Every Child in Fiji has the Right to be …
“The 2013 Fijian Constitution guarantees Fijian children the right to be protected from all forms of violence, abuse neglect, and exploitation, under Article 41 (1)(d). Therefore, to be safe and protected is not only a child’s human right, but also a Constitutional right that we have the responsibility of upholding”.
This was highlighted by the Permanent Secretary for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Ms. Jennifer Poole while officiating the National Child Safeguarding Policy Validation Workshop in Suva yesterday. The National Child Safeguarding Policy will be the first of its kind – policy that affirms and strengthens the Fijian Government’s commitment to keeping our children safe from all violence, abuse, and exploitation.
PS Poole said that through the National Coordinating Committee on Children, the National Child Safeguarding Policy was developed and approved by Cabinet for consultations in 2021.
“In February 2022, we held the first consultation for the National Child Safeguarding Policy – which was with Civil Society Organizations and Faith Based Organizations. We have since come a long way – we have had three consultations carried out with Government Ministries and Departments, Civil Society Organizations, Faith Based Organizations and Private sectors that work closely and provide services to children”.
“As part of the work plan for the policy, consultations were held to ensure that the policy is inclusive, consistent, and relevant to the safeguarding of children. Consulted agencies have worked collaboratively in collating information for the finalisation of the National Child Safeguarding Policy. And today’s validation workshop will pretty much round up the whole consultation process in relation to it”, she further said.
She stated that Ministries and Government Departments that have an existing Child Safeguarding Policy will need to ensure that their policy is aligned to the standards and requirements established in the National policy.
“We need this tool now and most urgently, and it is our responsibility as organisations working with children, as Government and as the larger family of every Fijian child to ensure that our children are safeguarded against all ills.
“In 2021, the Child Welfare Act National Database recorded a total of 1,518 cases. A total of 70% of the cases reported were of child neglect, physical abuse, and sexual abuse. This was a decrease compared to 2020 to which 1,719 cases were reported. The decrease in reporting in 2021 can be due to COVID 19 restrictions as schools were closed, borders were in place, and there were movement restrictions for the safety of the public. But despite that little decrease, these statistics are way too high. Children need to grow up in a caring, loving and protective environment. Abuse or neglect of children has consequences on all aspects of a child’s development that have long-lasting consequences into adulthood”.
PS Poole added that the Fijian Government has cemented its commitment to child protection by not only ratifying the convention on the right of the child, but by also ensuring we have in place the legislative tools to safeguard our children.
“To help children access immediate help in situations of abuse and neglect, the Fijian Government funds the toll free, National Child Helpline 1325, which is staffed by professional counsellors. Administered by Medical Services Pacific, this service was established, not only able to receive reports of child abuse, but to ensure children at risk are able get to safety, under the national referral system when they need. The Child Helpline allows children and parents to seek counselling or simply talk to a trusted professional about their challenges. Every child deserves a bright future and the Fijian Government and relevant partners are committed to invest in the well-being of all Fijian children”.
She acknowledged the support by the Save the Children for this validation workshop and thanked all the Government Ministries and Departments, Civil Society Organisations, Faith Based Organisations, and private stakeholders who have contributed to the formulation, consultation and progress of the Fiji’s first National Child Safeguarding Policy.
“As we draw to the close of the consultations and progress further in the finalisation of this National Child Safeguarding Policy, I urge each one of us to remain committed to the goal of making the lives of our children violence, abuse and neglect free. I urge us all to keep the momentum going and stay true to our duties as formal agencies and to our society to ensure our children receive the life they deserve”.