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Kul Gautam is Chair of the Council of the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children (DPAC). He was formerly Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF. In Coimbatore with DPAC’s council to participate in Shanti Ashram’s Interfaith Round Table 2013, Kul shares his thoughts on the role religion can play to help children.
What is the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children and why does it work for children by networking with worldwide religious organisations in particular? what inspired its model?
November 20 is Universal Children’s Day and everybody celebrates it differently — doctors through health initiative and teachers through schools — but many religious organisations wanted to know how exactly they could contribute. Since all religions prioritise prayer, we suggested that they spend the day in prayer for children and take those prayers forward through action. That’s how, in 2009 after a meeting in Hiroshima, November 20 also became the DPAC.
Religious organisations can initiate much change because they influence society’s behaviour.
For instance, in the 90s, Latin America, despite being a middle-income region, had lower child immunisation rates than many poor nations. While the Ministries of Health acknowledged the problem, they said they didn’t have medical personnel to cover every place. That’s when the UNICEF suggested immunising children through churches because Catholicism was powerful in Latin America. Every single village, however far-flung, had a church whose pastor the village respected. Immunisation could be done by them with just basic training. We soon saw rates rise very fast. So partnering with religious organisations does work.
In India, where conflict between religious communities has often been an undeniable part of our history, how do you see this approach panning out?
This model is especially appropriate for multi-religious, multi-cultural societies like India because it encourages interfaith cooperation to overcome misunderstanding and unjustified hatred.
While religious communities may argue on issues of politics and theology, they can come together for the cause of children, because at its core every religion wants the best for its children. There are superficial and misinterpreted teachings from religious texts which are used to exploit children by keeping them from schools, marrying them young, etc. But it takes a diamond to cut another diamond. So for every one of these misinterpretations, progressive religious leaders can show the positive, enlightened path that highlights the well-being of children.
What are DPAC’s key focus areas in India and how does partnering work on the ground?
In India, we realised that while education and health for children were being addressed, movements against violence towards children needed working on. Reports of girls being sexually molested and exploited, child abuse at home and in schools, child marriages and child labour were common. On the ground, DPAC has a triumvirate partnership between religious organisations, secular bodies such as UNICEF and Save the children Fund, and sometimes local governments too because while they pass good laws, implementation can be helped by others. In India, we’ve partnered with the Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda University in West Bengal and Shanti Ashram in Tamil Nadu to work for emphasis on positive parenting. Discipline can be implemented without violence, and through love. We also focus on making children aware that India is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and that therefore they can demand their rights. But those come with responsibilities which they must fulfil too.
Nepal is your country of birth and upbringing, and you’ve spearheaded the Rollback Violence Campaign (RVC) there. What are the similarities you find between India and Nepal in the challenges that face children?
Nepal and India have similar traditions, history, culture and religion. Even in politics, you have had a Maoist/Naxalite Movement, as have we. And while its goals were to achieve justice for people, violence was an accepted means. That’s where the RVC stepped in and upheld Gandhi’s principle of non-violent means towards justice. Just as in India, DPAC in Nepal works against child marriage by partnering with religious organisations. Traditions such as these have been ingrained for centuries and justified by religion. Priests conduct these marriages! So we need to work against it from within the religious framework.
How have your years with the UN influenced the vision that DPAC has?
Parallel to the 2002 UN General Assembly Special Session for Children, there was a meeting of the world’s top religious leaders who pledged to support the summit’s commitment to ‘A World Fit for Children’. So DPAC’s vision was sown then. I was also instrumental in drafting many of the summit’s goals towards child survival which we continue to strive for today. Having worked with UNICEF for 35 years, I’m a child of the UN and my philosophy of life is influenced by the UN, so I know its many positives. But as an insider, I also know its shortcomings which we now try to overcome.
London: Malala Yousafzai, who emerged as a global icon for women's rights after being shot at by Taliban for advocating girl's education in Pakistan, will give her first public speech in New York on her 16th birthday on July 12, a day that would now be marked as 'Malala Day'. UN Special Envoy and former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced on Friday that Malala is determined to continue campaigning for girls' education and will speak to a specially convened meeting of young people from around the world at the United Nations.
