Violence against Children in Ethiopia: In Their Words

  • Violence Against Children
Pages: 32
Year of Publication: 2006
Country: Ethiopia

A large proportion of children, our beloved children, are vicitms of violence everyday around the world. This is especially true in Ethiopia, where approximately 99 percent of the children polled in this study said they had encountered violence in their home, school or community. Physical and humiliating punishment is a violation of children’s fundamental human rights. The violence needs to end. We should all be involved, including children, in the eradication of violence. For this reason, the role of children in protecting those rights is crucial for effective research, advocacy and policy-making. Child participation is one of the basic principles under Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which underlines the right of children to express their views in all matters affecting them.

This study – one of three that researched violence against children in Ethiopia – illustrates the participatory research done with Ethiopian children on physical punishment and psychological humiliation that have been committed against them. The children’s views and experiences were central in the research for all the studies. Particularly this study, where children were the lead source of information. The high degree of child participation at every stage is among the distinguishing features of these studies.

The issue of violence against children and their entitlement to be protected from it is beginning to receive global attention. In light of this, The African Child Policy Forum in collaboration with Save the Children Sweden, conducted research to collect information on violence against children across Ethiopia. The study is written from the child’s view point, looking at how physical, psychological and sexual violence affects them. As well as being respondents, the children also participated as advisors and co-researchers.

The research targeted Addis Ababa and the regional states of Oromia, Amhara, Tigray and the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Regional State (SNNPRS). It focused on physical, psychological and sexual violence against children at home, in schools and in the community. This study used qualitative and quantitative methods of data collection. The respondents to the study were school children, street children, orphans, children in foster institutions and children with disabilities. In order to address the ethical implications of asking children to recall their experiences of sexual violence, only young adults between the ages of 18 and 24, were asked to respond to that part of the study. Overall, 1873 children participated in the study.

The findings of the study showed that children had their own way of understanding violence, which differed significantly from adults. While a large proportion of adults considered physical and humiliating punishments as acceptable ways to discipline a child, children recognised these types of punishments as excessive and unacceptable. In general, they stated that violence is an act that causes harm to them. The children further indicated that while violence was widespread, the primary settings for physical and psychological violence were at home and in school. In addition, the children acknowledged the prevalence of sexual violence in the community. Regarding the acceptability of violence, children felt that mild forms of physical and psychological violence were tolerable. They clearly stated, however, that sexual violence and grave physical punishments were objectionable and unacceptable.

All three studies revealed that a large proportion of adults used severe punishment as a principal approach to teaching children how to behave. Many of the children in the study, however, were not positive about the effectiveness of violence exercised as discipline. In fact, more than 70 percent of them responded that they learned nothing from such punishments. Rather, they indicated advising and other non-violent means to be more effective. The children indicated that violence has a negative impact on their social, physical and mental well-being. They said in the interviews and polling that violence made them feel anger, fear, hatred, depression, vengeance, confusion and helplessness.
In the study, 63.4 percent of children who were interviewed said that they considered violence against children as a human rights issue. It is imperative the children are empowered to include themselves in the process and that their voices are heard. Using the children’s suggestions and their stories, the study recommends measures aimed at creating awareness; law reform and effective enforcement of existing laws; establishing mechanisms for effectively reporting violence; systematic data collection from children; providing support to victims of violence; and enhancing child participation in research and decision-making activities.

Language: English
Published by: African Child Policy Forum (ACPF)
Author: African Child Policy Forum (ACPF)
Located in: Publications

An independent, not-for-profit, Pan-African
Institute of policy research and dialogue on the African child.

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Founder Assefa Bequele, PhD

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