On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Merveille, a young reporter, shares her meeting with young girls victims of violence: UNICEF is taking action to make sure their physical integrity, protected by the 34th article of the Convention, is respected.
My name is Merveille, I am 17 years old and I’m a Young Reporter from Kinshasa. My friend Victoire, who is also a Young Reporter from Kinshasa, and I have visited children who are staying in a childcare center for vulnerable children, to know more about the causes of the separation from their families.
We met children who were victims of violence, not only in the street but also within their families. Of all the girls I met there, many come from families where the parents are divorced or deceased. When parents divorce, the child’s life becomes difficult. That’s the case of my friend Victoire, who lives with her mother since her parents divorced. Most of the girls we met at the childcare center have suffered abuse in their family. They suffered injuries that leave scars and defects the child’s body.
In the childcare center, I met Maria *. She is 11 years old. When she was 3 years old, her mother died. A year later her father remarried, and from that moment her life has worsened. Her stepmother was convinced she was a witch. She seperated Maria from her children and then started to leave her under the sun for the whole day. She prevented her from eating and beat her for the slightest mistake. When Maria was 5 years old, she could not bear all the pain and decided to run away. She spent two nights in a market. Afterwards, a lady found her and told her there was a shelter for children. Maria went there alone, by foot, and the road was long, but thanks to the address written on a piece of paper, she found the centre by asking her way.
She has stayed in the centre since then and got used to it. She is well surrounded by other girls and people working there. She follows cultural activities, learns craft and how to read, write and count. When I met her, I found her happy. She would like to be at home with her family, but she is happy and comfortable in the center, because nobody beats her up and she has been able to make many friends. Maria is not the only one to have experienced such situation. They are numerous those who have had lived a difficult situation and eventually found the center where they now live together.
Maybe parents think it’s a way to educate children, but this is not. This is torture.
Sooner or later the child will have a spirit of revenge, maybe he will harm his friends, his children. This will go from generation to generation, when will this end?
When I was in the center, I asked one of the ladies taking care of children how she does to restore children’s minds, to make sure they no longer fear they will be harmed. She told me that the key was affection.
It is affection that allows children to feel at ease. There is also a constant dialogue between children, and between them and those who work in the centre.
The dialogue allows children to release everything they have in their heart. If children keep everything in their heart, they cannot eliminate the bad and what hurts. It’s by talking with others and receiving affection that that children can relieve themselves.
In the center, I met Rachel *, who is 14 years old. Rachel goes to school, she is in third year. She told me that since she started living in the center, she has found hope in her life. When she arrived in the center, she was desperate and did not know what to do. She was living outside her home because her mom was gone and had left her behind. Her father was no more paying attention to her, and did not pay her school fees either. Then, she heard about the center, that if she went there, they could pay her school’s fees and she would continue her education. She has been in the center for six months now and she has resumed her schooling. She now wants to go back home : the women working in the center is going to help her return to her family and convince her father to pay for her studies. Rachel really wants to go home, but she is happy to have been able to continue her schooling thanks to the center.
These children we met were saved by the various actions of the childcare center, along with the government’s efforts and UNICEF’s involvement. We congratulate them for this support to our friends, because all these girls can smile, hope.
To this day, many children continue to be abused in the street, in their families and in other structures where they go, as schools.
We ask that every effort be made to ensure that our families and any other guardian understand that the child mustn’t be abused. All children should benefit of the rights that are recognized for their development. Any person, wherever they live, whenever they see a mother or a father abuse their child, should seek to denunciate parents and protect the child. We need to be protected by everyone in the family, at school, at church, in the street, everywhere, to enjoy our rights.
Childcare centres for vulnerable children are supported by the Congolese state through the Division of Social Affairs, with support from UNICEF. Since 2011, UNICEF supports the protecting community approach, in order to have children protected by approved organizations but also by members of the community themselves, as a factor of sustainability and ownership of child protection.
The prime role of protecting communities is to help ensure that the community itself protects children. Anyone can become a member of a protecting community. Members have been informed about child protection. They are thus able to reference the vulnerable children and refer them to appropriate support structures; governmental or approved structures. Members contribute to implement projects allowing to finance and develop protecting communities.
* Names have been changed
Merveille a 17 ans et elle étudie en première année à l’Institut Supérieur Pédagogique de la Gombe à Kinshasa. Après plusieurs années d'expériences d’enfant reporter, Merveille s'est lancée dans des études d'histoire, sciences sociales et gestion politique. Son but est de défendre les droits de ses pairs et de venir en aide. Selon elle, “il ne faut pas se limiter au rôle d’enfant reporter mais poursuivre cet engagement pour les enfants dans la vie d’adulte”.
Merveille is 17 years old and is in her first year of university in Kinshasa. After a few years of experience as Child Reporter, Merveille has decided to study History, Social Sciences and Political Management. Her goal is to defend her peers' rights and help. Merveille believes: ‘One must not restrict oneself to the role of being a child reporter, but continue this commitment for children into adult life.’
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