Improving responses to violence against children by turning evidence into policy and results
SARAJEVO, 18 September, 2012 — Government, Ombudspersons and civil society representatives from Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina, Serbia and Turkey are meeting in Sarajevo today as part of a two-year joint initiative of the European Union and UNICEF to help protect children from violence in South East Europe.
The project funded by the EU’s Civil Society Facility aims to strengthen capacities to identify, monitor and address violence against children through partnership between civil society and state actors.
Almost 600 professionals from health, education, justice, welfare sectors and the police were interviewed in cities and villages across the four countries. The eight-month research focused on how schools, police, prosecutors, judges, health and social workers respond to cases of violence against children at home, at school, in care and justice settings and in the community. The findings revealed both strengths and weaknesses of current responses and will form the basis for workshop`s discussion.
‘Violence against children is a hidden phenomenon but a global concern. Research including this one indicates that children who have become victims are not properly identified and not provided with adequate support,” said Jean-Claude Legrand, UNICEF Senior Regional Child Protection Advisor for the region comprising Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States.
“UNICEF will continue its support to governments, civil society, ombudspersons, parliaments and others who can bring change. Together, we need to strengthen the responses to violence at all levels: by professionals, policy makers and in societies at large. What matters is that all children are protected from all forms of violence in any setting at any time in their lives,” he added.
Professionals working with children and families strongly recommend the need to boost resources for prevention and family support services. Although structures and policies are in place, a harmonized, comprehensive cross-sectoral response to violence against children is not yet firmly in place everywhere.
The two-day workshop which started today will elaborate on challenges concerning referral systems and the prevailing stigma attached to violence which often results in serious underreporting of cases. Conference participants will also discuss how best to tackle social acceptance of some forms of violence and address the uneven distribution of services and lack of human and financial resources.
The discussion and recommendations will also focus on good practices identified in the research: health workers visits to schools can be an excellent opportunity to identify violence cases. Prevention programmes have started in some schools and communities. The number of committed and trained professionals in the region is growing.
Key recommendations to be discussed include:
Reflecting the commitment of UNICEF and the European Union to protecting children from all forms of violence, both agencies are keen to assess carefully what needs to be done to assure that all children – inside and outside the European Union - obtain the same protection and support to realize their basic rights.