The convention on the rights of the child (1989) outlines the fundamental rights of children, including the right to be protected from economic exploitation and harmful work, from all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse, and from physical or mental violence, as well as ensuring that children will not be separated from their family against their will. These rights are further refined by two Optional Protocols, one on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, and the other on the involvement of children in armed conflict.
A family is the first space for protection of children. Parents and caregivers need to build and create a a protective and loving home environment for children. The community is also responsible for building a safe and child friendly environment outside of the home. Children need protection so they can fully grow and develop to their fullest potential.
The term Child protection refers to preventing and responding to violence, exploitation and abuse against children. This includes trafficking, commercial sexual exploitation, child labour, harmful cultural practices such as early marriages and female genital mutilation. Child protection programmes aim at helping children who are vulnerable to these abuses especially where there is lack of parental care, during armed conflict and when children are in conflict with the law. Children need to be protected so that they can survive, grow, learn and develop to their fullest potential.
Violations of children rights are evident in many countries and these cases are many, often under-recognized and under-reported. Needless to say these instances are a barrier to a child’s survival and development. Children subjected to exploitation, abuse, negligence and violence are at a risk for death, HIV/AIDS infection, Poor physical and mental health, displacement, educational problems, vagrancy and poor parenting and coping skills later in life.
Building a protective environment for children that prevents and responds to violence, exploitation and abuse involves these components: Promoting, establishing and enforcing of legislation; strengthening government commitment and capacity to protect children; open discussion of child protection issues that includes civil society and media; addressing harmful customs, practices and attitudes; building capacity for families and communities; provision of adequate and essential services for prevention, recovery and reintegration including basic education, health and protection ; developing children’s life skills, own participation and knowledge.; and establishing and implementing on-going and effective monitoring, reporting and oversight.
Millions of children are facing violence, abuse, negligence and discrimination every day. These violations limit their chances of survival and the opportunity to follow and pursue their dreams. All children should be encouraged to speak up for the rights of children and to also take an active role in their own protection against abuse, exploitation, violence and discrimination.