Tanzanian Diary – Violence Against Children
All Hands on Deck! This was the cry from the government ministries working together to reduce violence in children’s lives. And for good reason. Tanzania is one of only two countries ever to study violence in children’s lives and the results of the research are not pretty. The prevalence of violence is shockingly high. 75% of children report experiencing physical violence.One in three girls and one in seven boys reported experiencing sexual violence and emotional violence is prevalent amongst 25 to 30% of children.
In Tanzania violence is perpetrated by teachers, close relatives and many adults who have authority over children.Violence begets violence. The impacts of violence against children are lifelong.The single greatest predictor of a violent adult is a child witnessing violence against his or her mother. Violence in childhood often results in early heart disease, difficulties living within the parameters of law, a perpetual cycle of violence transmitted from generation to generation within the household, and physical and emotional impairment.
No wonder the ministries are alarmed! The government developed a national task force to address the issue which includes no less than 5 ministries, the Tanzanian Commission for HIV and AIDS, the Prime Minister’s Office, Regional Administrations and Local Government and one civic coalition. Everyone wants to do the right thing and everyone has clearly identified their responsibilities.
But here is the rub: the country is unlikely to be able to implement the national plan because the money just isn’t there. Priorities have to be carved out meaning that when the police introduce safe spaces for children in 5 districts or even 25 districts, the millions of children living in the other 113 districts won’t have access. We spent a few minutes calculating the costs to provide national coverage for kids, which would roughly add up to €6 million. For lack of €6 million, girls and boys who are raped have nowhere to turn and the perpetrators get off.
The Tanzanian Police Force realizes its role and is not waiting for a donor to come around to help it.In spite of the lack of resources it has prosecuted quickly and efficiently 61 cases since the report came out last year. Over the course of two days four private foundations identified 21 ways in which our small resources can support the national action plan to reduce violence in children’s lives, touching upon everything from strengthening the national data base to putting cameras in the safe space rooms at the police stations, to getting more citizens involved at the local levels.
We have our part to play as well. Hopefully we can attract more resources to support this extraordinarily brave step taken by the Tanzanian government to expose the level of violence in children’s lives, and do something about it.
By Lisa Jordan, Executive Director