The cost of inaction on violence against children

New research has revealed that violence against children is costing the Asia-Pacific region $209 billion per year. The social and economic impacts of child maltreatment include increased levels of violence and criminality, an added burden on already stretched health care systems, disability and even death. Here, we follow some stories about the impact of violence against children in the Asia-Pacific region, and see what UNICEF is doing to help.

Hung, 16, Viet Nam

Hung*, now 16, had a hard start in life. Hung’s mother left the family years ago, never to return, while his father struggled to make ends meet to feed his new wife and baby girl. Too poor and too busy trying to survive, Hung’s father could not provide a nurturing, safe environment for his son. Hung’s grandmother became his primary caregiver but she passed away when he was only 12.

That is when life became more difficult for Hung. He struggled to do well at school and eventually dropped out in the 4th grade. With no schooling and no one at home to watch over him, Hung spent more time with friends in internet gaming cafes. Finally, he ran away from home after being beaten by his father.

But, thanks to UNICEF support, Hung is now attending life skills classes and vocational trainings to learn how to become a carpenter. Read more.

Nong Aye, 12, Thailand


Mia Khin (left) talks to a UNICEF child protection officer Sirirath
© UNICEF Thailand/2014/Metee Thuentap


In Tak Province, Nong Aye* was repeatedly sexually abused by her teacher at a migrant learning centre for two years, from when she was 12 to 14. Another teacher at the school, Mia Khin, became aware of the abuse. It wasn’t until she received child protection training from a local NGO, with UNICEF’s support, that she knew how to help and put an end to the abuse.

“Imagine how much better Nong Aye’s life would be if she had never been sexually abused,” UNICEF’s Sirirath says. “This is what we want to achieve for all children in Thailand.” Read more.

Nina, 12, Timor-Leste


Nina, right, has escaped violence and is
now dreaming big © UNICEF Timor-Leste/2015/Opinto


The memories of cruelty are still vivid in Nina’s mind. “It was a Monday afternoon, raining heavily. I could not smash enough maize and prepare enough food for my uncle. My uncle became very angry. He took a rope which was normally used for tying horses, tied me to a tree and beat me up. I was crying. My aunt also got angry at me and banged my head against the tree. I got a big wound on my head.”

Fortunately, a UNICEF supported network was able to save her, and now she’s dreaming big. Read more.

Sreng, pastor, Cambodia


Sreng now understands that it is wrong to hit his children
© UNICEF Cambodia/2014/Anne-Sophie Galli


In Sreng’s world violence was standard. “Beating my children was normal to me like for most people here,” he says. “I was hit by my dad and he was hit by his parents and teachers.”

Ten years ago, Sreng changed his life. He became a pastor and built his own church. Now aged 51, he teaches his congregation about good parenting, to encourage them to stop using violence against their children. “I want others not to repeat my mistakes,” says Sophal. “I deeply regret what I did to my children.” Read more.

Saeng, 18, Thailand


Saeng was forced to be a prostitute at the age of 14
© UNICEF EAPRO/2015/Andy Brown


Saeng* was forced into prostitution at the age of 14. After falling out with his parents and running away from home, he found himself on the street with no money. Desperate and too young to understand the risks involved, he ended up in the sex industry, exploited by adults. Bars wouldn’t allow him to work on the premises because he was underage, so he sold sex on the streets. Read more.

Akmal, 14, Indonesia


Ibu Sri, Ibu Feri and Pak Adnan are Makassar-based lawyers involved in
child cases like Akmal’s
© UNICEF Indonesia/2015/Nick Baker


“I’m OK,” says 14 year old Akmal* softly. “This is better than a prison.”

A few months ago, Akmal was walking the Makassar streets with a friend. The friend decided to prove his bravado by stealing a gas canister from a nearby shop. Things didn’t go as planned and both boys were apprehended by police.

A prison sentence for petty crime is common in Indonesia. Although Akmal was not directly involved in the gas canister theft, a lengthy stint in prison was the expected outcome. But, thanks to the new Juvenile Criminal System Law that came into force in August 2014, his story turned out very differently. Read more.

Natasha, 16, Papua New Guinea


16-year-old Natasha Boropi speaks about the effects of polygamous marriage
and alcohol abuse on children at the launch of UNICEF’s
‘End Violence against Children’ campaign in Port Moresby
© UNICEF Papua New Guinea/2014/Alcock


Little did 16-year-old Natasha Boropi know that a five-minute speech she gave on child abuse and neglect would lead to a positive change in her father’s abusive behaviour.

Natasha recalls the life she lived for many years: “My father loves drinking. He married many wives and left them all except for my mum but he never treats us well. He would get drunk, come home and chase us out of the house with a bush knife in the middle of the night. We would run to our grandparents for protection.” Read more.

Darius, teacher, Indonesia


Another teacher in Darius’ school with her pupils
© UNICEF Thailand/2013/Anne-Cécile Esteve


Fifth-grade teacher Darius Naki Sogho has been a teacher for 24 years, and for most of those years, he taught with an iron fist—and a rattan rod. “I used to hit my students when I thought they were being bad, or when they weren’t paying attention,” he says.

Over the last year, however, Darius has been learning to contain his anger in class and to teach in a way that neither hurts nor intimidates his students. He did this by applying positive discipline, a method that he and other teachers in the Indonesia province of Papua have been trained in, as part of a joint programme managed by UNICEF and the local government. Read more.

* names have been altered to protect identity

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