A photo essay special from World Vision Australia looks at how Rohingya children in Cox's Bazaar, Bangladesh, are involved in a campaign to have their rights to safety and protection recognised...

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Rohingya children hold up "It takes me to end violence against children" signs as part of the World Vision campaign. Some 2,700 children in Cox's Bazaar - where they make up almost half of the more than 900,000 Rohingya refugees - involved in the campaign have reported frequent abuse at the hands of parents, strangers and older children and spoke of the violence in focus groups.

 

“Our parents can save us from all sorts of danger, but they sometimes hurt us, too."
- a child speaking during a focus group

 

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Children prepare their own posters targeted at parents and camp leaders. They read: “It should not hurt to be a child; Hands are not for hitting children; We want education, not marriage.”

 

“I’m afraid of going far from my home in the camp. An elephant or a tiger may attack me. I cannot even go to the toilet outside at night. I’m afraid that someone will attack me.” 
- Shoshida, 10, a campaign participant

 

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Children holding up their posters. During the campaign, they named forests where they must go to collect firewood, food distribution line-ups and crowded markets as dangerous places and madrasas (religious schools) and World Vision child-friendly centres as the top safe spaces with their homes often being a distant third for some due to domestic abuse.

 

“Parents admit that they emotionally and physically abuse their children because of their distress and uncertainty about the future. They are open to changing their ways. But if we are truly determined to end violence against children, children themselves, their families and their communities must be fully involved in the solutions from the start.”
- James Kamira, World Vision’s Child Protection Lead.

 

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The campaign engaged more than 5,300 parents and community leaders including 75 imams who agreed to speak out in their mosques about the risks of child marriage. Parents agreed with the children that the need for access to education was crucial to help reduce emotional abuse and other forms of violence. Refugee children do not currently have access to formal schooling in the camps, and some Rohingya parents don’t see the value of keeping children in school past third grade.  

 

“Like all children, Rohingya children have the right to protection from all forms of violence, neglect and mistreatment...[W]e call on parents and community leaders in the camps, as well as governments, donors and concerned citizens worldwide to help ensure that the rights of these refugee children are realised and protected.”
- Rachel Wolff, Director of World Vision’s Refugee Crisis Response in Bangladesh

 

For information on how you can help, head to www.worldvision.com.au.