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Children At Risk From A Known Enemy

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From babyhood to adulthood, children are exposed to many forms of violence, no matter where they live.

Black adolescent boys in the United States are 19 times more likely to die than white boys of the same age, and face a similar risk of dying as their peers in the conflict zones of South Sudan. Latin America and the Caribbean have the highest child murder rates in the world. Around 300 million two-to-four-year-olds globally will experience physical punishment or verbal abuse by their parents or caretakers. And at least 15 million girls will have been sexually abused or raped by their 19th birthdays.

These are just some of the alarming findings of two wide-ranging global reports on violence against children. Both reports point to two major challenges: getting countries to gather better data on the various types of violence against children, which so often happens inside the home and/or by people known to the children, and taking steps to put an end to it.

There are still big gaps in knowledge, with many countries completely in the dark about the extent to which their child citizens are victims of violence. Even countries with better statistics have no idea how much corporal punishment happens in homes for example, or of the extent to which boys experience physical and sexual violence. All too often, violence against children is shrouded in secrecy.

READ MORE: Calling Out Sexual Harassment

Know Violence in Childhood, a global initiative to end violence against children, released a detailed report informed by 44 research papers, thousands of articles, reports and other sources. Although the report presents a global picture, the authors state that “reliable data on inter-personal violence in childhood are difficult to obtain. This is partly because such violence takes place within relationships and is hidden by a strong culture of silence”. And many children and women are reluctant to report violence because of the stigma and fear of repercussions.

UNICEF’s report, A Familiar Face: Violence in the Lives of Children and Adolescents, builds on their seminal 2014 report on child violence statistics, Hidden in Plain Sight, which compiled data from 190 countries. Their new report contains updated statistics and analysis and notes that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which include targets to wipe out violence against children by 2030, offer the potential get better data on the crimes, ensure that monitoring takes place, that countries are held to account and most importantly, that they take proactive steps to stop it.

Although much more information is now available on violence against children than it was a few years ago, the gaps make it hard to compare countries with each other and for states to report and measure their progress on the SDGs.

Goal 5 (gender equality) and Goal 16 (peace) contain specific targets aimed at stopping violence against children but many of the other goals indirectly address some of the drivers of this violence too, including poverty, lack of education and poor health.

Nevertheless, if more progress is not made and if current trends continue, “close to two million children and adolescents could be killed by an act of violence by the year 2030”, warn the authors of the UNICEF report. And whether violence ends in death or not, the effects of pervasive and various forms of abuse throughout childhood have an insidious impact on society in general, says Know Violence Global Co-Chair A.K. Shiva Kumar.

“From severe physical punishment to sexual abuse to homicide, childhood violence damages individuals, families and communities in both rich countries and poor, with a cost in trillions of dollars a year.”

READ MORE: Oprah Keeping The Promise Made To Mandela

Violence against children is closely tied up with violence against women. Children who see their mothers abused will more likely perpetrate violence themselves, warn the experts.

Childhood violence occurs in many forms – corporal punishment in the home and at school; physical, sexual and emotional abuse by adults or peers.

“Beyond the immediate physical damage it causes, exposure to violence can traumatize children, harm school performance, lead to depression and other illnesses, and increase the chances that young people will become the victims or perpetrators of violence in the future,” say the Know Violence in Childhood authors.

The UNICEF report cites an emerging body of research that shows the toxic effects of violence and other trauma on the developing brains of children in the first 1,000 days of their lives.

Violence not only threatens children’s physical safety but their cognitive and emotional development too. This is particularly disturbing given that data from 30 countries showed that nearly half of all one-to-two-year-olds were verbally abused or received corporal punishment.

Online violence is another emerging category of violence as more and more children around the world gain access to the Internet. Online bullying, harassment, sexual extortion and “grooming” for sex and child pornography are now the shadow side of increasing interconnectedness between children and their peers or with adult strangers, including those in far-flung parts of the globe.

READ MORE: The Dark Side Of Social Media

Yet there is still a great deal of public ignorance about the many forms of violence that children experience. According to the UNICEF report, “Despite a growing awareness of the global nature of violence against children, the misconception that it is relatively rare persists. Media reporting typically focuses on extreme cases, such as death or rape. And while such tragedies, thankfully, are relatively uncommon, other acts of violence are not.” The authors also conclude that two out of three violent acts against children and adolescents are inter-personal rather than a result of broader conflict or civil unrest.

Although both reports make the point that violence happens across all economic strata, in rich and poor countries, low-income and high-income families, three regions in Africa nevertheless take the top three spots in tables compiled by Know Violence in Childhood for 2015: West and Central Africa, Eastern and Southern Africa, and Middle East and North Africa. These regions have the highest combined totals for the following categories: corporal punishment; bullying and physical fights; physical and sexual violence against girls; and child homicide. Although Latin America and the Caribbean have the highest rate of child murder, the other forms of violence are far lower in these regions. Industrialized countries have the lowest rates of all these categories combined. Another statistic shows that sexual violence against girls is worst in Eastern and Southern Africa, followed by West and Central Africa and Middle East and North Africa.

