Director Social Welfare, Mr. Mcusi Shongwe,
Senior Government Officials,
Members of the UN Family,
VACS Principal Investigators,
Members of the Media,
I am pleased to have this opportunity to participate in this release of results from Eswatini’s second Violence Against Children, or VAC Survey. The survey provides an important signpost along Eswatini’s road toward reducing violence against children.
In 2007, the Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini partnered with the U.S. Government and UNICEF implemented the first ever Violence Against Children and Youth Survey. This survey catalyzed a movement and a global partnership that seeks to generate reliable national data to drive action to prevent and respond to violence against children and youth. Since that first survey in 2007, about 25 surveys have been completed or are in progress in countries across the globe. Eswatini is one of three countries to conduct a second survey, adding to the evidence-base in this critical area.
These surveys have contributed to the recognition that violence against children is occurring globally in pandemic proportions:
· more than 1 billion children experience some form of violence each year. That represents more than half of the world’s children.
· Over 40,000 deaths occur annually in children 0-17 years of age due to violence worldwide.
· Children aged 11-15 years who are bullied at school are 13% less likely to graduate from school.
These are just a few of the statistics which tell a tragic story of the consequences of violence against children. Children exposed to violence are more likely to have difficulty in school, abuse drugs or alcohol, act aggressively, suffer from depression or other mental health problems and engage in criminal behavior as adults. In addition to being a human rights issue, violence against children is a global public health crisis that has enduring impact on the lives of affected children. Childhood experience of violence – whether emotional, physical, or sexual – has a profound impact on the child’s development and puts the child at elevated risk for myriad health challenges, including acquisition of HIV.
It is therefore fitting that the dissemination of these survey results comes on the heels of World AIDS Day where the results of another important survey, SHIMS3, demonstrated that approximately 4000 new HIV infections occur in Eswatini every year, the vast majority among young women.
The U.S. Government, through PEPFAR and CDC, is proud to be a financial and technical partner for this important survey, whose implementation benefited from expertise across health, social welfare, gender, statistics, and more. The 2022 survey includes especially valuable information not only from adolescent girls and young women, but also from adolescent boys and young men and people with disabilities. The inclusion of these different subpopulations is important because the data shows us that these groups experience violence differently and therefore require different types of responses.
I want to recognize the strong engagement of all partners and stakeholders under the leadership of the Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini through the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office.
This robust, multi-layered partnership culminated in the successful implementation and completion of the 2022 VACS survey. Given the sensitive nature of the topic, and the vulnerable groups with whom the survey interfaces, I applaud the diligence of our partners in keeping the privacy and protection of all participants at the forefront, and their dedicated efforts to connect participants to needed services.
The results, which we are sharing here today, mark our progress. In the 15 years since the first VAC survey, Eswatini has embarked on several key national actions and implementation of policies across sectors to address and respond to violence against children and gender-based violence. The recent launch of the Child Help Line, also known as “116,” by the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office is a laudable example, and I’d like to take a moment for us to all appreciate the DPMO for this initiative.
The results also show us where we have unfinished business in responding to this enduring crisis. It is no coincidence that we are releasing these results during the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based violence, as they serve as a call to action to protect our children and adolescents. These data must be used to effect change at program and policy levels to build a better future for our children, young people, and for this country as a whole. I believe it is every adult’s responsibility to ensure that children are protected, educated, and cherished – and to model peaceful, respectful, and constructive problem solving and conflict resolution. As the American writer James Baldwin said, “children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” If we are violent and tolerate acts of violence, so will they.
We can and must do more for the next generation. It is essential that the experiences of children and youth represented in these data are translated into an action oriented multisector response which includes a strengthened legislative framework, prioritized policies, national plans, funding, and initiatives that help children and youth thrive in our society. With this new data, we know where the problems lie, and we must use this knowledge to inform better decisions for the protection of this and future generations of Emaswati.
We look forward to working together with the Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini and key stakeholders in supporting the policy and programmatic actions needed in response to the invaluable evidence generated from this work.
I thank you. Siyabonga.