The World Day of Prayer and Action for Children in Swaziland: Working to Sustain the Momentum to Protect Children from Violence
Bringing together representatives from a diverse group of faith-based organizations for the first time, the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children in Swaziland focused on eradicating one of the country’s major public health threats – violence against children.
The two-day event, which was organized by UNICEF and launched by the Deputy Prime Minister with strong support from the government, brought together representatives from eight major religious organizations, including those from the Christian, Islamic and Baha’i faiths – itself a significant achievement. This meeting of faith-based groups resulted in a pledge of support to protect children from all forms of violence.
“We, the participants of the first national Day of Prayer and Action for Children in Swaziland, held at Ezulwini (19-20 November 2010) representing faith-based organizations in the country, call for action by all members of our faith groups to take immediate steps to end all forms of violence against children, especially girls and vulnerable children, and to provide the necessary support to children who have fallen victim to this scourge,” the pledge states.
Inspired by the teachings of their various faiths, the religious leaders have joined ranks, committing themselves to speaking and acting on behalf of all children to ensure every child in Swaziland is free from violence. The pledge they signed recognizes that the violence children endure in the home, school, community, place of work, care or institutional setting is both intolerable and preventable. Seeking to put an end to all forms of violence against children, the group aims to reinforce national actions to reverse cultural aspects that allow it; faith leaders are supporting efforts such as the adoption of legislation to combat trafficking, the launch of a toll-free hotline to report abuse, and the creation of domestic violence and child abuse units in police stations. Given their stature within their communities, religious leaders have tremendous potential to bring about positive change for children. And by joining together with other faiths to speak out against violence, that potential rises exponentially.
The activities to commemorate World Day of Prayer and Action for Children featured a march through Mazini, Swaziland ‘s biggest city, followed by a day of celebrations involving children’s groups, gospel singers and choirs from throughout the country. The various activities attracted large crowds of families, youth and children, highlighting the scale of violence and sexual abuse children and adolescents suffer in Swaziland. The statistics concerning girls are particularly startling. According to a recent national study, among girls and young women aged 13 to 24 in Swaziland, approximately one in three had experienced some form of sexual violence as children; one in four had experienced physical violence, and three out of ten had experienced emotional abuse.
Although this violence may remain hidden, it is nonetheless a stark reality for all too many children, and carries long-term consequences for its victims, their families, and the communities in which they live. The World Day of Prayer and Action for Children builds partnerships to protect children from this scourge. Stop Violence against Children will be the theme for 2011 – 2013.
Written by the World Day Secretariat