August 23, 2013 – “Just because you can’t see violence against children doesn’t mean it isn’t there,” says Liam Neeson.
“Make the invisible visible. Help us make violence against children disappear. Join us. Speak out.”
A powerful video released by UNICEF and narrated by Goodwill Ambassador Liam Neeson portrays invisible violence against children. The launch of the video is an integral part of UNICEF’s “End Violence against Children” initiative urging people all over the world to recognize and understand that every single hour of every single day children as young as five years of age are being sexually abused and violated, trafficked and mortgaged for labour.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child specifies that every child on this earth has the right to be protected from all forms of violence. The World Health Organization states that over 150 million girls and 73 million boys under the age of eighteen have experienced sexual violence and exploitation. A report by the International Labour Organization estimates that 1.2 million children are trafficked every year.
“In every country, in every culture, there is violence against children,” said Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director. “Whenever and wherever children are harmed, our outrage and anger must be seen and heard. We must make the invisible visible. Despite its global prevalence, violence against children all too often remains invisible because it’s hidden behind closed doors or because people turn a blind eye to it.”
Horrific attacks against children such as the October 2012 shooting of fourteen-year-old Malala Yousafzai in Pakistan, the fatal shooting of 26 students and teachers in Newtown, Connecticut, and the gang rapes of girls in India and South Africa have made international headlines in mainstream media – and then, with the turn of a page, they become yesterday's news.
I think about the millions of children whose stories will never be told. Pain and suffering is deliberately hidden within the sheltered walls of their inexperienced yet shrewd hearts – mindful not to awaken the physical and emotional wounds of their reality and afraid to hope that someone will save them from their living hell. Somewhere inbetween they exist enduring repeated acts of unconscionable barbarism by certifiable, contemptible cowards. I am aghast and greatly saddened as to why the smallest faces of innocence pay the biggest price on this earth. Their breathless, wide-mouth wails and catatonic gazes have every capacity to crowd my thoughts and steal the air between my words.
UNICEF Philippines is working with government and partners to collect evidence on the prevalence and pervasiveness of violence against children, particularly sexual violence. A special microsite and social media campaign provides initiatives for children, parents and communities to take action by getting involved, being informed, organizing events and public discussion forums, supporting victims of violence and working with global and local UNICEF partners.
“We will use the findings to develop programmes and approaches to address the underlying drivers of sexual violence against children and improve the support to survivors,” said OIC/Deputy Representative UNICEF Philippines, Mr. Abdul Alim, who adds that protecting children is at the heart of UNICEF’s mandate.
According to the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the National Statistics Office, approximately 5.5 million children in the Philippines as young as the age of five are working in mining, deep-sea fishing and prostitution among other fields of dangerous work. Children are forced to leave school to help feed their families and send siblings to school.
The National Bureau of Statistics estimated in 2000 that more than 15 million Nigerian children were involved in child labour. The International Labour Organization is urging all media to intensify their reporting by bringing child labour issues to the front burner so that government at all levels will implement policies and enforce laws aimed at eliminating child labour and therefore, be accountable on their commitment to protect children.
According to UNICEF 8 to 10 million children in Pakistan are engaged in child labour. In 2012, the Federal Bureau of Statistics provided the following data:
- 3.8 million children from the ages of five to fourteen are working out of a total of 40 million children
- 50% of these children are within the age group of five to nine years of age
- 2.7 million children work in the agricultural sector
- 2,400,000 of these children are boys
The first 'Child Labour Report' released by the Ugandan Bureau of Statistics in Kampala states that child labour is one of the leading causes of child abuse and exploitation and at least 2 million children from the age of 5 to 17 years are engaged in child labour which accounts for 16% of the 11.5 million children in Uganda. The report also states that child labour is slowing down national poverty reduction and development efforts on top of being an obstacle to achieving universal education.
“Children who are forced out of school to child labour to help supplement income for their families are denied the opportunity to acquire necessary knowledge and skills to aid them get decent employment in future leading to the poverty cycle,” the report stated.
The Ugandan Bureau of Statistics defines child labour as:
- Children from 5 to 11 years of age engaged in work
- Children from 12 to 13 years of age that work beyond 14 hours a week, and
- Children from 14 to 17 years of age working at night or for more than 43 hours a week
- Orphaned children outnumbered non-orphans in child labour.
- Children with deceased parents were more involved in employment than orphaned children.
- Most of the child labour was in the primary sector encompassing agriculture, forestry and fishing, which accounts for 93% of the child labour in Uganda.
- Kampala city has the highest child labour with 79% of city’s child workers engaged in the services industry.
UN Calls on Member States to Approve Convention on Rights of the Child
United Nations officials are urging member states to validate their commitment by approving The Convention Rights of the Child and its three optional protocols. Countries will have the opportunity to ratify the Convention and its optional protocols at the 2013 Treaty Event, which will be held September 24th to 26th and September 30th to October 1st at UN Headquarters in New York.
“Millions of children around the globe suffer daily from violence, exploitation and abuse. Ignored by statistics and neglected by policy action they are silent victims, excluded from the public debate,” said Marta Santos Pais, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Violence against Children during a press conference at the UN Headquarters in New York.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child is a universally agreed set of non-negotiable standards and obligations that provides protection and support for the rights of all children. The three optional protocols encompass:
- protecting children from trafficking, prostitution and pornography;
- prohibiting their recruitment in armed conflict; and
- allowing children to bring forward their complaints to the UN if their rights are being abused.
193 states are now party to the Convention. Somalia, South Sudan and the United States are the only member states that have not yet ratified The Convention Rights of the Child. In regards to the optional protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, it was introduced in 2002 and has been ratified by 152 countries. Twenty states have signed but not ratified it and 22 have neither signed nor ratified it.
From 2000 to 2012, the number of children aged 5 to 17 doing hazardous work dropped from 171 million to 85 million.
“Every new commitment brings us closer to a world where all states agree that children do not belong on the battlefield,” said Leila Zerrougui, Secretary General’s Special Representative on Children on Armed Conflict. “The goal is within reach and many countries have taken the additional step to criminalize the use of children under the age of 18 in conflict in their national legislation.”
The protocol on child trafficking, prostitution and pornography is closer to universal ratification with 164 states that have approved it and less than 30 states that have not.
The third optional protocol that allows children to bring complaints to the UN was adopted in December 2011 and has been ratified by only 6 countries and signed by 37.
At the press briefing, Marta Santos Pais launched a child-friendly version of the third optional protocol to inform children about their rights and prevent their victimization. The child-friendly version was designed and created in consultation with children around the world and is used as a promotional tool to help young people raise awareness and implement safeguards for the rights of the child.
Take a moment and watch these videos:
"Safety and security don't just happen; they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear."
Former President of South Africa
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.
From 2000 to 2012, the number of children aged 5 to 17 doing hazardous work dropped from 171 million to 85 million. The 50% reduction was due to national labour laws and the political will to provide more social protection and education for children.
Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa put it best when he said, "Safety and security don't just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear."
Violence against children inflicts not only long-term physical, emotional and spiritual pain and suffering but also compromises their ability to learn and socialize – to trust - to smile. It is my fervent hope that through a global, collective conscience and awakened heart we unite with one strong voice, and work together towards one goal - to allow our children to be – children.