Girls on the move

It only takes a spark to end violence against children in Africa

“It only takes a spark, to get the fire going…”

The words of this old hymn come to my mind every time I think of the number of children and families on the move.

I have often wondered whether the person that set the spark off – that triggered a conflict or escalated tensions in communities – had any idea how destructive that spark would be as it uproots families and children from their day to day routines, altering their futures forever.

Many children, girls in particular, face violence when they are forced to leave their homes.

Our report, Girls on the Move: a publication about girls escaping natural disasters and violent conflict in Eastern Africa, found that children on the move are experiencing violence, child marriage, sexual exploitation and abuse, rape, abduction, slavery, forced recruitment into armed groups, among other atrocities. They are often unaccompanied, and girls on the move often take on the role of being a parent to their younger siblings at a time when they too need parental love and protection.

Yet, this could be me, or you, on the move. Uprooted from a comfortable life without warning, driven to abject poverty and destitution in the blink of an eye.

Children on the move are forgotten once the cameras leave the scene. These children face so many unknowns. They require support, and affirmative action. We need to make every effort to protect them.

We have to take action, today and every day, to bring an end to violence against children.

As individuals, we can take a stand. Be the voice of the voiceless, speak out and demand that a child abuser is brought to justice.

As a community, we can create and support systems and structures that provide safety and protection for the children. We have a duty to protect our own children, and we have a moral obligation to protect the children in our midst from all forms of violence. The old African adage - it takes a village to raise a child – still rings true, yet how many times have we looked the other way when we know a child is experiencing abuse?

As voters, we can demand that our policy makers take action – increase the capacity of our law enforcement agencies to deal with cases of child abuse and violence with dignity and professionalism, and ensure justice is served.

Children on the move – girls on the move, can seem like a faroff phenomenon that affects other children, in other countries with conflict and hunger and famine.

May the stories in this publication remind us and stir us to act, to speak out for children on the move.

Join our campaign today to end all forms of violence against children. It takes a world, to end violence against children.

Remember, it only takes a spark…

Brenda Kariuki is World Vision East Africa's Regional Advocacy & External Engagement Director