Speaking up and taking action to end violence against children

My name is Sreymey, 13 years old, and I'm of the child leaders in my community. 

Being the only child, my parents and I live a simple, harmonious life in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Although my parents couldn't provide me with material things, their love, care, and respect are enough.  

Every day, I love to do some household chores like sweeping the floor and cooking rice. My mother taught me these basic chores because she wanted me to be responsible. Sometimes, I help my mom cook my favourite dish – cabbage soup with pork. In the afternoon, I love to read storybooks. In the evening, I help my dad prepare the meatballs for tomorrow. 

My mom, Sokha, 41, is a full-time housewife. She also works as a community volunteer, and she takes part in the savings group organised by World Vision. My father, Rasy, 43, sells mobile meatballs in the community to earn income. 

My family is not wealthy, but I consider myself lucky because my parents love me wholeheartedly. However, I feel bothered about the situation of some children in our community. 

Drug addiction to teens

I am aware of drug addiction cases in my village, and it saddens me because sometimes it involves younger children. 

When children are exposed to substances or drugs, it isn't good for their health and well-being. I'm worried that this will harm their brain that will affect their future. 

In the hub, I learned that addiction strains relationships within the family. Our teacher told us that if the addiction progresses, children become unpredictable and difficult to deal with, becoming erratic, frustrated, and angry. I witnessed this kind of behaviour from the siblings and cousins of my friends. 

I also know some stories of children who stopped their schooling because they went with their friends and tried taking drugs or harmful substances. I have raised this issue to our local authority regularly in hope they would do something about it. This is very alarming, and our local authorities are doing something to stop this problem.

Physical violence affects mental health

Other than drug addiction, I have seen how physical violence is also rampant in our village. I witness how parents will hit their children and use bad words when they feel mad. I never experienced this at home, and it bothers me to see children being hurt. All children should be safe, and this kind of violence has to stop. 

Hitting, cursing and harming children will make them afraid and scared. Some of my friends feel traumatised whenever they hear a loud noise, and they could be easily scared of anything. I'm lucky that my parents are very loving, I don't experience physical punishment yet, but it's painful to see children suffer.  

In my observation, if parents think of "discipline," many parents believe "punishment." Although punishments tell children what behaviour was wrong, they do not tell children why it was inappropriate or what to do instead. A common form of punishment that I see is spanking – and this is particularly harmful because it teaches the lesson that people can use physical force to get people to behave the way they want. I want our parents to know more about how violence can affect children's mental health.

Conversations in the hub 

With these issues happening in the community, I'm glad that we have the space to talk about these problems with parents and children. Every week, we gather at the World Vision hub to discuss children's issues and rights. We have a teacher or facilitator who guides us through this. Our teacher taught us about different types of violence. After learning, our teacher groups the children to discuss what we need to do to stop this violence. 

The hub allows us to play and to connect with other children, that's why I am aware that these issues are happening. 

Other than children, parents are also present in the hub. Our teacher is also teaching them about the child protection issues like physical violence and how to instil positive discipline towards their children. 

Parents will be most successful in disciplining their children if they have close and warm relationships with them. 

Suppose they use good words and be optimistic about telling the children what to do rather than hitting them. I see some changes when parents start to use good words with their children and perform positive discipline. I'm happy to see the changes.

Being the voice for the children

Even at a young age, I will continue to raise my voice to protect children in our community. 

Education is important because it will help me with my endeavours, and it will help me become a doctor. I want all children to have a dream to have something to achieve in the future. 

My favourite subject in school is literature. Right now, we can't go to school, so we're mostly studying online. When we were in school, I loved playing football with my friends – that's my favourite during break time. 

I wish to become a doctor soon so I can help children and people who are sick. 

I will continue to interact with the children and parents in the hub. And I hope my voice will reach beyond my community. I want other children from my country to take part and be the voice to protect other children.