FONPC Conference – A look at the situation of violence against children in Romania: present and future

Source: FONPC Romania – Federation of NGOs for Child

The 2020 Global Report on the Prevention of Violence against Children contains estimates on the number of children under the age of 18 who have been killed. The report shows that about 40,000 children have been killed in acts of violence worldwide. The report is the first of its kind to track progress in 155 countries in relation to the INSPIRE framework (the seven strategies for preventing and combating violence against children).

The same report shows that most countries have laws to protect children from violence (88% of the 155), but less than half of them (47%) have stated that these laws are well enforced.

The Federation of Non-Governmental Organizations for Children (FONPC) and ChildPact – Regional Coalition for Child Protection organized the national conference entitled A look at the situation of violence against children in Romania: present and future on 30th of September 2020.

The event was attended by over 130 participants, including representatives of central and local public authorities, non-governmental organizations, members of FONPC and other professionals who work directly with children and who can help prevent and stop violence.

Violence against children is considered the third most important social problem after the state of education and poverty according to various studies.

Violence against children is rather widespread in Romania and those present at the conference stated that the number of cases of violence also increased considerably during COVID-19. During the event, the local authorities (including the General Directorate of Social Assistance and Child Protection, Sector 3, Bucharest) stated that the number of official complaints increased and the population was much more active in notifying the authorities on cases of abused children. Many of these abuses occurred in the context of domestic violence.

Although extreme violence is considered unacceptable (such as beating and sexual abuse), in Romania there is a high level of tolerance for some forms of “lighter” violence, such as slapping, shouting, humiliation and bullying. Almost a third of parents consider punishment a necessary evil, according to a UNICEF study.

World Vision Romania launched in December 2017 the research report Why do we hit children?. The report has revealed that we’re still live in a society in which physical corrections are considered a form of education. According to this study, 1 in 2 parents (51%) believe that hitting is for the good of the child. Most parents in Romania, regardless of social status or area of ​​origin (rural, urban), have not heard of concepts such as positive discipline or adaptive thinking techniques and therefore cannot practice them in relation to their children to change old concepts.

64 415 children were in the records of prevention services at the end of September 2019, and over 1 million children lived below the national poverty line y that date. More than 15,000 children are reported annually as being subjected to some form of violence, but their number is considerably higher (according to ANDPDCA). 47% said they were victims of cyberbullying; for 59% of them, this experience took place through private messaging applications; 71% believe that cyberbullying among teenagers is most common on social networks such as Facebook (69%) and Instagram (24%) (U-Report Results Cyberbullying, June 2019).
Romania must respect its commitments made within the “Stop Global Violence Against Child Partnership”, reaffirming its interest in the prevention of violence so as to occupy a worthy place among the champion countries of this campaign.

We all know that violence kills children every day and that we need to make progress to prevent violence and stop this phenomenon. To respond to this crisis, it is essential to have joint actions, to change attitudes. The representative of the National Authority for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Children and Adoptions, Ministry of Labor and Social Protection in Romania stressed the need for a strong mobilization of governments, involving civil society, the private sector and children.

The conference also tackled the issue of online violence and the vulnerability of children in this environment. According to UNICEF representative present at the conference, 1 out of  3 internet users is a child (2016), and internet access offers children both opportunities and risks. Therefore, special attention must be paid to the safety of children in the online environment.

During the event, a series of projects that have contributed over the years to preventing and combating violence were presented.

  • Programs developed by the organization Terre de hommes Romania which promoted the benefits of education, sports and psychosocial activities for health and harmonious development of children, as well as their contribution to improving the lives of the most vulnerable children, migrants or refugees were mentioned.
  • The organization World Vision Romania carried out awareness-raising actions at the local level of children, teachers, parents, authorities and the community. The organization also developed programs such as “Parents’ School” on how to protect the child with elements focused on all forms of violence, especially physical violence.

  • SOS Children’s Villages Romania has promoted and developed Keeping Children Safe Standards among SOS employees.

All three NGOs mentioned above included children’s views in their operations. We believe the views of children must be truly listened to and taken into account in order to ensure that all children have the protection they need and that their rights are respected.

The conference was part of the “Strengthening the Capacity of the ChildPact Network”, a project funded by Oak Foundation and the INSPIRE Fund “Increasing Regional and National Capacity to Disseminate and Promote the Implementation of the INSPIRE Package in the Wider Black Sea Region”.

The event also ended the national campaign “Let’s believe more in #INSPIRE!” which was addressed to the general public and aimed at preventing and combating violence against children.

In this context, the ChildPact representative presented five priorities at the regional level:

  • More intense promotion of INSPIRE strategies
  • Increased coordination of implementation efforts
  • Institutionalization of coordination and cooperation mechanisms
  • Adjusting the proposed strategies to specific local contexts
  • Involvement of all actors at local and regional level

INSPIRE represents World Health Organization’s seven strategies for eliminating violence against children and is an essential tool for contributing to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 16.2, which calls for an end to all forms of violence against children. The tool is also useful in achieving goals 1, 3, 4, 5, 10, 11 and 16, which aim at poverty, health, education, gender equality, safe environments and justice. The package contributes to the unification of multi-sectoral efforts to raise awareness of violence against children. INSPIRE focuses on recognizing that all children have the right not to be subjected to violence.

FONPC exists with and for its members for the benefit of children and the community. FONPC is the main specialized interlocutor of the state in order to develop and redefine public policies, ensure the welfare of children from the perspective of children’s rights, through using and developing in a coherent and comprehensive framework the experience and expertise of its members.

ChildPact is a regional network of over 650 child-centered NGOs in the wider Black Sea region and the Western Balkans. ChildPact’s overall goal is to build a strong network of support for child-centered non-governmental organizations in our region and to be a voice of support for children’s rights and protection.