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Gender-Based Violence and Children

Two young girls from BrazilOften, the more painful it is to hear a statement,
the more it needs to be heard.

“I hate being a child. I hate being hit,
and I hate being taken for granted.”

“What my uncle did to me,
I won’t forgive him all my life.”

“If I get AIDS from this,
I will kill myself.”

These quotes express feelings that no one should have to feel after experiences that no one should undergo. The speakers are young girls — ages 13, 10 and 9, respectively.

Gender-based violence (GBV) is a sad reality worldwide, but in developing countries such as those where ChildFund works, it is shockingly prevalent. As a child-focused organization, we have to look at how this affects children in particular. The news is devastating, and we must respond.

In Liberia, for example, of 650 rape cases handled in one of our partner agency’s clinics, 75 percent of them were girls under 18, and the second-highest number was 5- to 8-year-olds.

Imagine what rape does to a child. In addition to the risks of injury and long-lasting health problems — not to mention psychological trauma that could lead to suicide — there are also social stigma and rejection. Most societies tend to blame the victim in cases of sexual violence, even when those victims are children.

Maybe that’s why GBV is one of the least recognized and under-reported of all barriers to child development and survival.

ChildFund is responding with a program called Shine a Light, thanks in large part to a $500,000 matching grant from a concerned donor. After beginning this year with a pilot program in three countries, we will expand the program to 15 countries, to serve more than 20,000 children. In addition to child survivors of sexual abuse — girls and boys — ChildFund also will work with local organizations, law enforcement, families and community members of both genders to raise awareness of GBV and help them develop child-protective systems and responses.

Learn how you can help.

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