End Violence, the campaign to challenge social norms on violence against children in Georgia
Discussions and debates to form a better understanding of the negative impact of violence against children have been taking place in Georgia over the past six months.
Discussions and debates to form a better understanding of the negative impact of violence against children have been taking place in Georgia over the past six months. Parents, teachers, school children and community members have been discussing what is violence and learning about alternate and non-violent ways to parent and solve conflicts.
These activities, have been part of UNICEF’s communication for social change campaign – “End Violence”. The campaign, supported by the EU, aimed to foster public discussions about violence and have more people learn about and use alternate and more positive parenting methods.
The basis for the campaign came from a UNICEF conducted social norms study, which identified that using violent parenting methods to discipline children is a social norm in Georgia. The study concluded that in order to end violence against children, social norms must change.
The campaign resulted in creating a core group of advocates for social change in the country to assist with further changes. Seven community meetings attended by more than 200 people were organised in different regions of Georgia, more than 300 parents throughout the country engaged in discussions about positive parenting, 200 teachers from up to 30 schools went through special training on positive disciplining methods, and more than 200 children and young people participated in public debates and discussions about violence and learned conflict resolution through peaceful methods.
“As a result of this meeting I realised that more communication with my children is crucial. I need to listen to my children more.”
The public debates and discussions amongst schoolchildren helped them to understand that many children and young people experience violence at home or school and that there is support that is available to children who experience violence.Â As explained by Lizi Tinashvili, a public school student:
''I realised that others have problems similar to mine. It appears, other kids also have trouble when expressing their views and I thought it was happening only in my school and my home. I did not know either about child hotlines and emergency numbers except 112. Knowing about them will help me very much, to have someone other than my friends to share my story with, to make new connections.''
Likewise, University students also took part in discussions about violence and learnt about non-violent ways to solve problems. These sessions also helped them to see the need to challenge violence against children within their communities.
“We are the workforce that can uncover hidden violence against children. Many people think that they should not interfere, however I promise that this will not be so in my case.”
Teacher training sessions and open lessons about violence and peaceful conflict resolution methods have helped Georgian teachers learn about more positive ways to discipline children. New special educational resources about peaceful conflict resolution methods were also developed by UNICEF Georgia to further support teachers in the classroom.
A social media campaign was used to stimulate discussions about violence. The social media campaign was also supported by celebrities who spoke about their own experiences of violence.
Changing social norms is a long process, but the campaign has started a dialogue around violence and parenting styles and has given communities alternate, non-violent ideas around how to discipline children.
“UNICEF is closely working with the Government to strengthen the state child protection mechanisms, but the desired change does not happen without changing public attitudes and norms. Therefore, there is a need to integrate communication for social change into the state policies and budgets.”, said Dr. Ghassan Khalil, UNICEF Representative in Georgia.
For now, the campaign has created a group of advocates and change makers in local communities, who will continue to challenge existing social norms around violence against children.
As Ekaterine Rostiashvili, a parent and attendee at one of UNICEFs discussion groups explains, “Families and schools cannot do anything to make a better future for our children without working together. There is always an alternative to violence. Violence is the worst method.”