The government has been called upon to massively step up its efforts to tackle violence against children to create a safe environment for them to grow.
The government has also been urged to do more to tackle the entrenched causes of violence against children such as social and cultural attitudes, gender discrimination, poverty and humanitarian crises as well as pay far greater attention to new and emerging challenges caused by armed conflict, violent extremism and the COVID-19 pandemic.
This was contained in a statement issued by the Youth Development and Voice Initiative (YOVI), a non-governmental organisation based in Tamale, signed by Mr Hussein Rahman, its Executive Director, and copied to the press in Tamale on Wednesday.
The statement coincided with the ongoing Pan-African Learning Symposium on Violence Prevention, which is being hosted by the African Partnership to End Violence against Children, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
It is being attended by senior government officials and civil society representatives from over 30 African countries to kick-start action to end violence against children.
The statement said “We welcome the fact that Ghana is one of the African countries aspiring to become a ‘pathfinding’ country recognised by the UN-led Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children for their commitment to raising awareness, stimulating leadership, galvanising action and establishing national violence prevention standards. But much more needs to be done.”
It said “YOVI is acutely aware of the financial constraints that African governments continue to endure in the post-pandemic economic slow-down. But we cannot allow the small gains made in tackling violence against children over the past 30 years to be wiped out by failure to invest in social and child protection programmes.”
It said “On the contrary, this is the very time to be increasing funding, as violence against children has a significant harmful social and economic impact on society as a whole.”
According to the African Child Policy Forum, at least six out of 10 boys and half of all girls in Africa experience physical abuse, one in four children suffer sexual violence, three million girls are at risk of female genital mutilation every year, 40 percent of boys in residential care institutions suffer physical violence, and sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rates of child trafficking in the world.
Violence has devastating impacts on a child’s dignity, physical and mental well-being, development and life chances.
Children with disabilities or albinism, those in residential care or living and working on the streets, and those caught up in humanitarian crises and armed conflict are most at risk from violence, while better digital connectivity and pandemic lock-downs have driven an increase in online sexual abuse.
The statement said “No African country including Ghana is immune from the terrible scourge of violence against children. African children and young people continue to suffer widespread physical, psychological and sexual abuse, while armed conflict, violent extremism and the COVID-19 pandemic have created a perfect storm for violence against children to flourish. The scale of violence against children in Africa is unacceptable and getting worse.”
The statement said “Given the current economic uncertainty, violence prevention programmes funded by international donors and NGOs remain essential. However, the roots of the problem lie here in Africa, with deep-rooted traditional attitudes and practices towards children - especially girls - a significant barrier to success.”
It, therefore, called on all governments, the African Union and the Regional Economic Communities “To scale up investment in initiatives to end violence against children. Eradicating this stain on our collective conscience is one of the most important priorities of our time.”