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Stop violence against children

© UNICEF/MOZA/L.Clemente
Roundtable on HIV/AIDS, 1 June 2006. From left to right: Isaú Meneses (Chair of the Parliamentarian Commission for HIV/AIDS), Ivan Zandamela (President of Child Parliament), Dino Covane and Natércia Arina (Both from Child Parliament in Sofala Province).

Maputo, 16 June 2006- This year the Day of the African Child, celebrated on June 16, is dedicated to the theme “violence against children”. In Mozambique, growing concerns have been raised about the increasing numbers of children subject to various forms of violence.

Throughout the country, children joined efforts with the Government, the Office of the First Lady and several partners including UNICEF in awareness raising initiatives during the fortnight for children which started on 1 June. A series of plays, sports and cultural activities have been organized with the active participation of children to spread the message “Stop Violence Against Children”. With UNICEF support, children and young people from the Child Parliament met with members of the Parliament of Mozambique, AWEPA representatives as well as provincial and local authorities in Beira, Sofala Province, for a round table discussion on the impact of HIV and AIDS on children.

Also with UNICEF support, the national television organized a live roundtable with representatives of teachers, police officers, journalists, parents and also young people and experts on violence against children. Both young people and adults from different parts of the country had the opportunity to openly discuss the various manifestations of violence against children in Mozambique and possible solutions.

Why June 16 and the focus on violence against children?
June 16 is a landmark day for African children. On the same day in 1976, thousands of black school children protesting against the inferior quality of their education, and demanding the right to be taught in their own language were brutally repressed in a demonstration in Soweto, South Africa. Hundreds of young boys and girls were shot down. Thirty years have passed but children in Africa, and all over the world are still subject to various forms of violence, as the UN Study on Violence against Children to be presented to General Assembly in October 2006 will reveal. 

What is the situation in Mozambique?
There are no comprehensive data on the situation but the general consensus is that violence against children is increasing in the country. The 1997 population census estimated that 388,060 children below the age of 15 were subjected to child labour. An assessment by the Ministry of Labour in 1999/2000 indicates that child prostitution is among one of the worst forms of labour. Many children and women are trafficked for labour purposes and this is becoming a growing concern in Mozambique, though little is yet known about trafficking within the country. Recent reports from the Ministry of Interior showed that in 2005 some 2250 children were victims of different forms of violence.

What are the main causes of violence?
There is no single factor to account for violence perpetrated against children and women. Many factors can contribute to violence, among them poverty, gender inequality, dysfunctional family relationships, cultural norms supporting violence, and others.  However, many of the children orphaned and made vulnerable by HIV and AIDS are the ones most likely to work in exploitative situations, to be stigmatised and at risk of child trafficking, violence, abuse and neglect. In many cases orphans are forced to form child-headed households assuming adult roles and responsibilities at an early age, or are forced to make a living on the streets in urban areas. Girls are especially vulnerable to sexual exploitation and can also be pressured into early marriages to ease the financial burden of a caregiver or guardian.

Where does violence occur?
Violence can take place in all settings– in the family, in the school, in the workplace, in institutions or on the streets. Certain forms of violence are more likely to occur in specific settings. For example, sexual abuse is more likely to take place at home or at school by family members or teachers. Usually in these cases, the perpetrators are known to the children. A 2004 study conducted in the Centres for Assistance in Maputo City and Province, and in Sofala province revealed that a total of 289 cases of violence and abuse against children were registered from 2000 to 2003 and 213 of these were against girls between 0 and 16 years of age. The great majority of these acts of violence and abuse were recorded within the family environment.

© UNICEF/MOZA00676/G.Pirozzi

What about violence in schools?
A recent study conducted in several schools by Save the Children, Care International, Ministry of Education and Culture, Rede Came and the Foundation for Community Development (FDC) showed the following results: in Maputo city and the provinces of Maputo, Gaza, Inhambane, Sofala and Nampula at least 8 per cent of female students had suffered physical and sexual abuse in the school and 35 per cent had experienced sexual harassment involving verbal persuasion. In 37 per cent of cases the perpetrator of the abuse was a teacher. In 85 per cent of cases girls reported that schools had no knowledge of the abuse. Another study on violence against girls conducted for Action Aid International in 2004 also found out sexual abuse as the most common form of violence against female students in Maputo city and in the provinces of Maputo, Zambézia and Manica. 

What about child trafficking?
Some of the most detailed information available comes from the report on trafficking in Southern Africa conducted in 2002/3 by the International Organisation on Migration. This study found that Mozambique is both a source and a transit country for trafficking activities in Southern Africa. The study reports that approximately 1,000 Mozambican women and children are trafficked to South Africa every year.

What about child marriage?
The 2003 Demographic Health Survey indicates that 18 per cent of girls aged 20-24 in Mozambique had been married before the age of 15 and 56 per cent before the age of 18. The percentages of men who had been married before the ages of 15 and 18 were considerably lower–1 per cent and 14 per cent respectively- suggesting that young girls tend to marry older men.

Married girls are much less likely than their unmarried peers to attend school, and girls are often removed from school in order to marry. Demographic Health Survey figures from 1997 indicate that 36.9 per cent of married girls aged 15 to 19 had no education and 62 per cent had primary education. Only 1.1 per cent of girls in union at that time had a secondary education.

What can be done?
It is known that the more effective way to combat violence is to develop a comprehensive prevention strategy at all levels, rather than purely focussing on remedying recurrent situations of violence. Efforts should be primarily centred in ensuring that children and women are prevented from any form of violence and that all dimensions of violence and the existing prevention mechanisms are well know to all, more importantly to the community. 

It is important to ensure that:

  • A coordinated and systematic response to protect children’s rights is in place;

  • Comprehensive laws and policies protecting children from violence are developed and implemented and the roles of institutions and organisations are explicit through these documents;

  • A broad communication advocacy strategy on the prevention of violence is developed and implemented at all levels, particularly at the community level;

  • A comprehensive system of data collection is developed and research on the effects of violence against children are promoted;

  • Children and women have access to quality support services and that child-friendly reporting mechanisms are in place to assist victims;

  • Communities are given the capacity to establish social networks and community-based prevention and support mechanisms.



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