On October 19th and 20th, the Canadian Government and the Public Health Agency of Canada, hosted the eighth Milestones Meeting of a Global Campaign for Violence Prevention, on behalf of the World Health Organization. The theme for this year’s meeting was, Translating Sustainable Development Goal Violence Prevention Targets into National and Local Action.
The purpose of the Milestones meeting was to convene experts in the area of violence prevention to address the issue of violence and share solutions that can be implemented at the local and national level. Experts in the field included academics, health care practitioners, social workers, government officials and representatives from civil society organizations.
As one the organizations working in the field of violence prevention, the Global Partnership to End Violence against Children attended the Milestones meeting and participated in a session on children’s perspectives.
Children’s Perspectives on Violence Prevention Session:
- Moderator: Dinesh Sethi, WHO EURO, Denmark
- Susan Bissell, Global Partnership to End Violence against Children, USA
- Youth Delegation
During the session, a delegation of 15 young people from seven countries (Canada, Indonesia, Mexico, Paraguay, Philippines, South Africa and Sri Lanka) gave a presentation on the different forms of violence that affects children, the impact of violence on health, and the possible solutions for preventing violence against children. The young people gave the presentation in four different groups. The first group explained the different types of violence and gave brief examples for each. The second group explained the impact that violence has on health, the impact being both physical and psychological. The third group contributed solutions for preventing violence. The final group explained the roles that communities and children themselves play in preventing violence.
Children and Young People’s Participation Workshop:
Prior to children’s perspectives session, the youth delegates participated in a preparatory workshop; which was facilitated by Ms. Sarah Stevenson, Senior Adviser, Global Partnership to End Violence against Children, and Mr. Patricio Cueva, Senior Policy Adviser, World Vision International.
The main objective of the workshop was to equip the children and young people with the knowledge and tools to meaningfully present their views and lead a session at the eighth annual milestones meeting. Additionally, another objective was to support the children and young people to identify key priorities for engagement at the milestones meeting and provide them with an appropriate space to gather and meet one another.
The workshop also provided the opportunity for the young people to share their experiences with violence in their communities. During the workshop the young people were asked to share their thoughts on why children voices matter, how they feel about violence in their community and what makes them feel safe in their community.
When addressing the topic of violence, the children and young people were asked why children voices matter. Their response was children voices matter “because it [violence] is actually happening to children” (young girl from Paraguay). A young boy from Mexico stated “the actions of adults have consequences for children” this is why children’s voices need to be heard.
In the same session of the workshop, the young people were asked their experience with violence in their communities and what makes them feel safe or unsafe. A young girl from Sri Lanka commented that she feels safe because in Sri Lanka, “parents do not sell their children for money” like in other parts of the world. She feels unsafe when “parents do not always listen to children when they make decisions.” A young girl from the Philippines expressed that “issues on sexual assaults are very rampant in [her] country. She mentioned, “recruitment of girls is a big issue” as well. These issues make her feel unsafe but when her family protects her, she feels safe. Another young person shared her experience with violence by stating that in South Africa “sexual violence and killings, especially of women” make her feel unsafe. The only time she feels safe is when she is indoors with her family.
In a different session of the workshop, Susan Bissell, Director of the Global Partnership to End Violence against Children addressed the children and young people. She welcomed them and emphasized the importance of their presence and participation in this important conference. After her speech, the young people were given an opportunity to ask questions at which point a young boy from Mexico asked, “How can we be sure that [our presence] will have an impact in our home country?” Susan Bissell responded, “You are engaged in your communities and local organizations and your countries are all involved in the partnership.” Susan continued by stating, “Monitoring and evaluation mechanism will be in place” to make sure this important work is achieved.
Linking Health and Violence against Children
During the workshop, the children and young people also had the opportunity to hear from Dr. Siddika Mithani, President of the Public Health Agency of Canada. Dr. Mithani thanked the children and young people for traveling from such far places to participate in the milestones conference. Dr. Mithani shared about the approximately 800 programs in Canada that currently reach families living in poverty and families dealing with addiction issues. She stated that at the Public Health Agency of Canada, “safe healthy relationships mean being free from violence, abuse and neglect.
When given the opportunity to ask Dr. Mithani questions and make comments, a young girl from Canada stated that “Girls and kids in general are the solution for ending violence against children” and that governments need to “invest in children” and “encourage them to reach their full potential.
A young girl from Paraguay commented that her country has a “child protection system that is not being implemented” and that “more commitment from the government is needed to implement the system”.
Dr. Mithani’s take home message to the children and young people was to “continue the momentum, continue the passion” and that “letting people know that this is not right is the beginning for changing people’s minds.”
At the end of the workshop the children and young people named their group, CYPAC (Children and Young People Advisory Council. They agreed to keep in touch via teleconferencing and social media, to continue to work on the issue of violence prevention in each of their communities.