So what steps do experts recommend for taking steps to end the many forms of violence against children? As UNICEF says, “It will take individual and collective action to right this global wrong.” Measures must be taken at state, community and inter-personal levels, say the experts. Outlawing violence is a first step. So far, only 60 of 193 UN member states prohibit corporal punishment in the home. In schools, corporal punishment is either partly or fully illegal in roughly 130 countries.

Other steps include addressing the socio-economic conditions that perpetuate the violence such as unemployment, poverty, substance abuse and the like. And hopefully the SDGs will help build public awareness and pressure countries to come on board with clear efforts to prevent it.

Raising awareness in communities and among parents and caregivers on the rights of children and on the toxic effects of violence against them, as well as helping them find different strategies to manage children’s behavior, are among the recommendations the Know Violence in Childhood report makes.

Tackling hierarchical school systems that allow corporal punishment and other violence such as bullying is another. UNICEF is partnering with school programs to help teachers use strategies that promote better behavior rather than resort to punishment. The organization, a partner in the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, has also developed a program called INSPIRE, which aims to spread awareness around programs that have been shown to work.

And, despite the downside of so many children being online, there is an upside too: technology can also protect children, with online awareness raising campaigns or mobile phone map applications, for example, that can help keep them safe.

Sport

Caster Semenya Releases List Of Experts For Battle With IAAF At CAS

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Caster Semenya has released a list of experts she will call in her appeal hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) this week in her fight against regulations aimed at lowering the testosterone levels of hyperandrogenic athletes like her.

The South African 800-metres double Olympic champion on Monday expressed her disappointment after the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) revealed the names of their five witnesses for the proceedings in Lausserne.

She called it a breach of confidentiality rules ahead of a five-day appeal that could have far reaching consequences for sport. The IAAF deny any wrong-doing.

She will call on a range of experts from various fields, and used the announcement of their names, through her lawyers, to reiterate her stance on the IAAF’s proposed regulations.

READ MORE | ‘From Zero to Hero’: The Queen Of The 800 meters Caster Semenya

“The IAAF regulations do not empower anyone,” the statement said. “Rather, they represent yet another flawed and hurtful attempt to police the sex of female athletes.

“Ms Semenya’s courage and perseverance in her fight to run free is an inspiration to young athletes in her home country of South Africa and around the globe.”

The IAAF regulations stipulate that women with elevated testosterone take medication to reduce their level before being allowed to compete, but only in the middle-distance events of between 400- and 1500-metres where it is claimed the advantage is most felt.

IAAF President Sebastian Coe told reporters on Monday that the regulations are aimed at leveling the field between hyperandrogenic athletes and those with normal levels of testosterone.

The IAAF’s previous attempts to regulate testosterone in female athletes fell foul of a CAS ruling in 2015 following an appeal on behalf of Indian Dutee Chand, who had been banned from competing because of her high levels.

CAS claimed in their judgment that the IAAF had not provided sufficient evidence that hyperandrogenic athletes gained a significant advantage due to their testosterone count.

A verdict could take up to a month, according to CAS.

The experts who will testify in support of Semenya are listed as:

  • Prof Veronica Gomez-Lobo, Obstetrics and Gynecology at Georgetown University and the Director of the DSD (Differences of Sexual Development) Clinic at the Children’s National Health System in Washington‚ DC.
  • Dr Alun Williams, Director of the Sports Genomics Laboratory at Manchester Metropolitan University.
  • Professor Eric Vilain, specialist in gender-based and endocrine genetics‚ including DSD, who has consulted to the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
  • Professor Roger Pielke Jr, director of the Sports Governance Center at the University of Colorado.
  • Professor Dankmar Böhning, Chair in Medical Statistics at the University of Southampton.
  • Professor Richard Holt, expert in Diabetes and Endocrinology at the University of Southampton.
  • Professor Anthony C Hackney, University of North Carolina‚ with joint appointments in the Department of Exercise and Sport Science and the Department of Nutrition School of Public Health.

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  • Dr Lih-Mei Liao, clinical and health psychologist in the United Kingdom who has worked extensively with women diagnosed with a range of DSD conditions.
  • Dr Payoshni Mitra, teaches Sport Sociology at Birkbeck College‚ University of London and works closely with athletes with hyperandrogenism and DSD from the Southern Hemisphere.
  • Ashley LaBrie‚ Executive Director of AthletesCAN‚ an independent organization that represents the interests of all national team athletes in Canada. –Reuters

-Nick Said

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Current Affairs

‘Time For Business To Roll Up Its Sleeves’

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Busi Mabuza has just been appointed Chair of the South African chapter of the BRICS Business Council. Also the chairperson of the Industrial Development Corporation, she speaks to FORBES AFRICA about her plans for trade and investment. 


