Child protection from violence, exploitation and abuse

Young people from around the world gather to help end violence against children

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More than 20 children from around the world have come to New York to lend their voices to the upcoming UN Study on Violence against Children.
By Blue Chevigny

NEW YORK, USA, 26 May 2006 – Harry Lopez, 18, is a sharp dresser from Venezuela with a lot to say about why violence has a terrible effect on children. 

“No matter where we’re from, what nationality we are, what age we are, we all have, as children, in one moment in our lives, suffered from the violence in the world,” he says. “And I believe the biggest changes should come from us, children and young people.”

Harry is in New York for a four-day meeting of 22 children from around the globe.  They are finalizing their recommendations to the United Nations’ global study on violence against children, which is to be issued in October. Most of them have been to meetings in their own countries and at the regional level, also offering input to the study, but this is the culmination of all their efforts.

Anti-violence activism

In February 2003, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed Paolo Sergio Pinheiro of Brazil as the independent expert to lead the study and provide an in-depth picture of the extent, nature and causes of violence against children.

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At the children’s meeting in New York, Ayyama, 17, performs a song about how girls in India are affected by violence.
The UN Study on Violence against Children will also propose actions to be considered by the UN system, member states and civil society – including effective preventive measures and ways of rehabilitating the victims of violence against children.

The children who have gathered in New York are all dedicated to the principles outlined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which calls for states to protect children from violence and conflict. Selected because of anti-violence activism in their own countries, they are acutely aware that the study is the first of its kind and that its ramifications will be wide-ranging.

“Violence is part of every day in my community, for me and the people I work with,” says Ayyama, 17, from India. When she lost her father at 11, Ayyama and her sisters all started working and stopped going to school. She currently works at a box-making factory and has become empowered through membership in a child-workers’ union.

Child labourers around the world often experience violence in the workplace, observes Ayyama. “Many young girls go to work in homes as domestics and experience sexual and physical abuse at the hands of their employers,” she says.

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The independent expert for the UN Study on Violence against Children, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro (left) of Brazil – along with UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman (right) and Deputy Executive Director Rima Salah – listen to children.

Hoping for change

Ioana Brbu, 17, lives in Romania and became an anti-violence activist because of her volunteer work in ‘placement centers’ for orphans and homeless children who were frequently abused, she says.

“It was horrible to see that they were taken off the streets and put in these institutions. They actually wanted to return to the streets because of these terrible conditions,” recalls Ioana. The experience made her feel that she had to try to make a difference.

Like Ioana, all of children gathered in New York this week are hopeful that they can change the world, and that helping to shape the UN study is one way to begin.

“There’s so much work put into this and so many people coming together from around the world,” says Kapaya Kaoma, 17, of Zambia, who hopes to be a lawyer working on child rights when he grows up. But Kapaya admits he is a little worried that even if the children’s recommendations are included in the UN study, governments may sit back and think they’ve done enough.

“If you put something into place,” he asserts, “you must work very hard to see it’s really put into action around you.”


 

 

Video

26 May 2006: UNICEF Correspondent Kun Li reports on children’s participation to help finalize the UN Study on Violence against Children.
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Audio

UNICEF Radio correspondent Blue Chevigny reports on the visit to UNICEF and the UN of 22 children from around the globe, all anti-violence activists.
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