A Life Skills Approach as Part of Preventing Violence Against Children

Between 14 and 15th February – The Agenda 2030 for Children: End Violence Solutions Summit, was held in Stockholm Sweden.

The problem

Globally, up to 1 billion children aged 2-17 years – or one in two children – have suffered physical, sexual or emotional violence or neglect in the past year. Violence is the second leading cause of death in boys aged 10-19 years, with a global homicide rate for that age group of 7 per 100 000 population. Across their lives, more than 1 in 5 children have experienced physical abuse, while more than 1 in 3 children have experienced emotional abuse. Around 18% of girls and 8% of boys have experienced sexual abuse. Experiencing violence in childhood has lifelong impacts on the health and well-being of children, their families and communities.

Strong evidence shows that the consequences of violence go much beyond death and injury. Because children who are exposed to violence are more likely to smoke, misuse alcohol and drugs, and engage in high-risk sexual behaviour, they are also more likely to attempt suicide and endure a range of illnesses later in the life. These include anxiety, depression, cardiovascular disease, cancer and HIV. Dr Krug, Director of the WHO Department for the Management of Non-communicable Diseases, Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention. “The sad fact is that we know what needs to be done, yet we do not do it. Violence is not inevitable. Its causes are understood and it can be prevented; only the will is needed.”

Evidence Based Solutions

“Evidence-based measures include those reflected in the WHO-led INSPIRE: Seven strategies for ending violence against children:

  1. Implementing and enforcing laws (e.g. banning violent discipline and restricting access to alcohol and firearms);
    Norms and values change (e.g. altering norms that condone the sexual abuse of girls, or aggressive behaviour among boys);
  2. Safe environments (e.g. identifying neighbourhood “hot spots” for violence and then addressing the local causes through problem-oriented policing and other interventions);
  3. Parent and caregiver support (e.g. through the provision of parent training to young, first time parents);
    Income and economic strengthening (e.g. providing cash transfers to families on the condition that their children attend school);
  4. Response services provision (e.g. ensuring that children who are exposed to violence receive effective emergency care and appropriate psychosocial support), and
  5. Education and life skills (e.g. providing children with life and social skills training, including the skills to manage emotions, maintain self-control, empathize with others and express themselves assertively).

A page from our Lifeskills Handbook adapted for a programme in India.

Lifeskills and Children for Health

At Children for Health we believe that basic life skills are essential for effective health education. We want children to be effective agents of change, so they’ll need to feel empowered with a strong sense of self. A life skills session that works on this and provides children with opportunities to discuss this can make subsequent work on learning and sharing ideas on health with the family easier and more rewarding for the children. Sensitive work with the children will also require the children to open up and discuss their feelings and opinions and again, self-awareness and a strong sense of identity will help with this.

Here is a single activity session plan from our book, The Life Skills Handbook, a book available in digital format (only). There are 61 activity sessions in this book.

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