Violence affects children, you cannot end it without involving them. That’s the message from three bold and courageous young people as they travelled from their homes in Uganda, Bangladesh and Albania, to meet European leaders this week in Brussels.
Carrying the weight of the 1.7 billion children affected by violence on their shoulders, Suelv, 14, Meghla, 18, and Agnes, 25, are undaunted, and instead excited to make sure world leaders in Brussels hear their message.
“It takes a world to end violence against children, and I want to be a part of it,” says Suelv from Albania, who through his local child protection group has led campaigns to end cyber-bullying and ban corporal punishment.
“Violence against children are terrible acts of inhumanity in society so they must be curbed,” says Agnes from Uganda, who passionately advocate for girls’ empowerment. “I wonder why some communities still think women cannot do certain things like driving, building, riding, climbing trees, yet the best engineers, constructors, drivers, riders are women because they are so patient, we need to end these barbaric thoughts in communities.”
Meghla was 13 when she was forced into an engagement to a much older man in Lebanon. Despite pleading her mother to change her mind, a date was fixed. Meghla was a member of World Vision child forum where she had been learning about empowerment. On her wedding day, she went to hide in a friend’s house until the reception was over. She returned later that night to a mother who was so upset with her and with what she perceived to be a lost opportunity for their family, she wouldn’t talk to her for three months. During that time, Meghla took on more responsibility with the child forum, she spoke with local leaders and became a community advocate for the rights of women. She has stopped seven marriages, and working with others has prevented 13 girls in her community from being married.
“We would like to enjoy our childhood and we would like to see our society become a place where no girls will be the victim of any abuses including child marriage,” says Meghla.
Suelv, Meghla and Agnes are members of World Vision’s Young Leaders for Ending Violence Against Children programme. A network-based project, it is a collaboration of young leaders from different countries and regions aiming to influence, collectively and individually, their communities, countries and regions to end violence against children.