Her first public address is being organised by UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown along with the President of the UN General Assembly Vuk Jeremic. Some 4,000 young people from across the globe are likely to attend the launch of a youth campaign to secure universal primary education.
A petition signed by one million children, who are denied schooling, will be handed over to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on the same day, with an aim to pass a resolution at the UN to end all forms of child slavery, labour, marriage and discrimination against girls. Brown said that just as the Arab Spring had brought young people to the centre stage demanding change, so too was a new wave of protest from millions of children demanding their rights to education.
"We are seeing in the Indian subcontinent a wave of protests from boys and girls, not dissimilar to those by teenagers and students that marked the Arab Spring," Brown said in a meeting in London on Friday. Currently, 61 million children go without a single day of primary school.
"Malala is a true inspiration and a shining beacon for girls education around the world. I am full of admiration for her courage and determination in the journey she is on, and am sure that she can become a real leader in the campaign for a school place for every girl - and every boy," said Brown.
Malala, who has made a remarkable recovery and has since returned to school, is yet to make a public speech. A passionate campaigner for a long-time for the right of every girl to attend school, Malala will be making the case that the voice of young people is essential in the fight for education.
The Malala Day meeting will close with a youth resolution to make education for all a reality by the end of 2015, as was promised in the second Millennium Development Goal in 2000. Brown's announcement was made during the 'Learning for All Ministerial' meeting, co-hosted with Jim Kim of the World Bank and Ban at the World Bank in Washington.
The meeting, one of a series of events as part of an education summit, examined how to put in place education for all in eight countries which represent around half of the world's out-of-school children. The petition that will submitted to Ban, has been organised by young people of Pakistan to protest against their exclusion from education.
The petition comes at a time when fifty national and international children's organisations have agreed to form a new coalition against child slavery and for universal education in Washington. "This petition is another demonstration of the growing new force in the debate on universal education. Young people are outraged at the denial of their basic rights particularly the right of girls to education. They will no longer allow threats, intimidation and violence to stand in the way of attaining those rights," said Brown.
In a series of meetings on global education,concluding in Washington, the main focus will be how young people have become empowered in their campaign to secure education. A session on child slavery will focus on child labour and child-trafficking, and the immediate measures that can be taken to put an end to these practises.
The meetings are driven by civil society groups, from international organisations such as the Global March Against Child Labour, Walk Free and Plan International, to campaigning organisations from around the world. "What is needed is a comprehensive plan that deals with each injustice that is preventing children going to school," Brown said.
"I am confident that this unprecedented meeting of civil society will yield a concrete plan and agreed actions to put an end to the twin blights of child marriage and child labour, which keep so many children out of school," he added. "Young people, connected through technology and social media, are more aware than ever before of the rights enjoyed by their contemporaries in other countries," said Brown.
Read the original article on IBNLive.
On Wednesday, 17 April, my attention was drawn to a very tragic story in the Times of India, under the headline, “Early motherhood forcing young brides to bury aspirations.” It is about an 18-year-old girl who killed her two-day-old son in India as she feared that motherhood might end her dreams of pursuing education. The story filled me with even stronger resolve to speak up on this issue.
It also reminded me of another story, in Kabul, where 15-year-old Freshta escaped marriage to a man more than twice her age. "I am educated, that is why I could refuse my parents' decision. But my sister is only 13 years old, and they will marry her to an old man," said Freshta with tears in her eyes, worrying about the fate of her sister. Freshta is living at a secret shelter for women in Kabul; a place she was referred to by the police after being beaten by her family and expelled from home for rebelling against her family's wishes.
Afghan law forbids marriage below the age of 16, but many girls end up being married even at 13. Getting reliable data on child marriages is difficult, but estimates show that about 40 percent of Afghani women are married by the age of 18.
