Pinheiro talks to children and young people from East and Southern Africa

Summary: As in previous regional consultations,
Professor Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the
Independent Expert leading the UN Study on
Violence Against Children met with the children
attending the consultation to get their views
and opinions about the consultation.
PINHEIRO: In every consultation, there was a presence and participation of
children and young people. I had an opportunity to meet with them to find
out what they thought about the consultation. Now, I want to hear some
of your impressions about the meeting. I would like you to share with me
some of your impressions, criticisms, suggestions for improving your

Your recommendations are very important, and we should have them in
the final report. In every consultation that I went to, children were sending
a clear message against corporal punishment in schools, at home, etc.

Other complaints I heard from children was that people usually do not pay
attention to them. This morning, there was a good presentation on
corporal punishment, and the speaker was saying it is necessary to have
inter-generational dialogue, which I agree with and this is why you are
here. So please, share with me your comments, suggestions, etc.

say that corporal punishment should be done away with, but what
punishment would be used instead, what other forms of punishment are

PINHEIRO: it’s a shame young people were not there today at the
presentations. Why punishment? Perhaps we need to have a different way
of thinking. One of the participants today talked about how when she was
a student, there was a committee of teachers and students in her school,
and together, they defined what kinds of sanctions there should be if there
was bad behaviour. Of course there is a need for some rules, some kind of
discipline. The child could have some tasks, or do some community work, or
will not have privileges that others have, we have to be imaginative. If the
government does not ban it, it’s very difficult to convince parents and
children. Some children in the Caribbean Consultation thought that if they
did not get physically punished, they thought they were not being
educated. They thought it was part of . It’s not a problem of Africa.

QUESTION - SOUTH AFRICA: We come from different backgrounds, some of
us are Christian and in the Bible it says that if a child does something
wrong, the child should be disciplined. We must differentiate between cruel
treatment and punishment.

PINHEIRO: It is very difficult to establish a limit when smacking is good and
when you are abusing a child. I am Catholic and I never read anything in
the Bible that authorises punishment. There is a mention of discipline, but
discipline is not beating. There are many readings of the Bible but I do not
want to go into that. Research shows that it is more productive to teach
parents that there are other ways to follow the bible and discipline
children. When you begin with a friendly smack, you don’t do this between
adults and beating cats or dogs is not acceptable.

QUESTION - SOMALIA: I am from Somalia and the problems we are facing,
is there is no access to education, and we don’t have a government so
they cannot help us.

PINHEIRO: Somalia is the only country that has not ratified the Convention
on the Rights of the Child, with the US, this is the beginning of all
problems. It is also poor, there is no real government, which complicates
everything. In my capacity, I will be very happy to share your letter
informing us about difficulties for children in Somalia in having opportunities
to go to university and this is a very serious problem. What I will do is to
share what you conveyed to me with those who have responsibilities on
Somalia and use my imagination to see what can be done.

QUESTION: I want to know what can be done when we go home, because
we will have changed and maybe our parents will not be so happy if we
ask them to have our rights or if we tell them about our rights.

PINHEIRO: This is a very important question. Another child asked me that
before, and said ‘my parents beat me, but what am I to do, what do I tell
them?’ First, I don’t think you should tell them about the CRC, they will be
angry, and might beat you more than before. We have to empower
children, you mentioned a few days ago that there were associations and
clubs, and not only for victims of violence, but also for preventing violence.
For you, it’s a more difficult struggle because you came here at the
consultation, you are conscious about your rights, and would like to have
those rights respected. This must be discussed among yourselves and see
what strategies there might be, I don’t have the power to protect you, but
I can convey your wishes.

QUESTION: I want to know whether there are any mechanisms in place
that will make sure children are safe? When you know your rights, you
know they are being violated, but you can do nothing about it. Most
children did not know about their rights, and it made all the abuse normal,
now I go home I know my rights, I see rights being violated each and
every day, and it is very painful.

PINHEIRO: This is a very good question. First thing, I am very much inclined
to propose a universal ban on corporal punishment, then we need to see
how to implement it. First, we must convince governments that they are
supposed to do that. In this region, it will be a difficult task. All countries
here think it’s awful to smack children, some have prohibited this in
schools, but not in the family. UNICEF has a big role for this. UNICEF has to
be bold with governments and is supposed to be a driving force for the
implementation of child rights.

Second, UNICEF works closely with civil society and must empower them to
fight and it’s important that there is discreet mobilisation of children, we
don’t want to put in danger because they want to fight for their rights.
Children are not alone in this, there are many grown-ups who are also
convinced that children’s rights should be respected. You must build
partnerships, don’t go alone, don’t fight your parents, this can be a
disaster. Perhaps you also have teachers who are open. Schools should
organise meetings between parents and students.

