|© UNICEF Thailand/2005|
|The delegates hold up a drawing done by an abused child.|
By Karen Emmons
This week, young people from 14 countries gathered in Bangkok to speak out against violence at the Regional Consultation for East Asia and the Pacific, the sixth of nine regional consultations taking place this year. The meeting brings together governments, NGOs, regional experts and others to discuss the latest research on how violence affects children in the region and proposes the best ways to reduce such violence.
BANGKOK, 14 June 2005 – Banning corporal punishment at home and in school tops the agenda at the East Asia and Pacific Regional Consultation on Violence Against Children in the Thai capital this week.
“Nobody has ever talked this openly – it’s usually left behind closed doors. Now they’re taking this opportunity to give their perspective on corporal punishment in the home,” says Margarita Harou, seventeen, from Papua New Guinea. She’s among 26 ‘under eighteen’ delegates representing 14 countries at the Regional Consultation alongside their adult counterparts.
|© UNICEF Thailand/2005|
|Twenty-six ‘under eighteen' delegates from 14 countries gathered at the East Asia and Pacific Regional Consultation on Violence Against Children in Bangkok, sharing their views on how to prevent corporal punishment against children.|
The concluding issues and recommendations from the Regional Consultation will contribute to the United Nations Secretary General’s Study on Violence Against Children. The global study, the first of its kind, seeks to explore the impact of violence by concentrating on the different settings where violence may occur and to identify practical policy recommendations to eliminate it.
During the opening session of the three-day meeting, the delegates spoke on the importance of child participation in forums, and in policy-making on violence and presented their key recommendations for improving the protection of young people:
Many of the young delegates have experienced violence first-hand. They have come to the forum as activists to insist that child rights issues be addressed by their governments and communities.
Hilda Wong of Hong Kong remembers how her parents hit her with sticks when she was only eight, angry over her school performance and unexplained actions. They stopped hitting her with the sticks when a doctor linked her changed behaviour with a physical ailment. Hilda, now 14, doesn’t consider herself a victim of violence, amid stories of other children being tied to a tree for punishment, or beaten till they are bruised and bleeding.
Prior to the consultation, the young delegates spent two days in a workshop to prepare their contribution and recommendations on what they see are the major issues of violence in the region. It is a new approach for strengthening the genuine participation of young people.
“Many children from this region have previously participated in various local, regional and, particularly, international events,” notes Helen Veitch, the coordinator of children’s participation for the Regional Consultation. “But their presence often proved to be exercises in tokenism because they were not involved in the decision-making process at the meetings.”
“If we weren’t involved it would totally contradict what the UN is about and the Convention on the Rights of Children that all our governments have signed,” contends Michael Sheehan-Bendall, 17, who has been a member of New Zealand’s National Youth Commission for four years.
The World Health Organization estimates that worldwide 40 million children under the age of 15 suffer from violence, abuse and neglect.