EAST AND SOUTHERN AFRICA: Consultation Closes

Summary: Third and final day of the East and Southern
Africa Regional Consultation for the UN Study
on Violence Against children that took place in
Johannesburg from 18 to 20 July 2005.
[JOHANNESBURG, 20 July 2005] – During the final day of the consultation,
preliminary findings from working groups were presented to the plenary.
Recommendations were agreed upon but are still subject to final technical
amendments before they are made available.

A representative of the African Union (AU) said its role was one of
leadership and advocacy. It brings up important issues, such as
recommendations made here at the highest level for endorsement by
national governments and it oversees the implementation of the African
Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. The Charter, he said, was
not well known and that there was a need to popularise it, to all
stakeholders, including children. In light if this, she said the ratification
process of the African Charter by countries that had not yet done so had
to be accelerated.

Dr. Aseffa Bequele, Member of the African Committee of Experts on the
Rights and Welfare of the Child, said this consultation had been a good
opportunity to bring NGOs and governments together to discuss issues
that were never raised before. “Our task is enormous and should be
carried out at pan African level and at national level.” The Committee is
entrusted with the task of promoting the rights and welfare of the child
and there is no more fundamental right and obligation than protecting
children from violence. He said he hoped the Committee will take this up as
one the themes to push to focus on in the coming years.

He ended by mentioning the connection between poverty, culture and
violence saying it was a very deceptive issue. “Poverty is fundamental to
many issues in our region. Yet, poverty is no excuse for inaction, poverty is
no excuse for raping women, or raping children. Poverty is no excuse for
beating women or beating children. It must be heard that we Africans are
against violence against women and children.”

Carol Bower from RAPCAN, spoke on behalf of NGOs participating at the
consultation. She said they were pleased the consultation had succeeded
in providing input in the global study, and that there was a commitment
from NGOs in contributing to the development of a consolidated pan
African position paper on violence against children.

Some of the child participants mentioned concerns they have with regards
to violence in the home and family, in schools, in communities, in the
workplace and in institutions. One child said children felt a big step had
been taken here to ensure children are respected, however governments,
NGOs, the UN and the private sector should ensure laws are implemented
and monitored. “We will make sure to share our learning from this
consultation with our parents and our communities when we come home”
one young delegate added.

In the closing session, the UNICEF country representative said there were
three issues that were essential in the context of a non-violent
environment for children: peace, democracy and freedom. “It is only
through democratic processes that we can protect children, […] and
without freedom, issues of violence go underground” he said.

Professor Paulo Sergio Pinheiro said he was pleased detailed and clear
recommendations had been agreed upon during this consultation, and
they will surely be included in the Secretary-General’s report to the
General Assembly. He emphasised the input of civil society and their future
role in the follow-up to recommendations.

Cheryl Gilwald, Deputy Minister of Correctional Services, South Africa said
the fact that children suffer from violence was “our failure, we leave these
legacies that make children vulnerable, we need to take responsibility”.

Themes: 
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