Harmful practices such as child marriage are not a challenge only in Afghanistan. Overall, one in three girls in most low- and middle-income countries will marry before the age of 18 and one in nine girls will marry before 15. This amounts to 14.2 million child marriages each year or 39,000 girls married each day before their 18th birthday. Child marriage is prevalent primarily in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, but it also takes place in several countries in Latin America, the Middle East and eastern Europe. Girls living in poverty and in rural areas face a higher risk of being married at an early age, and girls in humanitarian crises are particularly vulnerable.
Child marriage can also have fatal health consequences for young girls. When married, girls are often expected to prove their fertility by getting pregnant. Each year, 16 million girls aged 15-19 give birth, 90 percent of them within marriage. However, girls are often not fully developed physiologically and for many reasons face barriers in seeking timely, appropriate care, putting them at an increased risk of experiencing complications during pregnancy or delivery.
Such complications can result in death or in long-term illnesses and injuries including obstetric fistula—a childbirth injury that results in a tear between the birth canal and the bladder or rectum, causing the girl to leak urine and/or human waste. About 300 million girls and women are living today with maternal illnesses and injuries.
Moreover, the married girls are often taken out of school and have very limited life opportunities. Meanwhile, girls who are able to finish school and maybe even to get a secondary education have much better possibilities to earn a living, to decide themselves when and whom to marry, when to become mothers, to invest in their children’s future and ultimately to help themselves and their families out of poverty. This will ultimately contribute to the prosperity of their communities and countries.
Preventing child marriage will also help reduce the risk of girls being subjected to violence and social isolation, which is often a result of young girls marrying into families they don’t know. Hence, the prevention of child marriage has manifold benefits for girls’ well-being, health, education, childhood and their basic rights to determine their own future.
UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, together with its partners, works to end child marriage and other harmful practices, including gender-biased sex selection and female genital mutilation/cutting. In addition to being a goal in itself, this is also an important first step towards enabling girls to realize their full potential, educate themselves, contribute more to the labour market and, eventually, to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty for their own sake, as well as for their communities’ and countries’ development.
UNFPA supports national governments and civil society in improving and enforcing national legislation against child marriage and supports information-sharing with local communities on girls’ rights and the negative consequences of child marriages. We invest in programmes that create safe spaces for girls to avoid child marriage, build up their education, economic and health assets. On a global scale, UNFPA works with many governments and other partners to ensure that girls’ rights to determine their future and to obtain sexual and reproductive health are anchored strongly in the post-2015 development agenda and become a policy priority both in developing and fragile countries, such as Afghanistan.
Our hope is that, through common efforts, we can ensure that not only Freshta, but also her younger sister and all other girls in the world, can escape harmful practices and enjoy the right to be girls.
When they enjoy this right, they can consequently enjoy other human and civil rights, such as education as well as economic, social and political participation and decision-making. When they exercise all of these rights, they can fulfil their own and humanity’s potential: to eliminate poverty, eradicate maternal death and propel economic development.
Read the original article on Trust.org
2013 Templeton Prize has been awarded to Desmond Tutu, the former Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa. The award recognizes his lifelong work in advancing spiritual and liberating principles such as love and forgiveness around the world.
Tutu became a globally recognized figure as a result of his longstanding and principled opposition to South Africa's apartheid regime. Then, after the election of Nelson Mandela in 1994 as president in the country's first multi-ethnic elections, Tutu chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Employing a revolutionary and relentless policy of confession, forgiveness, and resolution, the commission helped move the nation from institutionalized racial repression toward egalitarian democracy.
The Christian belief that all human beings are shaped in the image of God, Imago Dei, is one vital point of reference for Tutu, alongside the traditional African concept of Ubuntu, which holds that only through others do people become fully human. In a 1990 essay, "My Credo," he explained that the source of his hope in the face of suffering is "the indomitable resilience of the human spirit, which [does] not seem to know that it [is] unequal to the struggle and should by rights have long ago thrown in the towel."
