Extreme poverty is one of the most extensive forms of violence in the world. And Child Poverty is perhaps the most brutal and unforgiving form of all poverty. Indeed, poverty is the main underlying cause for millions of preventable child deaths each year. It is also the cause of tens of millions of children going hungry, missing out on school, or being forced into child labor, with little access to shelter and health facilities.
Violence Against Children (VAC) and Poverty are interlinked and it is therefore not possible to fight one without the other. Granted, socio-cultural norms that condone particular practices appear to be key underlying drivers of Violence Against Children, however, poverty increases children’s risk; it exacerbate the violence meted against children and it increases their vulnerability. This may be due to:
- Socio-economic pressure in the household. Examples include: – economically motivated child marriages (marrying off a daughter to reduce household costs or to bring resources into the household e.g. bride price) and children’s entry into commercial sex work among others.
- Poor children are also at greater risk of protection violations because they often live in insecure environments that expose them to increased risk of physical and sexual violence.
- Where organised criminal activity is widespread, physical violence is often common, and adolescent boys are at particular risk of becoming victims and/or being drawn into such activity. Indeed at community level, physical violence is strongly associated with economic deprivation.
- In addition, poverty contributes to inadequate care of children in several ways. Poor children are at greater risk of being left unsupervised or poorly supervised. This increases the risk of those children getting abused and violated. With no proper care, these children often revert back to the cycle of poverty.
Not only does poverty exacerbate violence, but violence can also perpetuate poverty. It is not possible to end child poverty if violence persists. Children who are subjected to abuse or neglect are more likely to underachieve at school, or drop out and miss out on education entirely. Neglect in early childhood can lead to increased risk of poor health, developmental delays and learning difficulties; leading to deprived socio-economic lives and ultimately poverty.
At a more macro level, Violence Against Children places an economic burden on governments. The findings on a research conducted by Oversees Development Institute shows that physical, psychological and sexual violence perpetrated against children costs the governments globally up to USD 7 trillion annually. This figure is alarming and can be channeled to other development projects that will reduce poverty.
With the foregoing, it is my opinion that preventing child violence should go hand in hand with ending poverty. I am an optimist and I believe that it is possible to have a world free of violence against children…but this will not be possible without a world free of child poverty.
Together we can end violence against children and child poverty worldwide.
Be part of the GNRC 5th Forum Campaign, ‘Ending Violence Against Children: Faith Communities in Action’.
Follow: #EndChildViolence on: – End Child Poverty and Global Network of Religions for Children (GNRC) in Facebook and Twitter.