I am delighted to be here with you this morning. It warms my heart to see a large number of mothers, fathers, caregivers, village leadership and senior officials from both government and private sector gathered here today to find a solution to the evil that has befallen us-Violence Against Children.
Director of Ceremony, the UNICEF team along with their counterparts from the Ministry of Local Government, Botswana Police and the Local Organizing Committee spent the entire week here engaging different stakeholders to map out a sustainable way of ending Violence Against Children.
I have been told that the team had in-depth discussions with different groups in the communities including Children, Shebeen owners, Dikgosi, Religious leaders, Men, the VDC, Village Child Protection Committees, social workers, teachers and health workersi n an effort to gain insights on how best to address child abuse. They spoke highly of your openness and willingness to address issues of abuse, especially sexual abuse, teenage pregnancy, poor educational outcomes and truancy. Indeed, it takes a village to raise a child and it is collaborative efforts such as these that will go a long way in ending violence against children.
Over the years, efforts have been made to address violence and yet we are still a long way from winning the fight. The advent of COVID-19 brought to light the extent of the problem in our country with cases of violence increasing exponentially across the country. During lockdowns, in the comfort of their home, children experienced cruelty from those supposed to be their protectors.
This clearly indicated that we had an unfinished agenda and that the first phase of the ESeng Mo Ngwaneng Campaign had not fully addressed the drivers of Violence Against Children. Furthermore, we also realized that it is important to strengthen systems to respond to issues of violence.
In 2021, we went back to the drawing board to re-design the second phase of the campaign, which aims at responding to emerging trends of Violence Against Children.
We have worked tirelessly with the Ministry of Local Government through the Department of Social Protection, the Botswana Police, and Civil Society Organisations to ensure that all issues concerning children will be addressed through the E Seng Mo Ngwaneng Movement. The first phase of the campaign focused on raising awareness on the impact of sexual exploitation of children and called for all to play a role in ending Sexual Exploitation and Abuse.
The second phase focuses on promoting reporting cases of abuse to authorities such as police, social workers, and also through the Childline helpline. The Campaign also aims to unpack social norms and practices pre-dispose children to abuse. We all know that change does not happen overnight. We hope that this campaign will play a catalytic role in facilitating honest and sometimes uncomfortable conversations around drivers of abuse. Furthermore, the campaign will also focus on strengthening the capacity of service providers to treat cases of abuse with the sensitivity that they deserve. As we are gathered here today, a cohort of Police Officers is undergoing training in investigating cases of children. The training is facilitated by the British National Crime Agency supported by UNICEF and the British High Commission. We have also been working closely with the police to establish child-friendly police stations in different parts of the country through the support of the Embassy of Japan.
All these efforts are aimed at ensuring that the service providers are fully capacitated. Director of Ceremony, allow me to conclude by re-iterating that UNICEF and the entire UN family’s commitment, to ensuring that children’s rights addressed fervently. We also pledge to continue supporting the government of Botswana’s efforts to end Violence Against Children. I urge everyone here today to introspect and consider what role they can play in this Campaign. Let us all own it and is proud to be seen as part of the movement towards ending Violence Against Children and REMEMBER TO CALL 116 TO REPORT ABUSE OF CHILDREN.
Dr. JOAN MATJI is UNICEF Representative to Botswana.