|Ugen, who spoke at the consultation, has a plan for how to tackle the issues in her country, Bhutan.|
By Blue Chevigny
ISLAMABAD, 30 May 2005 – The UN Study on Violence Against Children is gathering inputs from young people, experts and officials, through consultations in every region around the globe. Two of the youth leaders who spoke at the most recent consultation – held 19-21 May in Islamabad, Pakistan – were Noor Jahan from Afghanistan and Ugen from Bhutan.
Noor Jahan is in grade 8. She participates in a media group that tries to bring children’s issues to the attention of the media. “My media group is called ‘Waves of Hope,’” she said, “because we had years of war without hope and now we can have hope again.”
She is optimistic about the future of Afghanistan, because she believes her country is a place the whole world is watching now. “I’m going to tell Afghan children that we must not be worried. We must be happy because all the world is thinking about us.”
|Noor Jahan from Afghanistan, who spoke at the consultation, is optimistic about the future of her country.|
Noor Jahan and Ugen both agreed that the main thing they learned at the meeting was that the problems they face in their communities are not unique. Corporal punishment, sexual violence, child trafficking, and physical abuse are endemic throughout the region.
“Now we have recommendations from other countries on how to tackle these problems,” said Ugen, who is in grade 11. “When I go back I know what I can do. I can create a task force. I can talk to my friends. We can hold meetings there and have the same discussions that we had here. I can be like a messenger.”
UNICEF’s Senior Advisor on Child Protection, Gopalan Balagopal, said that talking to the young people and hearing their perspectives was as important as any of the presentations by academics or officials.
“I thought the young people there were extremely articulate,” he said. “They were quite clear about this issue which affects their lives.”
At the Islamabad meeting, representatives were in attendance from Bhutan, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, the Maldives and Sri Lanka.
About the Study
The Islamabad meeting was one of the nine regional consultations to be held worldwide with support from UNICEF, in order to gather information for the United Nations-led Study on Violence Against Children.
The study, mandated by the UN General Assembly, seeks to bring together knowledge to help understand, reduce and prevent violence against children. In attendance at all the consultations are government representatives, members of non-governmental organizations and leading scholars. In addition, there is a particular emphasis on ensuring that the views and experiences of young people inform the study and its final report, which is to be published in 2006.