By Kirsteen McLay-Knopp
Wow, more important child-related dates in November! November 14th is “Buddy Day” in New Zealand and November 19th is the International Day for Prevention of Child Abuse.
When I first heard about “Buddy Day” I thought it had something to do with being a “buddy” to a child, which is a wonderful thing to do. Being a “buddy” means being paired up with a child (a matching of interests) and spending “quality time” with him or her regularly– an important investment in their life. This is a good option for those who do not have children or for those who are older and have grown up children. To see more about becoming a buddy to a child or young person, please look at the links listed at the end of this article.
“Buddy Day”, however, is a bit different. Here in Aotearoa/ New Zealand it is a public participation event, to bring awareness to the issue of child abuse in our community and the role we all have in keeping our children safe.The first ‘Buddy Day’ was held in Hamilton on 18 November 2011 to support November 19, the International Day for Prevention of Child Abuse. (Here are some of the symbols for November 19th: note the blue awareness ribbon).
On “Buddy Day” in New Zealand, hundreds of life size cardboard cutout “children” are sent out into the community with key businesspeople, politicians, iwi and other members of the public. The idea is that these will start conversations about childrens’ well-being and the role every adult has in keeping our children safe.
Before their ‘big day out’, these ‘Buddies’ are dressed, decorated, and given a name and story by children from schools and childcare centres. The conversations with the kids are around what a child needs to be happy and healthy, and have a sense of belonging.
There are around one million New Zealanders currently living with the immediate and long term effects of childhood trauma. These effects impact the whole community, adding to the crime rate and the costs of health, as well as contributing to mental health, alcohol and drug abuse issues. Some facts:
- New Zealand has the fifth worst child abuse record out of 31 OECD Countries.
- On average one child is killed every 5 weeks. Most of these children are under five and the largest group is less than a year old.
- Ninety percent of all child deaths are perpetrated by someone the child knew.
- Nearly 9,000 children per year are born “at risk” (1 in every 30).
- Studies have found abused and neglected children to be at least 25 percent more likely to experience problems such as delinquency, teen pregnancy, low academic achievement, drug use and mental health problems.
- Child abuse costs NZ $2 billion but the real cost is to the children and to our society.
“Buddy Day” promoters say one of the biggest challenges in addressing child abuse is getting people to talk about it. Child abuse is not a pretty subject and it’s often very difficult for people to discuss openly. “Buddy Day”aims to help people talk about the issues facing children and what each of us can do to keep kids safe. One person can make a difference, organisers say, child abuse is not ‘too big an issue to deal with’ – it can be stopped. Every adult has the power to make a difference to the well-being of children in Aotearoa/New Zealand– and in the world. We can play our part by ensuring everyday environments are safe and nurturing, and by speaking up when we are worried about a child. Supporting one another as parents and carers is a big part of this. We at The Forever Years believe that November is a good time of year for this awareness to be raised: Christmas and school holidays can be stressful emotionally and financially for many families and being mindful of this can help us focus on keeping it a fun and safe period, looking at things through the eyes of a child. In aid of “Buddy Day”, six limited edition Buddies are being auctioned off on Trade Me to raise money for the national child advocacy organisation Child Matters.
So far “Buddy Day”, now 3 years old, has grown in Hamilton, Tauranga, Auckland and Wellington. It would be great to spread it to other centres throughout Aotearoa! Follow the links at the end of this article for ideas.
Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Around the Globe
Having an international day for raising awareness of all forms of child abuse promotes increased attention and efficient protection skills and prevention measures at family, local, national and international levels.
The World Women’s Summit Forum launched the World Day for Prevention of Child Abuse in the year 2000. This day was then set to be commemorated every 19 November in synergy with the anniversary of the International Day for the Rights of the Child (20 November), which has as its objective to be a rallying point around the issue of child abuse and the need for urgent effective prevention programs in countries everywhere.
An important part of this is alerting governments and civil society organisations to play a more active role in the promotion of and respect for the rights of the child (article 19 and 34 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child), and contribute to the prevention of child abuse.
After a long tradition of silence in cultures everywhere, child sexual abuse is being more and more denounced and is becoming a public and political topic. Legislation around physical and psychological abuse and neglect of children has also come to the forefront in many countries.
Some International Statistics on Child Abuse:
- 40 million children subjected to abuse each year.
- Suicide is the third leading cause of death among adolescents worldwide.
- 30% of severely disabled children in special homes in the Ukraine die before 18 years of age.
- Approximately 20% of women and 5–10% of men report being sexually abused as children, while 25–50% of all children report being physically abused.
- Statistics indicate that 3 million young girls are subjected to genital mutilation every year.
In 2001, to make the day a global call for action, WWSF launched an international NGO coalition that marks the World Day with appropriate events and activities to focus on and increase prevention education. The international NGO coalition united 149 organizations in more than 60 countries. Each one now marks the day with either local or national activities and events.
To see more about becoming a buddy to a child or young person, please look at the following links:
In Aotearoa/ New Zealand
https://familyworks.org.nz/node/2454 (Search “Buddy Programme” and enter your region of NZ)
http://www.bigbuddy.org.nz/ (Male role models for fatherless boys)
In the World
(just a few of hundreds! Or Google “buddy programmes for children” for your country and region)