Violence against children is not inevitable; it can be avoided through the implementation of prevention programs that ensure the right of every child to live protected against violence.
Because violence has devastating impacts on the future of our children, affecting all aspects of their psychological, social, academic and economic lives, and in order to avert the fallouts of such adversity, the Jordanian government, in partnership with UNICEF, launched an array of initiatives to raise awareness and prevent violence.
Launched in 2019, this plan is based on the firm conviction that all children have the right to protection from all forms of physical or psychological violence, harm or abuse.
Through its design and implementation, the plan seeks to enshrine the principles of human rights based approach to communication, local ownership, capacity building, participation, empowerment of children, equality, gender sensitivity, sustainability and effectiveness of development initiatives.
The plan, launched by NCFA and UNICEF in partnership with the Ministries of Social Development, Education, Health and Awqaf and Islamic Affairs, the Public Security Directorate and Zain Telecom Company, is based on the need to create a multi-faceted and full-scale response for combating violence and achieving sustainable change. Therefore, it is comprehensive in nature and builds on the strengths and resources of all partners through an integrated and cross-sectoral approach towards violence against children.
The plan aims to achieve reforms, advocate for child rights-based legal and policy frameworks, improve local systems, enhance the capacities of parents, teachers and caregivers, expand the scope of prevention and response services, and influence social norms that justify, encourage or condone violence against children. One of UNICEF’s three major strategic approaches is to raise the capacities of children, families and communities by promoting positive practices to prevent and respond to violence against children.
In other words, the overarching objective is to contribute to reducing violence against children in Jordan. Its specific goals are to make corporal punishment prohibited in all settings; to halve its use for girls and boys – in homes, schools and society; and to reduce incidents of bullying and physical violence among children, whether in schools or in places of recreation. In order to promote and maintain these goals, the plan aims to build demand for available protection and support services; assess the need for a statistical system for child rights in order to improve planning and response; and enhance the ability of partners in the use of communication for development strategies to realize children’s rights in general and to support efforts to reduce physical violence against children in particular.
Six key strategies have been set to reduce violence against children in Jordan. The strategies take guidance from the findings and recommendations of studies, best practices, and programs to reduce violence against children across the region.
The strategies are informed by the seven strategies set forth by “INSPIRE” and the six UNICEF strategies to prevent violence against children.
Working through a participatory approach with institutions and technical committees concerned with child protection, NCFA and UNICEF have been able to include violence against children as a national priority incorporated into all national action plans and programs. Work is now underway to implement several programs and initiatives to institutionalize the plan’s activities and campaigns under the slogan “Allem_La_Tallem” “علم_لا_تعلم”.
The Better Parenting Program has been working with mothers, fathers and caregivers since 1996 to enhance their knowledge and skills to better support their children’s early childhood growth and development.
The program came in response to the findings of a national survey on the knowledge, attitudes and practices of parents/caregivers in Jordan, which revealed a huge gap in caregivers’ knowledge regarding effective and positive enhancement of child growth and development. The Better Parenting Program was hence designed to enable parents and caregivers to provide an enriching, stimulating and safe environment for their children at home.
The Program underwent several stages of development and testing, starting with a pilot initiative in 1996 to review global resources, tools and materials produced by UNICEF in this regard and adapt them culturally to suit the Jordanian context. Later on, these were tested across various regions of the Kingdom and were consequently adopted. The program also included the development of a training manual by UNICEF consisting of 18 core themes in the field of early childhood development.
The program targets caregivers of children from pregnancy to the age of eight, and addresses several themes related to the care and upbringing of children at this age. These include: the importance of play in children’s lives, positive communication, exploration, behaviour guidance, child protection, healthy pregnancy, breastfeeding and other important topics.
The Better Parenting Program has managed to reach an estimated 300,000 mothers, fathers and caregivers across the Kingdom since the year 2000 through a powerful network of ministries, organizations, non-governmental organizations, local associations, and Makani centres (one of UNICEF’s initiatives in Jordan).
An evaluation study of the Better Parenting Program was conducted in 2009, which showed that mothers and fathers who participated in the program have improved their knowledge about parenting practices and the importance of spending time with their children playing and reading books. They have also gained better understanding of the importance of positive disciplining and have identified the behaviours that are considered as forms of neglect. However, there were no statistically significant variations found with regard to parents and caregivers’ application of positive or negative discipline methods, or their perceptions of behaviours that are considered as forms of child abuse. These results, combined with the sweeping success of the experience, indicate that the program has enormous potential to bring about substantial and tangible improvements in children’s lives. However, some key aspects of the program still need to be strengthened to protect children in Jordan from violent disciplinary practices and to realize their development potentials.
In 2019, the UNICEF Jordan office has revised the program with the help of a wide range of national partners through an extensive and in-depth participatory process to align it with recent scientific developments in the field of early childhood development and positive parenting programs. The revised program, which has been enriched by two decades of extensive experience implementing the program, took into consideration the surrounding changes in the local context, including Jordan’s hosting of a large number of refugees.
(Ma’an) Together towards a Safe School Environment
In 2009, UNICEF launched a large-scale campaign in Jordan titled “Ma’an (Together) Towards a Safe School Environment” which aimed at promoting modern discipline methods and mobilizing support to end society’s tolerance for violence in schools. The campaign, launched in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and other relevant ministries, the Office of HM Queen Rania Al Abdullah, NGOs and the (UNRWA), received major media coverage on a large national scale. The campaign objectives were focused on reducing the number of children exposed to physical and verbal violence in schools and promoting the use of alternative positive methods by the year 2014. The evaluation of the campaign revealed a 28% decline in the rate of physical violence, which is close to the 30% envisaged target, and also showed a decrease in verbal violence by 15%, which is quite significant. Based on the evaluation results, the Ministry of Education has revised the Ma’an campaign by adding new areas of interest to the program resulting in an initiative to reduce student-against-teacher violence and family violence.