"By embracing such universal concepts of the image of God within each person, Desmond Tutu also demonstrates how the innate humanity within each of us is intrinsically tied to the humanity between all peoples," said Dr. Jack Templeton in a video statement online. Dr. Templeton, president and chairman of the John Templeton Foundation, noted that "Desmond Tutu calls upon all of us to recognize that each and every human being is unique in all of history and, in doing so, to embrace our own vast potential to be agents for spiritual progress and positive change. Not only does he teach this idea, he lives it."
The award was widely reported in the world's press. The BBC noted that Tutu received the prize in a "representative capacity," as he was keen to acknowledge all those who have worked with him over the years. The Economistdeveloped this theme by describing how Tutu "boldly articulated the pain of black South Africans while always insisting that there might, after all, be a peaceful future for all races." His role was confirmed by Sowetan Live, which said that "Tutu spoke out vigorously against apartheid during the years when Nelson Mandela was in prison."
The religious dimension inherent in Tutu's work was also recognized. Agence France Press reported Tutu's "deep faith and commitment to prayer and worship" and The Washington Post described Tutu as "a true entrepreneur of the spirit."
The Templeton Prize, worth £1.1 million (about $1.7 million or €1.3 million), is the world's largest annual monetary award honoring a living person who has made exceptional contributions to affirming life's spiritual dimension. Tutu becomes the third Templeton Prize Laureate who has also won the Nobel Peace Prize, alongside Mother Teresa, the first winner of the Templeton Prize, and the Dalai Lama, last year's winner. In recent years, the award has also gone to academics who work at the interface of science and religion, as well as other leading spiritual and humanitarian figures.
The 2013 Templeton Prize will be presented to Desmond Tutu at a ceremony at the Guildhall in London on the afternoon of Tuesday, May 21, 2013. A celebration was held on Thursday, April 11, in Cape Town at St. George's Cathedral, the church that became known as "the people's cathedral" for its role in the fight against apartheid when Tutu served there as archbishop from 1986 to 1996. Video highlights are available online.
From Tutu's video statement:
"When you are in a crowd and you stand out from the crowd, it's usually because you are being carried on the shoulders of others... I would want to acknowledge all the wonderful people who accepted me as their leader at home and so to accept this prize... in a representative capacity. But thank you very much for identifying me as this year's laureate."
Other videos in which Desmond Tutu offers his answers to several Big Questions are also available online.
Nominations for the 2014 Templeton Prize are now open and must be submitted no later than July 1, 2013.
Progress shows that stunting in children can be defeated – UNICEF
DUBLIN, 15 April 2013 – A new UNICEF report issued today offers evidence that real progress is being made in the fight against stunted growth – the hidden face of poverty for 165 million children under the age of five. The report shows that accelerated progress is both possible and necessary.
Improving Child Nutrition: The achievable imperative for global progress confirms that a key to success against stunting is focusing attention on pregnancy and the first two years of a child’s life. Stunting in a child is not only about being too short for his or her age. It can also mean suffering from stunted development of the brain and cognitive capacity.
“Stunting can kill opportunities in life for a child and kill opportunities for development of a nation,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “Our evidence of the progress that is being achieved shows that now is the time to accelerate it.”
One in four of all under-5 children globally is stunted because of chronic undernutrition in crucial periods of growth. An estimated 80 per cent of the world’s stunted children live in just 14 countries.
The UNICEF report highlights successes in scaling up nutrition and improving policies, programmes and behaviour change in 11 countries: Ethiopia, Haiti, India, Nepal, Peru, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sri Lanka, Kyrgyzstan, the United Republic of Tanzania and Viet Nam.
The damage done to a child’s body and brain by stunting is irreversible. It drags down performance at school and future earnings. It is an injustice often passed from generation to generation that cuts away at national development. Stunted children are also at a higher risk of dying from infectious diseases than other children.
But in parts of India – home to 61 million stunted children – progress is still being made. In Maharashtra, the country's wealthiest state and second most populous, 39 per cent of children under two were stunted in 2005-2006. That however dropped to 23 per cent by 2012, according to a state-wide nutritional survey, largely by supporting frontline workers improving child nutrition.
