions for Peace
UNICEF and Religions for Peace are collaborating on a multi-year project to strengthen the engagement of religious communities and child protection actors to enhance protection for children affected by conflict. Project objectives include strengthening religious communities’ capacity to protect children affected by conflict and elaborating successful approaches to collaboration between religious communities and child protection actors. Activities include the implementation of country projects (currently in Kenya, Liberia and the Philippines) and the development of guidance material and tools (including a manual: ‘From Commitment to Action: What religious communities can do to eliminate violence against children’ (see Key Resources section).
Support to key religious leaders, scholars and institutions in Iran
UNICEF has supported key religious leaders, scholars and institutions in Iran to conduct theological research and academic discussion to produce documents that interpret the articles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child from Islamic (Shi’a) perspectives. These efforts have led to the development of three publications:
a) A booklet titled ‘Disciplining Children with Kindness: A Shiite Shari’a perspective’, which reflects the viewpoints of a number of senior Islamic leaders/scholars on violence-free child disciplining.
b) An advocacy package (consisting of a booklet, brochures and posters) for religious leaders to sensitize them on child rights and prevention of violence against children through highlighting links between the Convention on the Rights of the Child and Islam’s views on how to treat children.
c) A draft resource book titled ‘The Rights of the Child: A comparative study of Islam and international instruments’, which offers both Shi'a and Sunni perspectives and covers all the articles in the Convention.
The first two publications have been widely distributed among targeted religious leaders/ students and institutions. UNICEF Iran is also supporting the first National Inter-Religious Conference on Violence against Children, in collaboration with Mofid University (a major school of Islamic sciences in Qom), to be held in 2011.
The European Union and UNICEF in Moldova undertook a successful integrated communication campaign on de-institutionalization in 2007 and 2008, which included mass media components (TV/radio/press) and printed materials. The campaign targeted parents and decision makers in support of reducing the number of children placed in residential institutions. The Orthodox Church, considered one of the most trusted and reliable sources of information within Moldova, was one of the partners in this campaign and, together with UNICEF, developed a special brochure promoting a family environment for all children that the Church distributed to all its priests to use within their congregations.
Through successive programmes of cooperation, UNICEF Venezuela has established partnerships with a variety of religious organizations in order to promote and protect the rights of children and adolescents. In the past decade, there has been a particular investment in creating spaces at community level to ensure the rights of and psychosocial support to Colombian refugees, especially children and their families, in Venezuelan border areas. In the current country programme, through a national alliance with the Venezuelan Association of Catholic Schools , teachers are being trained on human rights and child rights. In addition, UNICEF and the Apostolic Vicariate are promoting a communication network among young indigenous communities from Zulia and Amazonas states.
Female dynamics of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C)
UNICEF and others have been exploring some of the cultural dynamics of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) and encourage its abandonment in countries such as Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. A booklet on FGM/C was prepared in a participatory manner by UNICEF Egypt to be used by religious leaders engaged in efforts to stop the practice. Containing a foreword by the Former Grand Shiekh of Al Azhar, the booklet addresses religious leaders’ concerns on this issue and also presents important counter-arguments to those who may think that FGM/C has a religious foundation. (See the box on p. 51 for further details of this programming.)
The World Day of Prayer and Action for Children (DPAC)
The World Day of Prayer and Action for Children (DPAC) initiative is a global effort to mobilize secular and faith-based organizations to work together for the well-being of children and highlight the important role religious communities can play in promoting child rights. It is held every year around 20 November to coincide with Universal Children’s Day and the anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. DPAC was established in 2008 by the Arigatou International, an international faith-based NGO, and was first observed in 2009. DPAC’s main partners at the global level include UNICEF, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General on Violence Against Children, Pastoral da Criança, Religions for Peace and the Global Network of Religions for Children. The theme for 2011–2013 is violence against children (with areas of focus including positive disciplining, child marriage and birth registration). (More information on the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children).