NGO Statement delivered at the East and Southern Africa Consultation on Violence Against Children

CLOSING REMARKS – NGOs.

Members of African governments, representatives of civil society,
representatives of UN Agencies and children, colleagues and friends

Almost all countries in the Region were represented by NGOs present at
the Regional Meeting. In addition, colleagues from both the United
Kingdom and the United States were in attendance.

NGO representatives participated in a range of different ways:
• Membership of the NGO Advisory Panel to the Global Study
• Membership of the Steering Committee for the Regional Meeting
• Plenary presentations
• Small Group Facilitators
• Membership of the Drafting Committee

General comments

Notice of this opportunity was given to us too late to ensure a proper and
representative process in the development of this statement. For this, I
apologise to my NGO colleagues. This statement represents my collation
of comments and inputs at three meetings of NGOs held on Sunday,
Monday and Tuesday, and the inputs of those colleagues I could access
this morning.

Comments about the process

We are pleased that this meeting has succeeded in its original intention to
provide inputs from the Eastern and Southern African Region to the Global
Study on Violence Against Children, and that at the same time there has
been a commitment from NGOs in the region to work towards and
participate in the development of a consolidated Pan-African position on
these very important issues for the future of African children and hence the
African continent.

We very much enjoyed the opportunity afforded us yesterday to meet with
Prof Pinheiro as NGOs and to discuss with him how we, as African NGOs
can in our own countries continue to work to combat violence against
children. We are concerned that the momentum that has been
established via in-country processes and this Regional process is not lost
or diluted and have undertaken to remain in touch with each other and to
seek to find ways to build solidarity, experience-sharing and mutual
learning.

Comments about child participation

We wish to formally congratulate the UNICEF South Africa Office, the South
African office of the Commission for Human Rights and the National
Children’s Rights Committee on the successful child participation process
that was implemented for this meeting. We also acknowledge the financial
contributions made by World Vision and the South African Office on the
Rights of the Child in this regard.

We also wish to acknowledge and recognise the importance of what the
children have had to say about the things that hurt and concern them the
most, and to remind all of us here about how seriously we need to take
the contributions they have made.
Comments about the meeting

We have appreciated the opportunity to participate fully in the different
small groups, and also that there is NGO participation in the drafting of the
Report on this meeting.

Now that common forms of violence against children, including sexual
abuse and corporal punishment in the family, and harmful cultural practices
are becoming visible, and children are telling us how upsetting and
damaging they find these things, we should regard this as an emergency,
and not just an ongoing situation. It was clear in the small group
meetings that law reform and policy development needs to explicitly
prohibit these hurtful and harmful things that happen to children in all
settings, including the home and family.

We acknowledge that the prohibition of these practices has been
addressed somewhat in legislation in the different countries in the region,
but stress the need for national legislations to be consolidated and
harmonized with the CRC and the African Charter, and that this to be
made explicit and that guidelines for implementation in the best interests
of children need to be developed. The vulnerability of children in the face
of the HIV pandemic that is impacting in so many of our countries and
which exacerbates the vulnerability of children also needs to be urgently
addressed. We also acknowledge the role played by poverty in
exacerbating vulnerability but stress that poverty is neither a cause of nor
an excuse for violence against children.

Arising out of these deliberations, we urge that governments develop
concrete action plans, related to law and policy to address the issues
raised here – and in particular the issues raised by our young delegates.
We ask that all governments in our region who have not yet done so
consider ratification of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the
Child – which we are convinced will indicate our ownership as Africans, of
the notion that children are the bearers of rights in their own right. We
are encouraged by the many positive developments that are taking place
and hope sincerely that we can learn from each other as we move forward
to ensuring an Africa fit for children. Children are our future – this is true,
but it is present reality that we must address as it is this that shapes the
future for our children and indeed for all of us.

I thank you.
Owner: Carol Bower

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