Save the ChildrenSweden fights violence against children [Archives:2004/749/Community]

June 24 2004

By Nadira Abdulqudoos
Yemen Times Aden Bureau

Violence against children has become an issue that has been receiving great attention in the United Nations. The world has witnessed a number of changes in this area through workshops, seminars and conferences at international, regional and local levels. Associations concerned with children's issues have been established, particularly in developing countries, in order to support children's rights. Children in the developing countries suffer discrimination, ill-treatment, physical and mental violence and are deprived of many basic rights, in spite of the international conventions on the rights of the child and on human rights in general.
Yemen is one of those countries in which many civil society organizations have emerged under many different names, yet agreeing on their principles and that the aim to protect children, especially those marginalized, homeless or orphaned. Some of those associations have received support financially and technically from many international organizations that care for children, one of which is Rada Barnen or Save the Children – Sweden, which established a regional office in Sana'a and then moved to Beirut in 2000.

After identifying the various Yemeni associations, their fields of intervention and their activities, Save the Children – Sweden, headed by the organization's officer in Aden, Ms Aisha Saeed, conducted an awareness workshop titled “Violence against Children in Yemen” end of the last month under the patronage of Dr. Yihya al-Shiabi, Governor of Aden. Elisabet Sundstorm, Regional Program Advisor, Save the Children – Sweden attended the workshop. To the Yemen Times she emphasized that Rada Barnen is an international non-governmental organization that comes under the umbrella of organizations concerned with children and the protection of their rights around the world, including the United Nations organizations. These organizations work together in implementing and promoting the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Rada Barnen has been working in Yemen for the last 40 years and it is from Yemen that the organization launched its activities in the Middle East, Morocco and Eastern Arabia. She added that Save the Children – Sweden is proud with the fact that its activities started from Yemen and now has a regional office in Beirut. There is coordination between the organization and concerned authorities, whether governmental or non-governmental, and it is about to start many programs.
“Children are subjected to physical and mental violence and in many Arabian countries. So we decided to work in this field and support the research conducted by the local communities and by the researchers and specialists in this field.” she said.
International society is struggling to eliminate this phenomenon and to stop violence against children because it is of vital importance that children grow up in healthy environments, and enhance their social, educational, health and cultural conditions.
When asked her opinion of the contribution of Yemeni civil society organizations to the workshop, Ms Sundstorm expressed her delight. The best aspect of the workshop, she added, was that the participants formed a committee for fighting violence against children and this is an excellent result of this workshop and hopefully the committee will yield the desired results.
For the past few years, the international community has been focusing on the influence of armed violence against children and child soldiers. On whether this phenomenon has disappeared she replied: “We go in pace with the international initiatives, and it was essential to execute new programs on violence against children, especially after this has spread in the world. This comes as a result of UN General Secretary, Mr. Kofi Annan's, decree to form a committee and nominate a chairperson to study this phenomenon. This includes UNICEF, WHO, OHCHR among other organizations including Save the Children – Sweden. Also, programs change and the national governments must execute them in cooperation with the civil society organizations, and with the financial assistance from the donor countries. It is not true that there are no resources to execute programs, but the problem is that the priorities in these countries are not arranged and there are no defined objectives, therefore there is need for cooperation from the government and non government organizations.
Rada Barnen conducted another workshop on violence against women on the 7th of this month in cooperation with the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood who is the prime partner of the organization. There are many programs executed by the organization in fields such as in child poverty, and in the coming months more efforts will be exerted to combat violence against children, especially regarding the research on this phenomenon in Yemen.
In the same visit, Dr. Barnella, who is a researcher working on gender and Islam and a consultant of Save the Children – Sweden, attended the workshop in Aden. She embraced Islam in 1986 based on the influence of her sister and husband, who both are Muslims. Regarding why she is researching this topic, she said: “I found that there is a misinterpretation of Islam and God's words, especially in the relationship between man and woman, and this is due to the misinterpretation of the Quran and so I decided to study the Quran and try to understand the essence of this relation. Also there are Arabs immigrating to Sweden and they have carried many bad habits to their new community, such as violence against women and honor crimes, and those are in no way related to the religion. That is why currently I am studying the phenomenon. Recently I have visited three countries, Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine, and now Yemen. I have recorded what I saw regarding teenage girls and I am still on the case.”