In Peru, stunting fell by a third between 2006 and 2011 following a Child Malnutrition Initiative that lobbied political candidates to sign a ‘5 by 5 by 5’ commitment to reduce stunting in children under 5 by 5 per cent in 5 years and to lessen inequities between urban and rural areas. Peru drew on its experience of successful smaller projects and integrated nutrition with other programmes. It also focused on the most disadvantaged children and women and decentralized government structures.
Ethiopia cut stunting from 57 per cent to 44 per cent and under-5 mortality from 139 deaths per 1,000 live births to 77 per 1,000 between 2000 and 2011. Key steps included a national nutrition programme, providing a safety net in the poorest areas and boosting nutrition assistance through communities.
Stunting and other forms of undernutrition are reduced through a series of simple and proven steps such as improving women’s nutrition, early and exclusive breastfeeding, providing additional vitamins and minerals as well as appropriate food – especially in pregnancy and the first two years of a child’s life.
The report says that existing solutions and the work of new partnerships, including the Scaling Up Nutrition movement, create an unprecedented opportunity to address child undernutrition through countries accelerating progress through coordinated projects with donor support and measurable targets.
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UNICEF works in more than 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org
In June 2012, the Governments of Ethiopia, India and the United States with UNICEF launched a global roadmap to end preventable deaths of children under the age of five. Since then, under the banner of Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed, more than 170 countries have signed up and renewed their commitment to child survival.
By Li-mei Hoang
- LONDON | Wed Apr 10, 2013 5:33am EDT
(Reuters) - Most victims of sexual violence in conflict zones are children who are suffering rape and abuse at an appalling rate, said campaigners who described the attacks as the "hidden horrors of war".
In the worst-affected countries, such as Liberia and Sierra Leone, children made up more than 70 percent of victims, said a report by charity Save the Children published on Wednesday.
The study contained harrowing stories of children being killed after being raped and of others who were abducted and abused by armed forces and groups. It also said children as young as two were being attacked by opportunistic predators including teachers, religious leaders and peacekeepers.
Many survivors were cast out from society after the attacks.
"It is shocking that in conflict zones around the world, children are being raped and abused at such an appalling rate," said Save the Children chief executive Justin Forsyth.
"Sexual violence is one of those hidden horrors of war and the damage it wreaks ruins lives."
British Foreign Secretary William Hague has been campaigning to raise awareness of the issue and recently met victims in Democratic Republic ofCongo with actress and U.N. special envoy Angelina Jolie. The issue will be on the agenda at a meeting of G8 countries' foreign ministers hosted by Hague in London on Wednesday and Thursday.
Save the Children found more than half of victims of sexual violence in conflict zones were children. It cited a study in Liberia, still recovering from a civil war that ended a decade ago, which found more than 80 percent of victims in 2011-12 were younger than 17. Almost all were raped.
In post-conflict Sierra Leone, more than 70 percent of the sexual violence cases seen by the International Rescue Committee were girls under 18, and more than a fifth of those were under 11, the report said. In Democratic Republic of the Congo nearly two-thirds of sexual violence cases recorded by the United Nations in 2008 involved children, mostly adolescent girls.
Save the Children spoke to a girl named Pamela, in Democratic Republic of Congo, who was attacked and raped near a refugee camp where she had fled after her village was attacked.
"I'd been in the camp for three days. I'd gone to collect water, and as I was leaving the water point I met three boys. They grabbed me. One took my legs and the other took my hands. I tried to fight them off.
"After the rape I wanted to leave the house and return home. But the people told my mother and she said I had to stay there. I didn't want a husband because I was still a girl."
Rejected by her community, Pamela was forced to stay with her attacker and become his wife. He abandoned her when she was seven months' pregnant.
