7 May 2013

UNICEF says Fiji to establish helpline for children

8:18 pm on 7 May 2013

A new child protection plan in Fiji aims to strengthen the law around child abuse and help young people in conflict with the law.

The United Nations Children's Fund, or UNICEF, has signed a deal with Fiji's social welfare ministry and the police to better protect children in the country.

The UNICEF Chief of Child Protection, Amanda Bissex, told Beverley Tse that under the Child Protection Work Plan, communities will be educated on positive discipline.

BISSEX: UNICEF supported a study a few years back that looked at community attitudes and practises towards child rearing. And one of the things we found was that more than 70% of adults actually believe that corporal punishment of children is OK and practise corporal punishment. So a key area for us is to help families and parents to develop better practises when it comes to rearing children and non-violent forms of discipline that promote child well-being and learning, rather than the corporal punishment.

TSE: How have parents responded so far to the Child Protection Work Plan and are they aware that there are issues that can be amended within the household, in terms of the way they treat children?

"BISSEX: One of the areas that UNICEF has been working and supporting the Ministry of Social Welfare on in Fiji is the introduction of a community facilitation package called Children Are a Gift From God . And that was rolled out last year and will continue to be rolled out this year. And that's working with community leaders and parents at the village level, the community level, to help them to understand about child development and how they can change behaviour. And we've had very positive feedback from people who've taken part in that. It's quite a personal experience 'cause it takes people through a journey of their own experiences of being raised as a child and then reflecting on how they raise their children. It's had very good reaction from communities, it's had very good reaction from religious leaders, as well."

TSE: Under this Child Protection Work Plan, I understand that there may be an establishment of a help-line. What's that all about?

BISSEX: Well, Fiji really wants to establish a help-line. And that's a 24-hour a day free service for children to call in. There's a child help-line global association that provides advice and support. And at the Fiji level it would be to work with the telecommunication companies to dedicate a free line, and then to work with service providers to provide counsellors who can be on that child line. And the idea is that children can call. It can be any sort of issue that a child may face. It may be they have a problem at school, it may be they don't have a school uniform. It may be more serious cases where a child is experiencing abuse and they're able to access a counsellor who can talk to them about the issue. And if they need extra support the counsellor can put them in touch with services such as social welfare or police.