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Nov 22, 2013

A symposium on specific ways to end cycle of violence against children

A two-day symposium to end violence against children ended today in Belize City. The session is being held under the auspices of the Special Envoy for Women and Children, with partnership from the Ministry of Human Development, the NCFC, Restore Belize, UNICEF and the European Union. The goal of the comprehensive symposium is to build a roadmap outlining specific actions which must be taken to address what must seem like an overwhelming issue – violence against children. This isn’t the first initiative to seek input on dealing with a problem that has become prevalent in Belize, but it is one of the first which has actively sought the real participation of children – in speaking out on the violence which affects them every day, and in explaining what they need to feel truly safe and protected. Mike Rudon was at the symposium and has the story.

 

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Judith Alpuche, C.E.O., Ministry of Human Development

“This symposium over the next two days really, we are looking at all forms of violence against children. It is a symposium that is happening under the auspices of the office of the Special Envoy for Women and Children, Misses Kim Simplis-Barrow. As you know, she has been a great advocate in the area of child protection in the five years that she has held that post. And every year she does a signature event to bring stakeholders together to raise awareness etc. So this is her signature event for 2013 and it is so timely and very, very much needed.”

 

Kim Simplis-Barrow

Kim Simplis-Barrow, Special Envoy for Women and Children

“The feedback is so overwhelming, but really, we went to the children. We just launched a video where we interviewed children on their perspective and what they feel about violence against children and we will be giving you all a copy of that so you can see it and you could show it to your audience because it is so important. I can say all I want about violence against children, but if I don’t include the children, if I don’t ask a child how they feel or what their experience is like, it doesn’t help. So it really has to come from a children’s perspective.”

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

Children from all sectors of society and every district in the country are, perhaps for the first time, playing a vital role in formulating this new roadmap. The destination is ending violence against children, and even with the roadmap getting there will be no easy task.

 

Judith Alpuche

Judith Alpuche

“We are looking at violence in all its forms—anything that raises from your classic child abuse and neglect issues, be the physical, sexual, emotional abuse or neglect to the bullying that goes on in school to the domestic violence that children have to endure and are a part of and are experiencing in their homes to also what’s going on in their communities. Children spoke very eloquently in that video about their experiences—listening to gunshots. One child talking about hiding under his sheet. A very young man, probably nine years old; talking about the distinction between pop-shot and machine gun and other kind. So that’s telling…it speaks volumes about the experiences our children are having.”

 

On Thursday Belize’s children fielded questions, made presentations and spoke from the heart on issues which affect them every day – from bullying and psychological abuse to rape and violence in the street and in the home. They had a captive audience of stakeholders who hope to use their own words to keep these children and all others safe.

 

Kim Simplis-Barrow

“I’ve been planning this symposium for a while now and we wanted to partner with organizations that have been working along with children: such as UNICEF, NCFC and Restore Belize. One of the important things to highlight is what we’ve been doing in the interim before this and that is to push for legislations to increase penalties for perpetrators and to really try to protect our children even more.”

 

Judith Alpuche

“There’s been a lot of work, but there is so much more that needs to be done just because the breadth and depth of this issue keeps changing. You know five years ago, we were not talking about human trafficking. Our commercial sexual exploitation of children—maybe then years ago. But now, we are beginning to—although we knew these issues exist, we were not talking about it in that way. And I think that it is very important for us to constantly be reexamining and re-conceptualizing the way violence is manifesting and how it is really impacting on our children. So this is two days where stakeholders get together and take stock on the progress that has been made but also, and most importantly, the gaps that still remain and the work that needs to be done—be it in legislation; and you know some of that work has already been done and continues to be done. In policies, in programs, in service provisions, in preventions especially, in public education so that as a community, as a society, we can all stand together and say you know this is just not acceptable.”

 

The symposium addressed all forms of violence against children including sexual, physical, emotional and psychological abuse as well as neglect. Mike Rudon for News Five.

 

The symposium had the participation of members of the public and private sectors as well as government, civil society and the churches.

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