(Editing by Pravin Char)
FLORENCE/BRUSSELS/DUBLIN 10 April 2013 – A timely study on child well-being in rich countries, launched today by UNICEF’s Office of Research, finds that the Netherlands and four Nordic countries – Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden – again sit at the top of a child well-being table; whilst four southern European countries – Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain – are placed in the bottom half of the table.
Report Card 11, from UNICEF’s Office of Research examines the state of children across the industrialized world. As debates continue to generate strongly opposed views on the pros and cons of austerity measures and social spending cuts, Report Card 11 charts the achievements of 29 of the world’s advanced economies in ensuring the well-being of their children during the first decade of this century. This international comparison, says the report, proves that child poverty in these countries is not inevitable, but policy susceptible – and that some countries are doing much better than others at protecting their most vulnerable children.
“Whether in today’s time of economic crisis, or in better financial periods, UNICEF urges governments and social partners to place children and young people at the heart of their decision-making processes,” said the Director of UNICEF’s Office of Research, Gordon Alexander. “For every new policy measure considered or introduced, governments explicitly have to explore the impact and effects on children, families with children, adolescents and young adults. These groups do not have a voice in the political processes or their voices are too seldom heard.”
Report Card 11: Child well-being in rich countries measures development according to five dimensions of children’s lives – material well-being, health and safety, education, behaviour and risks, and housing and environment.
The study does not find a strong relationship between per capita GDP and overall child well-being. For instance, Slovenia ranks higher than Canada, the Czech Republic higher than Austria, and Portugal higher than the United States.
The report also finds that countries of Central and Eastern Europe are beginning to close the gap with more established industrial economies.
Despite setbacks in some countries on specific indicators, the overall story of the 2000s is one of steady improvement in various fields of child well-being in the industrialized world. Every country for which data are available saw reductions in infant mortality and ‘low family affluence’, while the rate of further education enrolment increased.
However, given the continued absence of up-to-date internationally comparative data on children’s lives (most data in the report is from 2010, the latest comparative information available), Report Card 11 reflects the outcome of government decisions in the period before the crisis. The report states that the three years of economic hardship since then do not bode well for the present or near future.
Nonetheless, for the most part, these data track long-term trends and reflect the results of long-term investments in children’s lives. Average levels of school achievement, or immunization rates, or the prevalence of risk behaviours, for example, are not likely to be significantly changed in the short term by the recessions of the last three years. And, when looking at the ‘behaviours and risks’ dimension of child well-being, there is good news across the board. For instance: among 11-15 year-olds in the 29 countries under review: only eight per cent say they smoke cigarettes at least once a week; just 15 per cent report having been drunk at least twice in their life; 99 per cent of girls do not get pregnant whilst still a teenager; and about two-thirds are neither bullied nor involved in fighting. However, exercise levels are low, with the United States and Ireland the only countries in which more than 25% of children report exercising for at least an hour a day.
Report Card 11 also includes the views of the children themselves on their own life satisfaction. These findings – reflected in the children’s life satisfaction league table – are broadly in line with the data-based measurement of child well-being, with some notable exceptions: children in Estonia, Greece and Spain gave their countries a much higher ranking, while Germany, Luxembourg and Poland rank lower.
“We need to know more about how children see and evaluate their own lives,” said UNICEF’s Gordon Alexander, “about what matters to them, and do this in a more systematic way. Children's voices, even at a very young age, are vital. They reiterate the message of this and past Report Cards: that governments need to guide policies in a way that will safeguard the long-term futures of their children and economies. This has never been more urgent than in today’s climate.”
UNICEF works in more than 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: http://www.unicef.org
JAKARTA, 8 April 2013 (IRIN) - Efforts to protect children in Indonesia from abuse are obstructed by barriers to crime reporting, which may worsen with the threatened closure of police-run units that handle crimes against women and children.
Usman Basuni, assistant deputy minister for child participation at the Women Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry, told IRIN these specialized police units - known by their local acronym, PPA - are at risk of closing because crimes against women and children are rarely reported, which has led police to shift their resources elsewhere.
Last year, 12-year-old Riri* was sent from her village in Central Java to live with her uncle and aunt two provinces away, in Jakarta, the capital.