Although the “Ma’an Campaign” has succeeded in reducing violence in schools and has managed to place this issue at the forefront of the national dialogue, the widespread cultural acceptance of corporal punishment and the use of violence in schools and homes remains a major challenge. In light of this, UNICEF is working with its partner organizations to expand the Campaign outside schools to address physical violence directed against children not only by their teachers, but by anyone and anywhere. In short, the goal is to address the problem holistically and to broaden the focus from schools to include violence against children in all settings.
Building on the lessons and success learned from the Ma’an Campaign, the “Allem_La_Tallem” Plan (Changing Norms and Behaviours to End Violence against Children) intends to broaden its scope and intensify its efforts in order to enable people – especially vulnerable groups – to participate in making their own life-improving decisions by employing a variety of communication approaches. To do so, the plan seeks to capitalize on the national efforts exerted in the field of child protection.
The widespread cultural acceptance of corporal punishment and the use of violence against children remain a major challenge, and correspondingly changing beliefs and social norms in that respect would be a milestone in confronting violence. Working to that effect, NCFA in partnership with UNICEF launched the “#Allem_La_Tallem” social media campaign in 2017 in a bid to change such public convictions. The aim is to mobilize social media users from the young generation within the age group of 18 to 35 years to speak up and make their voices heard on violence against children (VAC) in the Kingdom.
The Adventures of Looney Balloony
As part of the Multi-Sectoral National Plan of Action to End Violence against Children, and complementing the efforts made by the “#Allem_La_Tallem” campaign, UNICEF and (NCFA) organized a variety of community festivals in Amman, Zarqa, Irbid and Aqaba in 2018 to raise public awareness about violence against children and promote positive parenting skills as alternative and acceptable practices for disciplining children. Launched by Her Majesty Queen Rania, the festivals, under the theme “Looney Balloony Diaries” or “The Adventures of Looney Balloony”, were held over the course of a month, offering an educational, reflective, and empowering environment for parents / caregivers and children alike. The festivals worked specifically to magnify the grim and dreadful reality of family violence, and highlighted the need for interventions. The evaluation of the festival underscored the positive changes that have occurred in terms of knowledge and attitudes about VAC prevalence. More specifically, there has been a significant increase in awareness of alternative disciplinary practices that can help end violence against children in Jordan.
“Family Live”, Partnership with Al-Ghad
“Family Life” is a joint interactive program that focuses on upbringing and positive parenting methods. It was launched by UNICEF in collaboration with the Jordanian newspaper Al-Ghad in 2019 in support of the Government’s National Plan for the Prevention of Violence against Children. As the fruit of a collaborated effort by UNICEF and Al-Ghad, the program seeks to enhance social integration and raise public and parental awareness on the benefits of positive parenting and warn against the negative impacts of violence against children. Throughout the entire episodes, information on proper parenting methods are presented by experts in the field of education, illustrating how to deal with the challenges that parents face in raising their children from early childhood to adolescence. The program also provides a platform for children and their parents to enquire about their everyday challenges.
With the widespread use of the Internet and social media by children and young people and the accompanying prevalence of bullying and exploitation of children via the Internet, particularly with children and young people spending more time in front of screens and the Internet as a result of the Corona pandemic, the Jordan River Foundation, in cooperation with UNICEF, launched a community-based campaign to safeguard children against sexual exploitation and cyberbullying, through the hashtag “#مش_صح” (Literally: This is not Right).
Enhancing the quality of reporting on child rights and protection issues
“Cyberbullying is the sneaking epidemic during COVID-19 “
Our children are being exposed to an alarming form of bullying known as “cyberbullying”. Recent studies have revealed a significant rise in the number of children and young people who are subjected to cyberbullying locally, regionally and internationally due to the widespread use of the Internet during the COVID-19 pandemic, as experts believe. Social networking platforms and electronic games have become a fertile environment for this type of bullying, particularly exacerbated by the continuing closure and lockdown in Jordan which allowed this epidemic to infiltrate undetected into our homes and our children through ways that are the most popular to them.
Recognizing this threat, UNICEF, in cooperation with the NCFA, launched an online campaign to combat cyberbullying from November 2020 to February 2021.
Enhancing the quality of reporting on child rights and protection issues
It is a project launched by UNICEF in partnership with the Jordan Media Institute in light of the findings of a report on journalistic practices in covering child protection issues, which was prepared by NCFA in cooperation with UNICEF in 2017 based on a survey on a sample comprising journalists and media practitioners.
Young Volunteers “SAWA”
This is a program launched by UNICEF with the purpose of combating bullying through the implementation of programs adopted by young people to confront this problem. The program is based on listening to the voices of young people themselves as a tool in the face of bullying.
Shababeek Program for Combating Bullying
Ending violence against children requires addressing the underlying causes and changing the attitudes, norms and practices among individuals and societies that condone and approve such behaviours. The prevalence of violence against children in Jordan, especially in schools, has become a disturbing reality.
COVID-19 and Child Protection
As is the case for all children across the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has cast a heavy shadow on the children of Jordan, and its negative effects have been more severe on children of the most vulnerable families.
This section showcases a collection of real-life stories that took place in different regions of Jordan. They include stories of children who have been exposed to different types of violence inside their homes, in their neighbourhood and in their school. They aim to raise awareness and warn against the consequences of violence on children and to mobilize public opinion to take a stand to stop violence against children.