(Det talade ordet gäller)
Your Royal Highness,
Ladies and gentlemen.
It is time! Let today be the day when a true movement to end violence against children takes off. A movement spearheaded and supported by a number of brave and committed countries that have decided to join forces and together find and lead the way. The presence of so much knowledge, expertise and commitment underline the importance of these issues. I am especially proud that the first summit is held in my hometown, Stockholm.
Preventing violence and sexual abuse of children has been close to my heart for many years. When I founded World Childhood Foundation in 1999, I did so because I felt that talking was not enough. I had to do something concrete, something that affects the lives of individual children here and now. And through the work of World Childhood Foundation, Save the Children, Mentor, Ecpat and so many others, I have personally seen many examples of true change, inspired and led by committed people on the ground. I have also experienced how laws can change behavior, how technology can give voice to those that had none, how social norms that condone corporal punishment or child marriages are being challenged and how Convention on the Rights of the child and its article 12 fundamentally changes the way we see and listen to children.
However, and this is certainly an understatement – when it comes to children´s rights and protection from violence, much remains to be done. The effects of violence against children do not end when the violence ends. If we do not act, it may remain for a lifetime, even passing from one generation to another. We are all aware of the numerous studies showing that children who have witnessed, or been subject to, violence are more likely to become victims or abusers themselves. Therefore, prevention must be our priority. Considering the challenges ahead of us, I welcome the explicit goals in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Goal 16.2 calls for ending abuse, exploitation trafficking and all forms of violence and torture of children by 2030.
Not reducing “by half”.
Not trying “the best we can”, “with the resources we have”, if “nothing more important comes up”.
Not saying that “certain forms or levels of abuse and exploitation” is acceptable.
Not preventing “violence against girls” only.
We commit to end violence against all children, boys and girls, teenagers and babies, citizens and not citizens. And we do that because violence against children can never be accepted. But the good news is that it is preventable.
Violence against children is preventable. But in order to succeed we also need to acknowledge that it is difficult. It is challenging. And it requires that we change. We as care-givers, as adults, professionals and societies. One of the main challenges for ending violence in childhood is maybe that we have seen it as something inevitable, something that nobody approves of but keeps happening anyway. But the fact is that violence against children continues because we let it.
Because we have treated domestic violence as a family matter.
Because we have silenced victims of sexual abuse through shame and stigma. Because we have taught children that their voice is not as important as ours. Because we have chosen to look away to avoid uncomfortable confrontations with other adults.
Because we have failed to give struggling care-givers a chance to be the safe and nurturing parent their children need.
Because we have turned our back to children that do not look like us or behave well enough.
Because we have accepted traditions and social norms saying that children are of less value than adults.
Because politicians have decided to prioritize other issues.
Sometimes, maybe because we do not know what to do to prevent it.
Ending violence in childhood requires a lot from us. And I am not saying it will be easy. But it is our responsibility to act now. We can no longer say that we did not know.
We have the data showing the massive scale of the problem. At least three fourths of the world’s children have experienced violence. We know the devastating consequences of violence, both for children and for our societies.
And we also know what works to prevent it. We have the evidence. Maybe not enough yet, but good enough. The Inspire package summarizes Seven strategies for Ending Violence Against Children. They are based on solid research and evidence. One of the main aims with this summit and the Global Partnership is to make sure that we learn from each other and build on the evidence and experience we have gathered as a field.
Ending violence against children requires dedicated resources. We need to support parents and teachers, train the police force and social workers, invest in child friendly health-care, early childhood education and technical solutions to keep children safe online. We need good methods to detect and treat trauma, we need outreach-workers, hotlines, better legislation and much more. Yes, it requires time, knowledge and resources.
But there is also so much we can do that isn’t about money. I want to mention a few concrete things we can start doing right now!
The first is break the silence around childhood violence. As long as the magnitude of the problem and the consequences of it are not fully understood, there will not be any change. And the more we speak about it, especially sexual violence which is still such a taboo in many societies, the more children will feel that they are not alone and that what is happening to them is not right.
Another is to stop working in silos. Prevention and protection from violence cannot be the sole task of social services or a ministry for women and children or charities. It is a human rights issue and as important as health, education and nutrition. Fear for violence and consequences of violence also affect all aspects of a child’s life and need to be addressed by all sectors in society. A child in fear of violence in school or in the home cannot learn, a girl who has been sexually exploited in childhood will struggle to provide love and protection for her own child. The teenager who has been beaten up by peers and adults in the neighborhood will be more likely to engage in gangs and turn to violence. The list can go on.
And finally, listen to the experiences and ideas of children. Without involving them we will not be able to identify the right problems and effective solutions. If we want to end violence against children it demands that we don’t see them as objects to be pitied and cared for – but treat children as human beings who are fully respected, listened to and empowered.
Ladies and gentlemen,
You are invited to this summit because you are agents of change. You are the pioneers and visionaries in this field and we need your valuable knowledge about solutions that work to protect children in your communities. We are a fairly small group today, but with such potential. We all have a special responsibility to be ambassadors, to make the rest of the world understand that a childhood free from violence is as basic and important as education, health and nutrition. Let this summit be the start of a movement for change.
For too long, violence has shaped our children, and our societies. This does not have to be the case.
Change starts now. With us!