What is your first point of focus as the chair of the South African chapter of the BRICS Business Council?

It is still early days. I am just lucky I was appointed to the BRICS Council last year… In my few months, my sense was that the sister countries in BRICS were much more organized in terms of what it is they are looking for and in bringing a coordinated voice of business. We were still trying to get there in terms of coordinating our efforts and channeling our objectives and making sure we agree on the priorities.

I look forward to, first of all, picking up from where others left off. This is a council that has been around not long after 2010, and it has a long-enough track-record.

I think where things have been done well, we just need to make sure they are done better. Where there are gaps, I’d like for us to close those gaps. On the administrative side, I have noticed our sister countries, the business councils of the other countries, are much more coercively organized, more streamlined, business has a very strong voice and business facilitates all of it.

I would like to see that engagement with all corners of business, big and small. I think there is room for everybody there. If one looks at the African continent, the majority of the population is young people. If we sit in those meetings without understanding the voice of the youth, without talking to and addressing the issues of the youth, we will be left behind.

I think it is an opportunity to make sure business rolls up its sleeves and we actually benefit from the linkages our political principles have cemented.

As a woman in leadership, how will you navigate this space?

It is one that also challenges me ideologically. I never wanted to be labeled ‘the first black woman [in anything]’, and yet I have worked most of my life in environments where it has been lonely just by the mere fact that when the guys are talking rugby, I want to talk about something else.

Rugby is great, I also enjoy that, but it is also good to talk about other things. One success factor when one is thrown into such environments is to [bring] others in deliberately. I’d love to demonstrate to the women out there that there are opportunities such as these and we need to be there and we need to show up at our best in terms of our game.

We need to work diligently because when it comes to the results and output, the assessment won’t be based on whether you are a man or woman, it will be based on what you deliver tangibly. South Africa has an opportunity to make the other BRICS countries aware that women have to be at the table and we do it through our actions rather than just talk.

What is on the 2019 agenda for business in South Africa?

With this being new days, I believe in consultation. I believe in making sure I understand the mandate I have been given. I understand what the Department of Trade and Industry is about, and their focus on creating export opportunities because that will grow our trade.

I understand their focus on empowerment, because as a country we do need to see a better profile and reflection of society in the economic space. The focus will continue to be on trade and investment, as we move along, I would like for us to do this in an inclusive manner.

Which sector will South Africa prioritize?

I would definitely take a cue from the president’s [Cyril Ramaphosa] focus on agriculture. Agriculture is fantastic for this continent because we have land, we have the people and if you look outside South Africa, there is water. The resources are there.

The other side of the coin is that agriculture can be a great employment opportunity. Agriculture is getting more technical and technology-intensive and that excites me. If we had a trading bloc arrangement, we will be talking much bigger opportunities within the country.

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Woman

Danai Gurira: ‘Fully Feminine And Fully Fierce’

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The film Black Panther  received critical acclaim worldwide. Zimbabwean actor Danai Gurira from the film chats about the impact it has had on her life.

January 29 marked the first anniversary since the release of the Black Panther movie.

Worldwide, it grossed more than $1.2 billion ranking as the tenth top-grossing film of all time.

At the 2019 Golden Globes, which took place on January 6, the movie was nominated for three awards and was rumoured to be nominated for an Oscar, which will be hosted on February 25.

Danai Gurira, who plays the part of General Okoye, represented a fierce and strong woman.

One of the most notable scenes in the movie was when she took off her wig and used it as a weapon.

She chats to FORBES AFRICA about the impact the movie has had on her life.

What did being part of a movie like Black Panther mean to you?

It was a really amazing experience to be a part of and, of course, in my own work as a playwright and an actor, I’ve always been seeking to give the voice of the African more of a global resonance and response because I always wondered why we didn’t have that.

So, the beauty of being a part of a project that did do that and being able to play a character who was fully feminine and fully fierce and unapologetic about it allowed me to really be a part of something I wanted to see growing up.

I had always yearned to see stories like that, with such amazing characters I got to work with in that world, in an Africa un-colonized and excellent and thriving. And it was really an amazing feeling to be a part of that.

Did you expect such a huge response from the global audience?

The response, I mean, we couldn’t have predicted that, but I think we were all excited. Peter, Chadwick [Boseman] and the people I got to work with were excited to see this pass; even if we weren’t part of it, we would have supported it.

It has been a great experience to have and to know that people have had the response they had and we are just thankful.

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