|© Plan Inc./2010|
|Abigail,17, is a child ambassador for the Violence Against Children programme in Ghana.|
NEW YORK, USA, 8 October 2010 – Promoting gender equality and the empowerment of girls and women is one of the United Nations’ eight Millennium Development Goals, a set of internationally recognized targets for reducing poverty worldwide.
Among the young people working around the world to promote that goal is Abigail, 17, who hails from Ghana. Abigail is a child ambassador for the Violence Against Children programme, which advocates for ending violence against children at the family, community and school level.
Facing hard issues
Abigail got started as an activist against violence when she was just 12 years old. As a leader in the programme, Abigail now educates people in her community about child abuse and sexual violence.
Members of the Violence Against Children programme educate their peers on this essential issue. They speak out to parents’ groups and lobby local leaders for policy changes. Abigail’s group focuses particularly on sexual violence, which often occurs against girls. Sometimes their work involves talking with police or head teachers to address violence or abuse in schools.
To help other young people feel more comfortable bringing forward complaints about violence or abuse, Abigail’s group set up anonymous complaint boxes in schools where people can bring up sensitive issues without having to identify themselves or fear repercussions.
The Violence Against Children programme also works to address violence at the family level. Abigail recalls one girl in her community who was raped by her uncle and became very sick after the abuse. She stopped going to school and missed classes for several months, and had trouble walking after the incident.
Members of the youth programme against violence helped encourage the girl’s parents to report the case to the police. Then they helped to the girl return to school, where she is now successfully awaiting the results of her junior high school entry exam.
Abigail hopes that she will be able to reach many people with her messages about child’s rights and the importance of preventing violence against children. But she acknowledges that some people are harder to reach than others.
“People in very remote areas [also] need these messages,” she said. For some people, she added, violence against children is part of cultural practices and day-to-day life, so educating them about children’s rights has proven to be a challenge.
Reaching a wider audience
To help get their message to a wider audience, the group speaks on the radio, produces community theatre performances and conducts its own small-scale research projects to find out more about the types of violence going on in their community.
They then use this information to help better shape their education campaign.
The United Nations estimates that between 133 million and 275 million children experience violence at home annually, with the largest proportion in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
UNICEF Radio speaks with activist Abigail, 17, about stopping violence against children in Ghana.