Prevention of violence
Violence against children is widespread in Moldova. It can be seen in families, in the street, and even in school. UNICEF studies show that 20 per cent of children are beaten by their own parents, 13 per cent are punished in a violent way by their teachers, and 10 per cent say they know someone who was sexually molested at least once. If we gathered together all the children who are victims of violence, they would fill more than half the schools of Moldova.
Many adults resort to violence because of the tradition of educating children through beating, but also because they do not know non-violent methods of disciplining children. Since they are used to the education of the fist, some children do not consider a beating to be an infringement of their rights, especially when they are beaten by parents or relatives. Even parents don't realize that beatings affect the development of their little ones. But an abused child is humiliated, unsupported, does not trust himself or those around him, has little hope for tomorrow, and can be violent with those around him.
The legislation of the Republic of Moldova forbids violence against children, but it does not oblige professionals to report every case discovered. Seventy per cent of professionals admit they have heard of cases of child abuse. Sixty per cent have run across such situations. But only 40 per cent have registered cases of child abuse.
The situation is aggravated by the fact that professionals in different areas – those responsible for preventing and combating violence against children – do not have regulations to guide them when cases of abuse are discovered, nor do they have the necessary skills. For instance, doctors and teachers, those who are the first to see the traces of violence, do not report cases of violence. At most, the people in these professions registered or referred only two cases per year, although they knew of more victims of violence. At present, police officers are the most active in reporting situations of violence. They are the ones, however, who commit the worst cases.
What UNICEF is doing
UNICEF Moldova, along with the Government and civil society, has started many campaigns to prevent violence against children.Throughout the entire country in 2006, the 'Childhood without violence' campaign was launched, using video and audio spots, mass-media material, posters, and brochures to sensitize the public about the consequences of violence against children. In 2008, UNICEF, in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Youth, launched the national initiative 'Middle school without violence'. At that time, almost half a million children of school age received a special lesson on how to prevent violence and what to do when an adult or another child is violent with them. Teachers, instructed in advance, delivered the anti-violence message in an interactive manner. During that hour, every student was given a brochure that promoted non-violent methods of resolving conflict; described ways the students could protect themselves in case of physical, emotional, or sexual violence; and contained the contact information of organizations they could call for help.
The initiative included all schools in Moldova: over 1,500 primary schools, middle schools, high schools, and orphanage boarding schools. Also, the teachers organized parent meetings where they discussed the consequences of violence against children, and where they learned what they can do instead of beating their children in order to educate them.
The initiative 'Middle school without violence' had a considerable impact. After the special lesson, 92 per cent of children declared that they had heard of violence compared to 73 per cent of children who said so before the launch of the campaign. In the same way, the number of children who knew that beatings constitute violence rose by one third, and students who understood that psychological abuse is a form of violence doubled. Ninety five per cent of parents said that they learned something useful at the parents meeting.
The results of the study before and after the campaign will help the Ministry of Education and Youth to plan new activities to combat violence. The authorities propose creating a system to identify and refer to individual cases of abuse, exploitation, and neglect so that every professional will know how to intervene to protect children from any form of violence. UNICEF will support the authorities in anti-violence activities.