Over a period of four months, she was repeatedly raped by her uncle, who threatened to kill her and possess her with evil spirits if she reported the abuse. He then forced her to become a sex worker.
For two weeks, Riri was forced to charge US$21 per sexual encounter in East Jakarta, according to the head of the shelter where she is now recovering. After fleeing from her uncle’s house, she happened to rest mid-escape near the home of a local community leader, who brought her to the government-run shelter.
The extent of such abuses is unknown, Basuni said. Even if they are reported, they rarely make it up to the national level for recording.
Attitudes to abuse
According to the National Commission for the Protection of Children (Komnas PA), a child-rights NGO based in the capital, Jakarta, there were 2,637 reports of domestic abuse against children in 2012, up from 2,509 the previous year.
World Vision’s child protection specialist in Indonesia, Pitoyo Susanto, said child abuse is severely underreported, what he called an “iceberg phenomenon”, because of the public’s view of child abuse as something to be resolved in the home.
“People still believe it’s a private thing,” said Susanto. “If neighbours know what’s going on next door, they won’t intervene. Even in the cases that are reported, we see that the abuse has been going on for years.”
And should family members or survivors make a public claim, they risk being stigmatized, said Santi Kusumaningrum, co-director of the Centre on Child Protection at the University of Indonesia (UI).
“Families have been asked to move out of villages by the rest of the community, with schools even refusing to accept the child.”
In addition, Kusumaningrum said parents often turn to violence when disciplining their children. “The only way many parents know to deal with their children, if their child is misbehaving, is to hit them,” she said.
Influencing parent behaviours at the national level is near impossible, said the government’s Basuni.
“When the government says ‘don’t beat your child’, parents say it’s their business, and the number of people who think this way is huge,” he said. “The ministry doesn’t have enough resources to make 240 million people aware of this issue.”
A remote crime scene
Abuse can be reported at police-run units for women and children; there is one such unit in each of Indonesia’s 500 districts. Reports can also be made at hospitals and at the NGO-run Child Protection Institute, which has locations in each of Indonesia’s 34 provinces.
However, World Vision’s Susanto says many families live far from reporting centres and public service providers able to offer life-saving medical and psychological care.
“There’s a lack of access at village level,” he said. “We’re trying to improve this by training community volunteers to [triage] victims and their families, and help them report to police or service providers at the district level.”
The University of Indonesia’s Kusumaningrum said that despite laws protecting children - instituted in 2002 - and criminalizing domestic violence - instituted in 2004 - difficulties filing abuse claims and bringing cases to court have largely deterred reporting.
“When people report [at the village level], sometimes they need to finance transporting the evidence to district level [for investigations],” she said, adding that the police may face budgetary constraints in such cases. “It’s already emotionally difficult to report, but for poor families this cost makes it even harder.”
What to do?
Basuni said the Women Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry is trying to change attitudes toward child-rearing.
“We’ll only solve this problem by going to its source and promoting good parenting skills, and through creating child-friendly cities,” said Basuni.
Sixty Indonesian cities are trying to achieve “child-friendly” status by meeting criteria tied to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which Indonesia has ratified. Cities must prove their commitment to fulfilling the UNCRC.
The ministry has also introduced an Indonesian Association of Child-Friendly Companies, with at least six major companies participating by agreeing to put children’s rights at the centre of their corporate social responsibility programmes.
But still largely unaddressed is why convictions for child abuse are so rare. This past February, an 18-year-old man was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for raping his girlfriend, a minor, but such successful prosecutions are an exception.
In local media, abuse victims, their families and supporters have spoken of threats and intimidation by friends, family members and even neighbours of alleged perpetrators, who have pressured witnesses to withdraw testimony mid-trial. Police have been called “sluggish” and “insensitive” in their investigations.
Police spokesman Senior Commander Rikwanto, who goes by one name, said child abuse cases were sometimes slow to reach trial because of difficulty establishing evidence of abuse.
