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Child protection from violence, exploitation and abuse

Using innovation to end violence against children

UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake and UNICEF Advocate for Children Affected by War Ishmael Beah speak at the talk Making the Invisible Visible: Using innovation to #ENDViolence Against Children, during the 2013 Social Good Summit in New York.  Watch in RealPlayer


By Marissa Aroy

“You can make a big difference by tweeting, by following this conversation,” said Executive Director Anthony Lake. He held up a T-shirt with hashtag #ENDViolence emblazoned on it.

NEW YORK, United States of America, 25 September 2013 – With a digitally streamed lineup of leaders, celebrities and innovators – and as one of the only major public United Nations week events, happening across more than 100 countries, the Social Good Summit has the caché of attracting the digitally hip and socially conscious.

The fourth annual summit brought together a mix of people for a unique three-day conversation about today’s digital landscape. The theme for most of the talks was innovation and social good: Where are we trying to go by 2030, and how can digital tools help us get there?

© UNICEF/NYHQ2013-0715/Markisz
Mr. Beah and Mr. Lake. “There is so much violence directed towards children,” said Mr. Beah. “They are the most vulnerable in society, and nobody is protecting them. This has to end."

Making the invisible visible

On 24 September, the third day of the summit, UNICEF took part in the talk Making the Invisible Visible: Using innovation to #ENDViolence Against Children. The audience included bloggers, tweeters and other social media writers in the 92Y building in New York, along with a large global audience monitoring the live stream, tweets and updates in real time.

Executive Director Anthony Lake discussed the motivation behind UNICEF’s new initiative to end violence against children. “I think, speaking for myself, it’s just flat-out anger…Around the world, you have probably 150 million girls who are the victims of sexual abuse, of exploitation.  You have 70 million boys. Similarly, you have over a million kids who are trafficked.”

Mr. Lake turned his focus to author and human rights spokesperson Ishmael Beah, seated to his right. “You have child soldiers…all of this makes you angry.” Mr. Beah was forcibly recruited into war in his home country of Sierra Leone at age 13 and has been UNICEF Advocate for Children Affected by War since 2007.

“But, emotion isn’t enough,” stressed Mr. Lake. “If you have outrage without action, you’re simply posturing.” He said that – even beyond the initiative’s goal to galvanize governments, communities and families to support putting an end to violence against children, “[M]ost of all, we need to change a culture around the world.  A culture that says it’s ok to do these things, a culture that says ‘I don’t want to talk about it because it’s too threatening or just too wrong’.”

© UNICEF/NYHQ2013-0713/Markisz
Participants of the talk were (left-right) Mr. Beah; Mr. Lake; journalist and writer Jimmie Briggs; co-founder and director of HarassMap Rebecca Chiao; and CEO and co-founder of Freewebs Haroon Mokhtarzada.

Most difficult time to be a child

Panel moderator Haroom Mokhtarzada, who is CEO and co-founder of Freewebs.com, asked Mr. Beah about the violence he had experienced as a child and the violence he sees around him in his current home, the United States of America. 

“There is some violence that has been made known to the world – for example, you have the issue of the child soldiers, and people know about it, but there are things underneath it that nobody speaks about,” said Mr. Beah.  “For example, a lot of the young women who are forced to be child soldiers are also sexually abused and held as captives.  And, if you look at refugees who are held in other countries, their rights are violated.”

Mr. Beah added that now is the most difficult time to be a child, anywhere in the world. “There is so much violence directed towards children,” he said. “They are the most vulnerable in society, and nobody is protecting them. This has to end. Otherwise you are creating the next generation that has no idea what it means to be ethical and moral in the world because of their experience.”

Journalist and writer Jimmie Briggs, who has written extensively on the impact of war on children and on children associated with armed forces or groups, and Rebecca Chiao, co-founder and director of HarassMap, a social mapping of sexual harassment and violence in Egypt, also participated in the talk.

The Social Good Summit is the premier social media event occurring during United Nations week. The summit hosts hundreds of new media experts over the course of several days, featuring presentations by leading entrepreneurs, government officials and advocates working to further public good and development.



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