Onnik Krikorian /UNICEF Armenia
YEREVAN, Armenia – Mane Tonoyan might seem a little too young to concern herself with the problem of violence against children in Armenia but this 16-year old is somehow "different." A member of the Manana Youth-Cultural non-governmental organization, she has already made a one-minute-film on the subject and at the beginning of July, was one of 25 child participants at the regional consultation for the UN Study on Violence Against Children in Europe and Central Asia.
The consultation held from 5-7 July 2005 was hosted in Ljubljana, the Slovenian capital, and organized by UNICEF as well as other UN agencies. It was one of nine such consultations that will eventually contribute to a major study of the problem by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan next year. Accompanying Mane was Naira Avetisyan, UNICEF’s Child Protection Officer in Armenia, and three representatives of various government agencies.
"We were asked to find someone familiar with child rights and experienced with making films and writing articles," says Avetisyan. "That is why we chose Mane. Taking into account that Manana is experienced in producing materials to distribute among peers we thought it best to select a child from this organization. We will also be holding a round table in Armenia at the end of July."
Certainly, Mane seems to have benefited greatly from the consultation.
"Before going to Ljubljana, I was concerned about violence against children although I wasn’t as well informed as I am now," she says. "In particular, I learned more about the consequences that violence can have on children. For example, even a slap on the face can emotionally damage a child. Before the consultation, I don’t think that I would have ever considered it as violence."
According to Mane, almost all children in Armenia are subjected to violence in some shape or form. In particular, she says, it is particular evident in schools and institutions – something that others attending the consultation also concluded. Unfortunately, she says, when violence becomes "acceptable" in the classroom it can then also manifest itself in the form of bullying.
"In Armenia, there is very little awareness of this problem," explains Mane. “But violence exists – in the family, in schools and particularly in institutions. Beating is considered an acceptable way of disciplining children. However, it’s terrible if a teacher hits a child in front of others. It’s humiliating and can have a serious impact on their self-esteem.
I want to raise awareness of this problem among other children but also parents and teachers. First of all, however, it is necessary to raise awareness among the public at large."
"Of course," concludes Mane, "parents have the right to discipline their children when it is necessary and it is important that nobody attempts to challenge their authority. However, I would like to remind parents that they were children once and their actions now might have an impact on how future generations are also raised. Violence is not the way to bring up children."
For more information:
Emil Sahakyan, Communication Officer, Armenia
Tel: (374 10) 523-546, 566-497