"This report has a simple and urgent goal: to connect decision-makers and relevant actors with strategies that prevent and respond to violence in the lives of children....The scope of this review includes interventions that address interpersonal violence (emotional, physical and sexual) against children at home, school, work, the community at large, and social spaces created by mobile and online technology." It provides evidence of programmes to address violence against children drawn from The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)’s experience, and those of key partners. Case studies illustrate how prevention and response strategies can reduce the prevalence and impact of violence against children. The report is released as part of the #ENDviolence global initiative calling for an end to all forms of violence against children. It is directed towards government leaders, civil society representatives, the private sector, and the international development community.
"#ENDviolence objectives [include:]
- Raise public awareness that violence against children is everywhere. It happens out of sight as well as in the open because of social and cultural norms.
- Engage the public and mobilize action. Encourage people to join global, national or local movements to end violence, and organize action where none is taking place.
- Strengthen cultural attitudes and social norms that support non-violence.
- Spur innovative new ideas and new thinking to combat violence against children"
The report presents statistics on violence against children and builds the case for acting through six strategies:
- "Supporting parents, caregivers and families - Educating families, caregivers and parents on their child’s early development increases the likelihood that they will use positive disciplining methods. This reduces the risk of violence within the home.
- Helping children and adolescents manage risks and challenges - Giving children and adolescents the skills to cope and manage risks and challenges without the use of violence and to seek appropriate support when violence does occur is crucial for reducing violence in schools and communities.
- Changing attitudes and social norms that encourage violence and discrimination - Changing the attitudes and social norms that hide violence in plain sight is the surest way to prevent violence from occurring in the first place.
- Promoting and providing support services for children - Encouraging children to seek quality professional support and report incidents of violence helps them to better cope with and resolve experiences of violence.
- Implementing laws and policies that protect children - Implementing and enforcing laws and policies that protect children sends a strong message to society that violence is unacceptable and will be punished.
- Carrying out data collection and research - Knowing about violence - where it occurs, in what forms, and which age groups and communities of children are most affected - is essential to planning and designing intervention strategies, and setting numerical and time-bound targets to monitor progress and end violence."
"Snapshots of success" include the following evidence [Footnotes removed]: "A parent education programme in Turkey led to a reduction of physical punishment by 73 per cent within two years. A parenting intervention in Liberia led to a decrease in psychological punishment, such as yelling, by 29 per cent over a 15-month period. A home visit programme in the United States of America helped reduce child abuse and neglect by 48 per cent over 15 years. A school-based workshop programme in Croatia led to a reduction in violence (verbal and physical, with a special focus on peer violence, aggression and bullying) in schools by 50 per cent over eight years."
Cross-cutting themes are: providing safe environments for children; redefining power relationships across age, gender, race, socio-economic status, and gender identity; listening to children; and educating caregivers so that care is protective.
Case studies are listed for each strategy, including such programmes, by strategies as numbered above: (please see Related Summaries below for more on some of these programmes)
- Roving Caregivers and Families Matter!
- Stepping Stones and Projeto Uerê
- Ma’an - Towards a safe school campaign, Raising Voices, and Soul City
- Child helpline International and INHOPE
- Strengthening child protection systems and Combating violence in sports
- Together for girls and Hidden in Plain Sight: a statistical analysis of violence against children
The report contains a section on support for research, emphasising the need for reliable data from funded research using appropriate methodologies. It then lists proposed targets for the post-2015 United Nations goals:
- "Establish universal and free birth registration of children under five;
- Reduce rates of violent injuries and related deaths;
- Eliminate physical violence against children at home;
- Eliminate sexual violence against children;
- Eliminate child labour and ensure the protection of the rights and safe working conditions of young workers;
- Ensure universal access for children to independent justice systems that respect their rights and include child-friendly processes; and
- End child marriage."
Indirect approaches are also recognised, such as empowering women and restricting alcohol usage, as well as approaches by programme: the Image programme - made loans and trained local women to establish profitable businesses, beginning with discussions of gender roles, cultural beliefs, relationships, communications, domestic violence, and HIV, and then a week-long leadership training programme; Safe Streets - engaged hundreds of high-risk youth in four of Baltimore, Maryland, United States’ most violent neighbourhoods, including the use of street outreach counselors who worked with high-risk individuals to "interrupt" and mediate violent conflicts; and Bell Bajao - uses the power of media, pop culture, and community mobilisation to inspire people to take action on challenges of violence or discrimination against women.
Recommendations for policymakers and governments include the following:
- "Develop and promote a national, child-centered, integrated, multidisciplinary strategy to address violence against children within a set, achievable timeframe.
- Enact explicit legal bans on violence against children as a matter of urgency. These bans should be packaged with detailed measures for implementation and effective enforcement.
- Accompany policy initiatives and legal measures with greater efforts to discourage the social acceptance of child violence. Such violence is not inevitable. It is behaviour we can change.
- Identify ways to listen to and engage children about the role of violence in their lives and what can be done about it.
- Work to ensure the social inclusion of girls and boys who are particularly vulnerable.
- Collect and disaggregate data on violence against children either directly or indirectly. What gets measured, matters.
- Apply a stronger focus on the factors that can escalate levels of violence and affect the resilience of children, their families and communities."
UNICEF website, November 25 2014. Image credit: © UNICEF/NYHQ2006-1566/Markisz