There was a wonderful exercise in Ljubljana, where children asked their
governments what they would you do when they returned to end violence
against children. This is not the fight of the children alone, it is the fight of
governments, parliamentarians, the UN, civil society, all must tackle this
question. And we will say this very strongly in our study.

UNICEF: You should also think about how you see your contribution
continue in the future. I want to tell you a few practical things: at end of
tomorrow, there will be a statement; each one of us should take it back to
our country. What you are doing here is representing children from your
own country, and you have a certain number of people in your country who
have helped you to be here today. So your first task is to go back to them,
tell them this is your statement, and the message is that violence is not
acceptable. UNICEF is working with governments on programmes of
cooperation such as plans of action. One target for us in the next four
years will be to follow up on the study’s recommendations, in each country.
So for us, it will become easy for us to support what the study will say.

PINHEIRO: A good opportunity before you leave, is to address your own
delegation here because they are likely to be the people who are
attentive, they are good allies for you. You should get their phone
numbers, so you can then ask them what they are doing.

QUESTION - TANZANIA: Do you have advice or recommendations for
children working in mining areas, their rights are violated every day and we
want to know what we can do to help them once we get home.

PINHEIRO: The first thing is to know whether Tanzania has ratified the ILO
Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour. This I think is illegal.
Secondly, you should ask the Tanzanian delegation what they intend to do
about this situation. Third, I am sure there are NGOs, or lawyers, or
organisations dealing with this kind of child labour. In my own country, for
instance, one way this was tackled was to give scholarships to parents so
that parents would be obliged to send children to schools and not do this
kind of work. One thing that I could suggest, is to contact UNICEF and see
if they have an office there, ask them what they are doing on this. It’s a
very difficult struggle. I think that would be difficult for children because
they are in very precarious situation, so it should be addressed through

QUESTION - BURUNDI: We had war for a long time, I was abducted as a
child soldier, and when I came out, I didn’t have money to go to school.
What hurt most, was that I didn’t have a mom and dad anymore because
they were killed. There was an organisation that demobilised children and
helped us to go to school, but now the project is ending and I will not
longer be able to go to school.

PINHEIRO: I am very happy to see a child from Burundi as I worked on
Burundi for four years. I have much sympathy for children from Burundi.
This is a very delicate situation, I am not in a position to deal with it, but I
would encourage facilitators to meet the government. The other thing that
they can do is to approach the UNICEF person here. We will contact the
representative in UNICEF and other organizations working there to
express our concerns.

QUESTION - RWANDA: Children in my country face many problems. During
the war, we lost parents, we don’t study well because of that. Some are
child-headed families, because of this we don’t have the capacity to go to
school. Some NGOs help us, but it’s not enough to help everyone to go to
school and support our families. Many become street children because
there are no shelters for them.

PINHEIRO: You must express these concerns in your statement. I cannot
deal with armed conflict. I am very frustrated, but I cannot deal with
individual cases. I understand that the impact of war on children is a
common problem, this must be in your statement so that governments are
made aware.

I would like to invite you to say something about this consultation, share
your experiences, how your participation here can be improved, what I can
put in my report.

QUESTION: It’s nice to be here, everybody who has come here is a
stakeholder. But I feel there was very minimal child participation. Adults
raised questions but we were not there. We have personal stories that we
want to talk about. In the future there should be more young people, we
all have an agenda, and solutions. When you have young people only
making a presentation at the end, how do we know that what we said
was taken into account.

PINHEIRO: I was surprised about the absence of children in presentations
because we are dealing with issues that concern you. Children must have
equal rights to intervene as full participants, they must be allowed to
comment, they need to express their concerns.

So don’t say it’s wonderful here, it’s a beautiful hotel. Express your
feelings! What you are saying to me, you should tell them in the plenary.
You have your governments, the NGOs, the experts, you are not supposed
to waste the opportunity you have. Tomorrow you should have a clear
message, not a nice one. What the public needs, what I need, is to hear
your concerns, not only nice messages, we know that you are very happy
here, but we want to hear your real voice.

QUESTION - ANGOLA: I want to focus on corporal punishment in schools,
but I was a refugee in Zambia, and I didn’t see any department or UNICEF
office for child rights. The director in my school was in love with me, but I
refused to go with him, so he punished me a lot. He would call me and
beat me. Once he gave me 15 strokes, I was lying on the ground, and
didn’t have any right or way of reporting. Then you say maybe children
should go to UNICEF, but refugees cannot go there to express their
feelings, they suffer a lot of discrimination in schools. I was not able to say
I was Angolan, they would laugh at me because we have been in war for
so long. And if you have no birth certificate, or if you do not speak
Portuguese, you cannot go to school. There is a lot of discrimination and
the government is not focusing on returnee children. We have to have
campaigns about this.

PINHEIRO: There are two ministers from Angola here, it would be
wonderful to approach them here because the consultation is for
conversation, we will see if we can organise this with governments.


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