18-year-old Faridah lives in the slums of Kampala. Every evening, around 6pm, she makes her way to the centre of the Ugandan capital to sell chips at a busy roundabout. The journey to reach this low-income job is fraught with danger.
"I only have to walk a kilometre, but I encounter obstacles at every turn. Drunk taxi drivers harass and try to touch me, when I refuse their advances, they can become aggressive and shout abuse at me for weeks.”
Faridah has developed coping mechanisms to deal with these hazards.
“We learn to anticipate the danger. We avoid places where no one can see us or hear us and travel alone as little as possible.”
Scale of violence against children is shocking
Billions of children worldwide, from all socio-economic backgrounds, across all ages, religions and regions, suffer violence, exploitation and abuse every day. In fact, between half and three quarters of all children – up to 1.7 billion – have been victims of violence. Children experience different forms of violence at different stages of their childhood, with girls far more likely to become victims of sexual violence, trafficking, and child marriage.
Abuse takes place in homes, schools, institutions and online. It threatens children on city streets as well as in remote, rural villages. And violence is exacerbated by conflict, crisis and displacement, where support structures and safety nets often disappear from children’s lives.
Creating safe spaces for children
The very nature of violence against children makes it difficult to challenge. The ‘protection’ that homes, schools and communities offer can also hide abuse that takes place within these spaces. As a global community, we must invest our time, expertise and resources into creating spaces in which children can grow up safe, so that children don’t live in fear, and aren’t limited from leading free and full lives.
Any act of violence against a child is unacceptable – a violation of their human rights.
Plan International takes this approach in our global advocacy work, addressing violence against girls in the home, at school and in the communities in which they grow up. We also tackle the added risk of violence against girls who live through emergencies, conflict or displacement. Experience tells us that we need different solutions and interventions to prevent and respond to violence against girls in these different spaces and contexts.
Now is the time to tackle violence
We have an opportunity in the coming months to focus on some of the spaces girls experience abuse, and to challenge global leaders to do more to end violence:
On February 7th, leaders met at the World Urban Forum to build on our success from 2 years ago, where we pushed for the New Urban Agenda* to ensure that cities are safe and empowering for girls and young women. This time around we advocated for the New Urban Agenda to be implemented in a gender-sensitive and child-friendly way that includes child/youth participation.
March will also see the Commission on the Status of Women discuss challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls. This is another vital opportunity to talk about violence against girls in rural spaces. Plan International will be highlighting solutions to end gender-based violence in rural communities, exhibiting some vital interventions such as working with men and boys to challenge negative masculinities.
Violence against children in humanitarian contexts
In between these moments, February 14th will see global leaders come together at the Agenda 2030 for Children: End Violence Solutions Summit. The Summit will be an opportunity to discuss all forms of violence against children, but Plan International and partners will be addressing world leaders specifically about child protection in conflict, crisis and displacement (PDF), which is increasingly likely to be long-term.
Protection activities in emergencies typically receive approximately one third of the total amount requested, and proportionally less than the overall humanitarian response. We will be advocating for all parties to prioritise ending violence against children in humanitarian contexts and to fund child protection in emergencies as a lifesaving intervention.
Any act of violence against a child is unacceptable – a violation of their human rights. But the sheer numbers we are faced with - that is a source of global shame. In 2015, world leaders acknowledged epidemic levels of violence against children, and committed to end all forms of violence against children by 2030 as part of the Global Goals. Plan International will be using every opportunity to make sure this happens.
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