Editorial: Tackling violence against children

GOVERNMENT ministers and heads of the Unicef, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the World Health Organization (WHO) as well as senior officials from development agencies, foundations, and non-government organizations worldwide are gathering today in Stockholm, Sweden for in The Agenda 2030 for Children: End Violence Solutions Summit.

As the title of the program says, it's about ending violence against children, a reality that prevails despite many efforts to reduce this.

As the WHO reported, upto one-billion children aged 2 to 17 years – or one in two children – have suffered physical, sexual or emotional violence or neglect in the past year.

"Violence is the second leading cause of death in boys aged 10-19 years, with a global homicide rate for that age group of 7 per 100 000 population. Across their lives, more than 1 in 5 children have experienced physical abuse, while more than 1 in 3 children have experienced emotional abuse. Around 18% of girls and 8% of boys have experienced sexual abuse," WHO reported.

Beyond just the violent incident that victimizes the child are the consequences of having been the subject and this can grow into more complex situations as the child grows us. Children exposed to violence are more likely to do stuff we'd rather not them get into, like alcohol and drugs, high-risk sexual behaviors, and smoking.

All these contribute to health concerns later in life, whether it be sexually transmitted diseases or anxiety and depression or other diseases that alcohol, drugs, and smoking brings about.

It is thus helpful if communities and barangays look into the seven strategies crafted by WHO in its Inspire program that seeks to end violence against children.

These are:

1. Implementing and enforcing laws (e.g. banning violent discipline and restricting access to alcohol and firearms);

2. Norms and values change (e.g. altering norms that condone the sexual abuse of girls, or aggressive behaviour among boys);

3. Safe environments (e.g. identifying neighbourhood “hot spots” for violence and then addressing the local causes through problem-oriented policing and other interventions);

4. Parent and caregiver support (e.g. through the provision of parent training to young, first time parents);

5. Income and economic strengthening (e.g. providing cash transfers to families on the condition that their children attend school);

6. Response services provision (e.g. ensuring that children who are exposed to violence receive effective emergency care and appropriate psychosocial support), and

7. Education and life skills (e.g. providing children with life and social skills training, including the skills to manage emotions, maintain self-control, empathize with others and express themselves assertively).

As the adage says, it takes a village to raise a child, and in a society that is becoming more violent against children as urbanization creates communities mired in poverty who are barely able to provide their basic needs and create an environment that breeds hooliganism and gangsterism, the concern is not just about the child now, but the person he becomes as he plays an active role in society, or not.
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