If the events of 2014 have taught us anything it is that our children are in need of our help to keep them safe, valued and accepted. It doesn’t matter where you live, the news in 2014 have been inundated with previously unthinkable crimes against children.
The year 2014 marked the 25th Anniversary of Canada’s commitment to end child poverty. However rather than see the end of child poverty we have seen unprecedented numbers of children and families living in poverty. Here in Manitoba the numbers are twice the national average. It is time we gave a voice to the voiceless.
Gandhi called poverty “the worst form of violence.” Indeed, it is not uncommon to hear how poverty beats people up, beats them down, oppresses, enslaves, poisons, erodes self-worth, defeats.
We need to call on fathers, mothers, grandfathers, grandmothers, brothers, sisters on all our voices to demand a commitment from everyone to at long last put an end to child poverty. Demand that we as a society and governments at all levels meet our responsibilities to provide children access to shelter, food, freedom from violence, health and education.
The year 2014 also saw headlines locally and globally of children being victimized through Cyberbullying and Child Pornography. Many of the perpetrators of this crimes are in positions of influence or in charge of protecting children. It has become harder to keep our children safe from those individuals who target and take advantage of our most vulnerable citizens. We as a society must come to terms with our desire for individual freedoms at the expense of protecting our children against unspeakable crimes. These crimes against children are preventable. We have the technology to protect our children. The question is: Do we have the will? The political will? We need all our voices to have lawmakers and society create an environment where reporting these crimes is viewed as positive. Where we are no longer bystanders to the violence against children but take an active role in creating an Internet free of violence and exploitation against children and woman.
The year 2014 also saw a Ferry Captain abandon his ship but more importantly his passengers (mostly children). The Captain and his crew left those in their care to perish off the coast of South Korea. We were witness to the more than 200 Nigerian Girls kidnapped and brought into slavery. The #Bring Back our Girls campaign brought our voices to this tragedy but the girls still remain captive. In November CBS News reported, “Imagine the worst and it has happened.” A new report by the United Nations Children Fund estimate that over 15 million children are caught up in armed conflicts. A December article in the editorial section of the Register-Guard called “2014: A bad year for kids” discusses the numerous conflicts world-wide affecting children. We often do our best to ignore or think these atrocities as we say to ourselves they are not close to home or it couldn’t happen here but it is time we call for action not only locally but globally.
The face of war has also seemed to change. There has always been a risk that children would fall victim to the violence of war. The term used to be referred to as collateral damage. However recent incidents indicate that children and schools are being targeted by terrorists. In Pakistan an attack on a school by the Taliban resulted in 141 people dead with 132 of them being children. The Taliban indicate this was in retaliation to bombings earlier in the year that killed innocent children in their communities. It is hard to imagine at any time for any reason, any society or individual committing acts of violence against children.
‘The images are absolutely gut-wrenching: young children carried away in ambulances, a teacher burned alive in front of the students, a house of learning turned into a house of unspeakable horror.’
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry
The Pakistani Taliban killed 141 people, including 132 children, in an attack on an army run school in Peshawar, a city in the country’s north-west. The attack was the deadliest in Pakistan’s history.
It would be easy for us to ignore the data that indicates there are currently almost 30 million people living in slavery, many of them children. When we think about data like this we often think this is a third world problem. It is not happening here. In the report it indicates that there are over 60, 000 people in the United States living in slavery. This does not include those people who suffer in poverty which in its own way enslaves people. In an article in the Washington Post:
We think of slavery as a practice of the past, an image from Roman colonies or 18th-century American plantations, but the practice of enslaving human beings as property still exists. There are 29.8 million people living as slaves right now, according to a comprehensive new report issued by the Australia-based Walk Free Foundation.
Closer to Canada we have recently had an RCMP report about “Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Woman” that not only points out the high number of missing and murdered aboriginal woman but of woman generally. We have unspeakable acts of violence be committed against the mothers of our children and we can not remain silent in protecting all women.
In one of my previous blogs called “Bystanders to Violence and Neglect” I discuss the still unsolved murder of Tina Fontaine that brought outrage to all of Winnipeg. The murder of this young fifteen year-old girl brought light to the often poor services provided to our most vulnerable citizens, be it through Child and Family Services, the Police or in our local communities. Then of course yesterday in Edmonton we have two more children murdered as part of eight people murdered in what is initially reported as a domestic dispute. 2014 has been certainly a difficult year for children.
Let us do more however than just remember these tragedies, make them a part of our history or an archive to the year of 2014. Let them serve as a call to action. A call to fathers, mothers, grandfathers, grandmothers, brothers, sisters, to everyone in fact to give a voice to the voiceless and the vulnerable. To speak loudly and often to our communities, our governments, our police, to each other about the need to create policies that create safe, respectful communities that provide all our children with the basic human rights that should be afforded every citizen. Let us each remember that alone we are one voice, but together we can be a powerful voice that can change the world we live in. Let us remember that each of us can make a resolution to take care of each other, but to most of all take care of our children.
History will remember us not for what we have but for what we’ve done – James W. Hoddinott