A recent series of brutal crimes against children has shocked the country, leaving us heartbroken for the affected families and seriously concerned for the safety of Cambodian children.
Thanks to the quick action from the authorities, the suspects in these cases have been apprehended. We are now hoping that the investigations and trials will bring justice and closure for these children and their families.
As we try to grasp these horrible crimes and what they meant for our country and communities, it will be tempting to surrender to our anger and fear and look for easy solutions. However, building a better and safer Cambodia for our children requires more. It requires us to start facing some very sad but crucial facts.
First, these recent cases of sexual and physical violence against children are just the tip of the iceberg. Many studies have shown that in Cambodia, like in any other country in the world, for each story of violence against children in the news, hundreds of others are not reported nor investigated.
According to the Cambodia’s Violence Against Children Survey from 2013, 1 in 6 children is victim of sexual violence before the age of 18, and 1 in 2 experiences physical violence. These statistics remind us that the issue is serious and prevalent.
Secondly, studies often point out that perpetrators of violence against children are often known to the children they abuse: they are their relatives, neighbours or friends. While we are concerned about strangers, we need to remember that children are more often abused by the ones who are closer to them and, in many cases, continue to live side by side with them.
The third fact that we face is that while solutions to ending violence against children do exist, there is no quick and easy answer. It would be comforting to think that a simple fix can be found; but having been working on child protection for almost 50 years in Cambodia and in almost 100 countries around the world has taught World Vision that when it comes to supporting the development of safe communities for children, time, local ownership and commitment along with evidence based interventions are the only way forward.
Over recent years, the Royal Government of Cambodia has worked with many organizations like World Vision to improve prevention and response to violence against children.
Many solutions have been piloted and we now have evidence of what is working. Children need effective local child protection system to protect them where they live. They need social workers in their communes and villages.
They need strong Commune Committees for Women and Children (CCWCs) with additional resources and capacities to take action. They need parents and teachers who understand what violence against children is and looks like and how to use positive discipline.
And children themselves need to be taught how to protect themselves and others through life skills training at schools and in communities.
The Royal Government of Cambodia and its partners know this and are working to make it happen; and there is no doubt these approaches will continue to bear fruit.
The last fact we need to accept is that we can all play a role to speed up progress. More and more partners are supporting the Royal Government of Cambodia. Cambodia becoming Path finding Country in the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children later this year will be an opportunity to renew all stakeholders’ commitments to speed up progress.
Many organizations like World Vision have already prioritized actions on violence against children and will continue to work with the Royal Government of Cambodia. At the local level, the Royal Government of Cambodia announced in February that the commune development budgets would double in 2020 and more than triple in 2023.
Part of these resources can be used to strengthen the CCWCs so they can better prevent and respond to violence against children. It could also be used to recruit social workers to support the CCWCs.
In schools, the implementation of the Child Protection in School Policy could be sped up, using a mix of resources from the Royal Government of Cambodia, development partners and communes.
Many other opportunities exist to strengthen local Child Protection system. It will take time, efforts and resources. It may not be the easy or quick solution we would like to be able to implement, however evidence is showing us that this is the right way to work for a safer Cambodia.
NOTE World Vision
With a presence in close to 100 countries and 50,000 employees and volunteers worldwide, World Vision is a global nongovernmental organization focusing on the wellbeing of children through development and humanitarian programmes. In Cambodia, World Vision is working in 39 districts across 10 provinces and city, implementing health and nutrition, education and life skills, child protection and youth projects benefiting 2.7 million children every year.
In 2016 World Vision launched a global campaign It Takes a World to End Violence against Children. Kumrou Ahoengsa (Nonviolence Role Model) is a feature Campaign in Cambodia of World Vision’s It Take a World to End Violence Against Children. More information on the campaign is available here:
By Ms. Lyda Chea, Senior Manager for World Vision’s Kumrou Ahoengsa/It Takes a World to End Violence Against Children Campaign