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A Word From Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah on The World Day for the Prevention of Child Abuse

19 November 2008 - Abuse against children takes many forms – violence inflicted upon them or around them; exploitation in factories and fields; trafficking for labor, prostitution, and war; forced marriage and childbearing for little girls who are still just children themselves.

The number of victims boggles the mind:  300 million children worldwide.

Yet behind these diverse definitions and daunting figures are the faces of individual boys and girls. 

Like the 18-month old baby boy in the UK, found dead in his blood-spattered cot last year, with a broken back, eight fractured ribs, missing nails and multiple bruises.  The courts said he'd been used as a "punch-bag."

Or the two foster girls in the U.S., their dead bodies discovered in their adoptive mother's freezer after their 8-year old sister was found wandering the streets, alone and bruised in a mud-caked nightgown, with what appeared to be rope burns on her neck.

Or Farouq from the Middle East, whose childhood was spent locked up in an institution, tied to his bed. 

Or Soledad, from South America; at just nine, she was kidnapped and forced to become a child soldier for an armed rebel group.

Duy from South-East Asia, whose small hands blistered with burns from working 13 hour days in a carpet factory.

Sarama from East Africa who was forced to undergo genital mutilation to restrain her sex drive.  She was six years old.

Children like these are suffering in every country, in every continent – not just today, on the one day of the year we set aside in recognition, but every single day of their young lives. 

And worst of all, some of the cruelest wounds are the ones we cannot see. 

Because hurting a child leaves scars more enduring than bruises and broken bones.  Child abuse disrupts young people’s growing nervous and immune systems…hampers their brain development and social skills… destroys their self-confidence and fractures their trust in others… limits their ability to learn in class or stay in school… and compromises their capacity to build work relationships, true friendships, or bonds of love.

Too often, the tragic outcome is that the abused become abusers themselves.

Thankfully, UNICEF and many other national and international partners are working to break that cycle of sadness.

They are advising governments on child protection legislation; sharing best practices to build capacity; supporting NGOs and civil society organizations to increase resources; and they are educating and advocating to safe-guard our children's futures. 

But the children’s advocacy community cannot and should not do it alone. 

It is up to us all to denounce and deter child abuse: parents must provide a loving home; teachers must watch pupils for changes in behavior; neighbors must be vigilant; religious leaders must urge compassion; lawyers must bring perpetrators to justice; MPs must support laws that keep our children safe; CEOs must make child protection part of their CSR; and the media must report responsibly.

Because when children are frightened, too young to know what to do, it is our responsibility to comfort, listen, support and defend them.

Our goal must be to create a culture of prevention where the problem of child abuse is widely known, the symptoms recognized, and the practice eliminated.

Child advocate, Marian Wright Edelman once said: "If we don't stand up for children, then we don't stand for much." 

But if we all stand together… if we protect our most precious citizens…we can all stand proud.

- Rania Al Abdullah


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