Violence against children is not limited to the streets; or at least, that is the view of the social sector which is meeting in conference starting today in Belize City. UNICEF is partnering with the office of the Special Envoy for Women and Children, the Ministry of Human Development and the National Committee for Families and Children to establish a strategy for continuing the work that has already begun.
Ms. Judith Alpuche- CEO in the Ministry of Human Development
“We need to come at it from a very concerted, sober, multi-sectoral approach; we are looking at all the forms of violence and all the causes. The presentations that we have, for instance, considers all those issues and considers progress being made at social protection in terms of social safety net programming that has happened in terms of the education system strengthening from that perspective, the health system as well as that system that looks at protecting children from abuse and neglect. So, the data that we are considering really looks at that. The broadest violence in its broadest sense and in as huge and insurmountable as the problem may seem, we have to tackle it”.
According to Ms. Alpuche, there is a need to establish statistics on key issues surrounding violence and abuse of children, and the conference will explore options in that arena. UNICEF Representative, H.E. Ivan Yerovi, says that a key issue is corporal punishment in schools. It has already been effectively banned by the Ministry of Education, but he believes the message needs to be spread further and to the base of the pyramid. Otherwise…
H.E. Ivan Yerovi- Ambassador of the UNICEF to Belize
…”they will continue continue the same cycle. That is precisely the topic. If we don’t discuss about it; if we don’t start at least thinking about it, it will be very difficult to break the cycle, just like the cycle of poverty. We must intervene to break the cycle. If children are beaten, for, instance, corporal punished at school, maybe they will become teachers and they will repeat the same; they’ll say, well the way they disciplined me was by some acts of corporal punishment. They will continue doing the same because no one told them that it was not correct”.
Ms. Alpuche says children themselves will be a centerpiece of this latest congregation.
“An exciting piece of this conference is the children’s participation. There has been a lot of work. There has been a lot of children’s participation before because we need be in touch with our constituencies. We cannot really address this issue if we are not listening to the people who are experiencing these things. So, we are seeing a lot of children here. There has been a lot of space pre-conference that has been made for children’s voices to be heard…and that will be taken into account within the road map. So, just in terms of the empowerment of children to speak…to talk about their experiences, I think it is already a piece of the puzzle because we always say that in child protection, one of the primary ways to help to protect children is by empowering them and ensuring that their voices are heard”.