'Violence against children is not inevitable, it can be prevented’ is the strong and unified message from the President of Fiji, His Excellency Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, and the Special Representative to the United Nations Secretary General on Violence against Children, Ms. Marta Santos Pais at the start of a three-day conference on ending violence against children today.
Senior government officials, child protection experts and donors from 15 Pacific Island countries have come together with international experts to develop country plans, review and share good practices and ensure data and information on child protection is available, shared and acted upon when they return to their countries.
While welcoming delegates at the conference, Ms Pais said “This conference is timely given that you can reflect how to better address violence against children, share lessons and bring to an end all forms that comprise children’s development. Violence against children is a global concern and no country is immune to this phenomenon.”
“Protecting children from violence is a distinct and cross-cutting priority in the post-2015 development agenda. Truly sustainable development requires the elimination of all forms of violence against children,” she added.
A report titled Harmful Connections: Examining the relationship between violence against women and violence against children in the South Pacific will be launched this evening.
The report, based on a study with a number of partners including the Secretariat of the Pacific Commission, UNFPA and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia, is a review of research in the Pacific that contains many confronting facts showing the clear link between violence against women and violence against children.
Amongst others, the report shows that around 57% of women in surveyed South Pacific countries have been violently harmed by their partners – and that 75% of adolescent boys surveyed in 3 Pacific countries think it is okay to beat your wife. Violence extends to the classroom as well, with teachers in 7 out of 16 Pacific countries allowed to hit children.
UNICEF is working closely with partners in the Pacific, including governments, civil society, faith-based organisations and youth to address customs, systems and legal gaps that place children at risk of violence, abuse and exploitation.
Dr. Allen the UNICEF Pacific Representative, said “There is clear evidence of a terrible relationship between children experiencing violence and aggressive behaviour, school dropout, nightmares and growing up to be abusers. We need to break that intergenerational relationship.”
“We need to help people learn other, positive ways of behaving that respect culture and promote respect for one another - violence does not lead to respect, it leads to fear and more abuse.”