Dechen Dolkar   

A multi-sectoral campaign was launched yesterday to end violence against children.

The campaign is expected to address barriers that prevent children and youth from availing child protection services and raise awareness on the prevalence of violence against children as it remains underreported.

Led by the National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC), the end violence against children campaign will be implemented by a consortium of 14 governmental and non-governmental agencies over the next six months.

It will focus on sexual, online and peer or physical violence and specifically target three districts of Thimphu, Trashigang and Samtse.

The pilot districts were chosen based on the demography of children and young people and regional representation.

The campaign will be rolled out in three approaches that include engagement of service-based systems and networks, which comprise schools, health workers and sports associations; engagement through community-based systems and networks comprising the network of CSOs, youth volunteers, religious organisations and local government systems; and engagement through the media.

Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Tandi Dorji, who is also the chairperson of the NCWC, violence against children has been increasing in the last few years and the multi-sectoral campaign is timely.

“Their Majesties have expressed serious concern on numerous occasions and it is for this very reason that the Pema Centre is being initiated by Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen, which in addition to other services will also look at all the problems faced by children including violence,” Lyonpo said.

He said he is hopeful that the successful implementation in these three pilot districts will enable the rollout of this programme in all 20 districts. “It is important that we implement a child protection campaign using multiple communication channels and community engagement platforms, whereby mass media and social media platforms play a pivotal role in raising public awareness and community engagement interventions.”

The officiating director general of NCWC, Ugyen Tshomo, said that the campaign to end violence against children, which is also a multi-sectoral approach to social and behavioural change, is undeniably dedicated to opening an interactive platform for both the government, CSOs and private stakeholders to discuss violence against children and key interventions required.

“Without such interactive platforms at a national level, the objective to create awareness and educate the general public on protecting the fundamental rights and dignity of our children will be defeated,” she said.

UNICEF Bhutan representative, Dr Will Parks, said that ending violence against children would remove a critical barrier to children achieving their full developmental potential and could save costs to societies that have been estimated to be up to 5 percent of national gross domestic product.

“Violence can be prevented. It is with this conviction to address the barriers around child protection and end violence against children and young people that UNICEF and partners have come together to roll out this campaign until December this year as a first phase,” he said.

Meanwhile, records with NCWC, RENEW and Nazhoen Lamtoen show that in the last four and half years, Bhutan recorded 970 cases of violence against children and young people aged one to 24 years.

This means that on average, at least one child or a young person experienced violence every 42 hours in the last four and half years.

Before the onset of the pandemic, in 2018 and 2019, Bhutan reported 349 cases of violence against children. Between 2020 and June 2022, the number of cases almost doubled to 621. In 2021 alone, 345 cases were reported.

Among the total cases reported, neglect at 34 percent is the highest reported form of violence followed by emotional violence at 26 percent and physical violence at 22 percent.

While 68 percent of the total cases were reported among girls and women, records show that the prevalence of all forms of violence was higher among females.