First the bad news. A child born in South Asia is more likely to be a victim of violence than in any other region across the globe.
They face violence at home and outside, may be forced into marriages, get sexually abused or trafficked or work to sustain their families. Studies corroborate the prevalent scenario.
More than half the women who were married before turning 18 are from the region and 13% of the 614 million children in South Asia are engaged in some form of child labour.
And between 41 and 88 million of them are witness to violence at home—the highest regional total in the world.
Here’s the good news. To change figures for better all eight countries of the region have joined hands to end violence against children by launching a five year work plan.
Called the South Asia Initiative to End Violence against Children, the nations helped by experts and child representatives would coordinate to formulate strategy, enact laws and spread awareness on child violence.
“It is the first regional initiative of its kind in the world,” said Sarv Deo Prasad Ojha, Nepal’s minister for women, children and social welfare while addressing the first governing board meeting of SAIEVAC here on Wednesday.
Based in Kathmandu, SAIEVAC would work within SAARC’s mandate and have representatives from international agencies.
“Our work plan is in line with global standards and recommendations,” said Turid Heiberg, chairperson of South Asia coordination group against violence against women and children.
Marta Santos Pais, special representative of UN Secretary General on violence against children, said poverty in the region could be a factor for increased violence but stressed it can’t be an excuse.
“Besides affecting their lives, violence against children has big social and economic costs for the region,” she said while terming the initiative as historic.