This year’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence are ongoing across the world with the theme: From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Make Education Safe for All. Violence against children has cowed plenty of young people and reduced them to zombies who cannot amount to anything despite their immense innate capabilities.
When children are not being physically punished at home and school, they are molested, raped, sodomised, threatened and traumatised, more often than not by grown-ups who should be providing safe environments for their unobstructed growth.
This is happening in every country across the world, preventing children, especially girls, children living with disability and other marginalised groups from accessing safe, inclusive and quality education.
More than 246 million children around the world experience gender-based violence at, or on their way to school every year. The UN Human Rights report of 2009-2014 indicate that more than 70 countries experienced attacks on schools. In 2012, the number of attacks on schools, teachers and students was estimated at 3,600, with thousands of casualties. This has negative consequences not only for the abused children but also for the society.
And the United Children’s Fund report 2014 indicated that more than two-thirds of Kenyan children experience physical violence. Reports of girls dropping out of school after being made pregnant by their teachers and caretakers are a daily occurrence. Although corporal punishment has been outlawed, many schools still practice it in the name of disciplining perceived nonstandard children.
Parents and guardians who should be protecting children in the face of such violence, when called upon by schools to instil discipline, not only gang up with the teachers to terrorise their own children but perpetuate the same terror in their homes.
It is on this basis that I wish to remind all stakeholders: educators, parents, security agencies and government, to do all they can to create safe spaces for kids to learn and play at school and home. It is incumbent upon all adults of goodwill in the society to strengthen laws that protect children and raise awareness amongst the handlers of children – teaching and non-teaching staff – to become champions of children’s rights.
Children need safe spaces to learn and play. When teachers prey on girls and boys for sexual gratification, this constitutes not just violence against children but unsafe environment for them that must be dismantled.
When children are attacked and abducted from schools by groups as Boko Haram in Nigeria and forced into child prostitution, marriage and turned into sex-slaves, this is a gross violation of their rights. The international community must intervene where local authorities have failed to save such children.
While boys are sodomised and turned into sex objects by their caregivers or educators in institutions of learning and religion as has been reported globally and locally, then something must be done. It is time to rethink societal values and beliefs and enforce the societal norms to a level that uphold children’s rights. No violence against children is justifiable and all violence against children must be prevented.
16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence run from November 24 to December 10. It is important that we all solemnly observe these days to raise awareness in our families, neighbourhoods, schools, communities and nation at large.
Several international days are marked starting with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25 to World Aids Day on December 1 and International Human Rights Day on December 10.
More importantly, all these activities are designed to raise awareness against gender-based violence and this year’s focus is on creating safe spaces for children. We all have a role to play and can definitely do something at home and school to give our children an enabling environment where they are able to grow to become productive members of the society.