Accra, Sept 2, GNA - More than 80 children drawn from West Africa and the world have appealed to regional governments to take concrete steps to end Violence Against Children (VAC), which had become widespread.
In a recommendation presented at the ongoing four-day "Regional Youth Forum Against Violence" in Accra on Thursday, the children said VAC, in all forms, was not only an affront to their dignity but also affected their well-being and overall development in society.
The four-day forum, which opened in Accra on Tuesday, was to enable the children to discuss how violence impacted their lives and how it could be stopped.
It was coordinated and organized by Plan International, a child-centred non-governmental organization, in partnership with Save the Children, Sweden, and with additional support from United Nations International Children Emergency Fund, ActionAid, World Vision, ECPAT and War Child, Holland.
Ms. Marta Santos Pais, United Nations Secretary General's Special Representative (UNSGSR) on VAC, is also attending the forum as her first sub-regional assignment since assuming the position.
The children said their concerns over the years had been relegated to the background and often not consulted on the conception, deliberation and implementation of policies that affected them.
They said VAC especially in the school system, had become widespread making some of the their colleagues to drop out while others became stammerers or failed to answer questions in class just to avoid being caned for giving wrong answers.
Corporal punishment widespread in Africa
Plan International's "Learn Without Fear" report of 2008, revealed that Corporal Punishment was widespread in Africa, with the practice outlawed in schools in 21, out of the 54 African countries, but not banned at home in any of the countries on the continent.
It also said that more than 350,000,000 children suffered every year from some type of violence including sexual abuse in school while United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) also estimated that 70 million girls and women aged between 15 to 49 in 27 countries of Africa and the Middle East had undergone female genital mutilation.
The United Nations 2007 reports on VAC estimated that between 133 million and 275 million children experienced violence at home annually, with the largest proportion in Asia, as well as in sub-Saharan Africa.
Among the recommendations put forward by the children was that regional governments should seize certificates of teachers who indulged in sexual intercourse with girls in schools to deter others from engaging in such acts.
They also called for stiffer punishments for perpetrators of VAC.
The children also wanted the UNSGSR to constantly advise them on projects being implemented by the United Nations body to promote and safeguard their interests.
Ms. Santos Pais assured that her office would consolidate partnerships with relevant stakeholders to promote the interest of children.
She called on national governments to put in place a national action plan on VAC and embark on serious implementation of such a plan to safeguard and promote the welfare and interests of children.
She was not happy that only two African countries; Kenya and Tunisia had promulgated specific laws on VAC and urged the rest to follow suit.
She spoke strongly against corporal punishment, saying it compromised children's self esteem and confidence as well as made them less-participatory in school, family and social issues.
She said there was need to adopt a natural way of correcting the child rather than employing corporal punishment method.
Ms. Santos Pais commended Ghana for her openness in discussing issues of, as well as commitment in promoting the welfare of children and urged her (Ghana) to spearhead the promulgation of specific legislation against VAC.
Mr. Samuel Paulos, Country Director for Plan Ghana, warned of a damaging future for children if society failed to protect their interests.
According to him, the increasing number of cases involving VAC was a challenge not for only for governments but all and pledged Plan's commitment to intensify efforts at arresting the situation.