“It’s necessary to convince witnesses to come forward, and make sure we have sufficient physical and scientific evidence of the abuse,” he said. “Sometimes this can slow the progress of cases down.”
In addition, the 2004 regional autonomy law transferred powers to local governments to handle basic services, including health, education, infrastructure and security. Basuni acknowledged child protection was a low priority for local government officials.
He added that he was trying increase the priority of children’s issues nationwide by meeting with and convincing district heads to promote children’s rights. While most of those consulted agree in theory, he said, they say their budgets are already overstretched.
*not real name
MDG ADVOCATES: SEIZE THE NEXT 1,000 DAYS OF THE MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS TO BUILD A MORE JUST WORLD
MDG ADVOCATES STINE BOSSE, RAY CHAMBERS, DHO YOUNG-SHIM, PHILIPPE DOUSTE-BLAZY, JULIO FRENK, BOB GELDOF, GRAÇA MACHEL, JEFFREY SACHS, MARINA SILVA, TED TURNER, AND MUHAMMAD YUNUS CALL FOR ACCELERATED ACTION
Washington, D.C. — April 5, 2013
Today marks 1,000 days until the 2015 target date to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), eight goals adopted by world leaders gathered at the United Nations in 2000 that address challenges facing the world’s poorest people. The MDGs are the most successful global anti-poverty push in history. There are 1,000 days to accelerate action on issues such as hunger, access to education, improved sanitation, maternal health, and gender equality.In recognition of this milestone, the following members of the UN Secretary-General’s MDG Advocacy Group released the statement below: Stine Bosse, CEO of TrygVesta Group, Chairman of Børnefonden/The Childrens’ Fund; Ray Chambers, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Financing the Health Millennium Development Goals and for Malaria; Dho Young-shim, Chairperson of the UN World Tourism Organization’s Sustainable Tourism for Eliminating Poverty (ST-EP) Foundation; Philippe Douste-Blazy, UN Special Adviser on Innovative Financing for Development; Julio Frenk, Dean of the Harvard School of Public Health, former Minister of Health of Mexico; Bob Geldof, singer, songwriter, and political activist; Graça Machel, President and Founder, Graça Machel Trust; Jeffrey Sachs, UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the MDGs; Marina Silva, environmentalist and politician; Ted Turner, Philanthropist, Founder and Chairman of the UN Foundation; and Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize Winner, founder of the Grameen Bank, and UN Foundation Board Member.
“The Millennium Development Goals provide an urgent ‘to-do’ list to address many of humanity’s biggest and most important challenges. Since their creation, the global community has mobilized around these common goals to drive incredible progress that is improving lives around the world. More children are reaching their 5thbirthday, fewer people are living in crushing poverty, and as many girls attend primary school as boys. “While we’ve made great strides forward, our work is not done. Now is the time to build on the momentum we’ve started to reach families and communities that have been left behind.
“Today’s milestone is an opportunity for everyone who cares about creating a more just world to take action in support of the United Nations and the MDGs. What we do over the next 1,000 days matters to millions of people. As MDG Advocates, we are dedicated to doing everything we can to help drive further progress. Let’s seize the next 1,000 days to change lives and chart a course for a brighter future for our world. “The achievements we make through the MDGs will inspire people around the globe to continue the journey toward a poverty-free world that values health and dignity for all men and women.”To mark the 1,000-day milestone, a community of individuals, organizations, and institutions are coming together for a 1,000-minute digital rally to highlight the progress made toward the MDGs and further bolster action. More information can be found at momentum1000.org.
About The United Nations Foundation
The United Nations Foundation builds public-private partnerships to address the world’s most pressing problems, and broadens support for the United Nations through advocacy and public outreach. Through innovative campaigns and initiatives, the Foundation connects people, ideas, and resources to help the UN solve global problems. The Foundation was created in 1998 as a U.S. public charity by entrepreneur and philanthropist Ted Turner and now is supported by global corporations, foundations, governments, and individuals. For more information, visit www.unfoundation.org.