22 December 2012: Religious leaders fight violence against children on the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children
By Joanna Martin
DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania, 22 December 2011 – Acrobatics, music and dancing delighted an audience of over 2,000 children in Dar es Salaam, part of a series of events commemorating the annual World Day of Prayer and Action for Children.
The day is an occasion for both quiet contemplation and action. Celebrated since 2008, it promotes awareness of the needs of children around the world, and prompts religious leaders and communities to act on children’s behalf.
This year’s World Day of Prayer and Action for Children saw Tanzania’s religious leaders make a commitment to work with the government and civil society on ending the physical, emotional and sexual abuse of children.
’Violence Against Children in Tanzania’
These commitments follow the recent release of ‘Violence Against Children in Tanzania’, a comprehensive study of violent threats to children. The report revealed that a large number of children are exposed to physical, sexual and emotional abuse before the age of 18, often by someone they know in their communities, school or homes.
Through the Global Network of Religions for Children, many children, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds, were able to participate in a number of events leading up to the day. These included school forums, radio talk shows, meetings with community leaders and media activities, all advocating an end to violence against children.
Children call for an end to violence
At one such event, young performers danced, sang songs, and recited poems and speeches about violence prevention to thousands of children.
“We children are being bullied and subjected to violence, as well as being victimized and abused. This is our greatest sorrow, as we find that parents and teachers are the perpetrators,” said Amina, 15, at the performance.
“Society, government and other organizations should cooperate to prevent violence against children,” said Ahmed, 12. He also called for media organizations and religious leaders to play a role, and advocated for increased punishment of offenders.
“There should be special punishment for those who commit violence against children,” he said. “There should be special departments where children can report cases of acts of violence against them.”
On the occasion, Tanzania’s religious leaders released a commitment statement, pledging to create greater awareness about the consequences of violence against children. It also pledged to promote children’s rights, to build networks to respond to children at risk of abuse and violence, and to provide safe havens for children who have been mistreated.
They also committed to promote inter-religious cooperation to share experiences and practices in preventing violence against children.
“This is important because we know that the voices of religious leaders will be heard loud and clear across the communities they serve, and because religious leaders have the capacity to influence the attitudes, customs and practices that sadly often increase the vulnerability of children to violence,” said UNICEF Representative in Tanzania Dorothy Rozga.
Further actions are also planned, including radio messages and a letter that will be signed by key religious leaders. UNICEF and the Inter-Religious Council of Tanzania will also launch an inter-faith plan to tackle violence against children based on the findings of the recent survey.
Much to celebrate
The World Day of Prayer and Action for Children is an opportunity for religious leaders around the world to participate in activities promoting children’s rights. The day comes on Universal Children’s Day, which was established by the United Nations in 1954. The day also celebrates with the anniversary of the 1989 adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
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