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VN, UNICEF join to combat child violence

Update: December, 21/2013 - 09:37
A video clip was posted on social networks showing Quang Thi Kim Hoa in southern Dong Nai Province beating children on their faces while feeding them. — Photo webphunu.net

HA NOI (VNS)  — Viet Nam and the United Nation Children's Fund (UNICEF) are jointly working in a study on drivers of violence against children with a view to helping develop evidence-based policies for better child care and protection.

This is part of a study that UNICEF began in the middle of this year and will conduct over a three year period in four countries – Zimbabwe, Peru, Viet Nam and Italy. Viet Nam is the first to implement the study.

Speaking at a workshop yesterday, Hartmut Pflortner, acting representative of UNICEF, said that violence against children was a global issue, causing long-lasting impacts on not only children and their families, but also society and overall economic growth.

He noted that much violence affecting children remained invisible, expecting that such a study by UNICEF, academics and national authorities would help determine causes and solutions to reduce and end the problem.

The study aims to find out which are key factors that drive violence against children, how the identified risk factors and explanatory variables operate on the ground, what are the processes for change and who is affected by these changes.

Identifying and analysing how factors –social, cultural, economic, legal, oganisational or policy responses – interact to affect everyday violence in children's homes and communities will help identify causes to better develop national strategies for childcare and interventions preventing violence.

Determining the causes of violence – focusing on girls and boys from very young age to older adolescents – will contribute to comparative global and national evidence bases on how change happens.

Chief of the Children's Division under the Viet Nam Institute of Family and Gender Dang Bich Thuy said violence committed against children included physical, mental and sexual, as well as children witnessing domestic violence and adults' ignorance of, and improper care, of children.

The change in the Vietnamese family structure, with increased divorce rates, single parent homes, poverty and unemployment, were among major causes for violence against children at homes.

Thuy added that improper understanding about child rights and a lack of parenting skills also increase violence against children.

Deputy Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs Doan Mau Diep said that although Viet Nam had made efforts to increase child care and protection, it had yet to set up a proper child protection system for timely prevention, detecting violations and offering assistance to victims.

In industrial zones, low-income workers put their children to poor-quality nurseries where a babysitter might be caring for up to 20 - 30 babies.

"It's high time to harmonise economic goals with social ones. Ensuring safe conditions for children to develop their physical and mental health properly will help the country prosper in the future," he said.

Keeping watch

Authorities are increasing inspections of nurseries in the south and discussing the building of additional nurseries, following the recent arrest of two babysitters who were caught striking children.

A still photo from a video clip recently posted online shows Le Thi Dong Phuong, manager of the Phuong Anh childcare centre in HCM City's Thu Duc District, slapping a boy to make him eat his food.

Another babysitter, Le Thi Thien Ly, was shown on the video as lifting a baby girl and threatening to submerge her into a large water drum unless she would eat faster.

The two were arrested on Tuesday, but the case has highlighted the need to address the shortage of childcare centres in this extremely populated city, where it's difficult for low-income workers to find an affordable and safe place to keep their children.

In November, a babysitter caused the death of a 18-month-old, also in Thu Duc District, while forcing him to eat faster.

Le Minh Hoang, director of Dong Nai Province's Department of Education and Training, said there are about 700,000 workers living in the province and the demand for childcare is extremely high.

According to statistics from the department, there are nearly 260 public kindergarten schools and 800 childcare groups. About 100 of them are unlicensed, due to lack of quality facilities, but they are still operating because of the high demand, according to education officials here.

Do Minh Hoang, chief of the office at the HCM City Department of Education and Training, said the department has asked the city to issue a new regulations on improving the quality of childcare centres, especially in the industrial zones.

According to Le Hong Son, director of the HCM City Department of Education and Training, the city needs to allocate at least 5,000 square meters of land to build new childcare centres and kindergartens, especially to ease the pressure on childcare centres in the urban area.

"My colleagues and I cannot believe such brutal things could happen," Son said, referring to the case of the two babysitters. "We can't believe it also because the two babysitters had previously been trained in childcare."

Nguyen Ba Minh, head of the Ministry of Education and Training's Pre-school Education Department, said the ministry was also shocked at the news. The Ministry is now reassessing the management of kindergartens across the country and planning to hold two nationwide conferences, in HCM City and Ha Noi, to seek advice of education managers and teachers to prevent further incidents.

Minh said this week that the city will dispatch staff to all nurseries, and especially those that are privately run, for inspection.

HCM City will also work to further encourage investment in building childcare centres in industrial zones and work with the Health Department and the Women's Union to increase awareness among parents and helping them find licensed or public places for their children. — VNS


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