Over 400 participants from national, regional and international organizations and 22 children from six African countries gathered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 11 – 12 May 2006 to discuss how violence has affected children, particularly the girl child, and seek ways in which the violence could be ended.
In his official opening speech which he delivered at the conference, the President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia H.E. Girma Giorgis recalled that children were a special gift, ‘the flowers of today and the fruits of tomorrow’, that we had no option but to nurture, protect and see them grow into adulthood without being violated in any way. Former President of H.E. Joaquim Chissano, and current chairperson of the Africa Forum for Former African Heads of State encouraged the leaders to take pro-active action to end violence against children.
The conference took place at a time when violence against children seems to be on the increase according to available statistics presented at the conference. Participants expressed concern that the dire situation the children were in today was partly caused by the fact that children’s rights enshrined in several International Conventions and Agreements were not adequately integrated into domestic laws, policies and practices. This, the conference noted, led to a situation in which no meaningful impact on daily lives of the African children was felt.
In a declaration adopted by the conference participants at the end of the meeting, all African governments and other stakeholders were asked to take immediate steps to end all forms of violence against children. The stakeholders which the conference pointed out to include the African Union, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, United Nations Agencies, African Governments, Civil Society Organizations, Faiths Based Organizations, Families, Children, Parents and Custodians, were told of the fundamental human rights of children that continue to be neglected.
The participants also declared that necessary measures for the effective prohibition of all forms of violence against children, including the development and implementation of comprehensive National Plans of Action to protect children, which is supported with adequate human and financial resources by 2010, be put in place. This, the conference urged should immediately consider and address conditions that constitute grave violation of the rights and fundamental freedoms of girls including rape, defilement and other forms of sexual violence in the home, in schools, in places of care, in communities and other settings.
Gender inequality which leads to violence against girls, discrimination, and the disproportionate spread of HIV/AIDS among girls and young women, harmful traditional and cultural practices including but not limited to female genital mutilation/cutting and honour crimes, trafficking, abduction and commercial sexual exploitation including prostitution and pornography must be addressed in the National Plans of Action to be put in place.