expert Prof. Pinheiro meets with young experts
Prof. Paulo Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro
has covered thousands of flight miles
since he was appointed to head the UN
Study on Violence Against Children.
But wherever he goes to participate
in the regional consultations, the face-to-face
meetings with the young people are among
the highlights of his trips.
Independent Expert of
the Study on Violence Against Children
On this rainy Tuesday morning
in the Slovenian capital Ljubljana, 24 young
people from Europe & Central Asia are waiting
for “the expert” to arrive. They
have come from all over the region – from
Lithuania in the North, Italy in the South,
from Northern Ireland in the West and Tajikistan
in the East. For two days they have prepared
their participation in the regional consultation
meeting that will be opened later in the day
– but before that, they have a chance
to talk to the man who has the global mandate
to collect information on violence against children.
And collecting information today first of all
means to listen to the children.
“I am very happy to be here and meet all
of you today. I will introduce myself briefly,
but I really want to listen more than I want
to talk”, Prof. Pinheiro makes clear from
the very beginning. Holding a print-out of the
children’s recommendations from the day
before in his hands, he asks them to come forward
with concrete experiences or suggestions. After
a somwhat shy start, the questions come rolling
in. Katarina from Slovenia is concerned about
parents beating their children, Max from Romania
shares similar worries, especially when talking
about the rural population and traditions in
his homecountry. The teenagers from the United
Kingdom bring their fears about alcohol abuse
forward and Zarina from Tajikistan demands more
hotlines for children who have been victims
of domestic violence.
Prof. Pinheiro does what he promised to do.
He listens and takes notes. He also gives answers
wherever possible and shares his experiences
from the other regional consultations. From
Mali where he visited children from single mothers
who were left alone in a crib, from China where
“many parents seem to think that beating
their children is part of their rights as parents”
and from Thailand where youth participation
has improved significantly over the last decade,
just like in Europe & Central Asia. However,
Pinheiro adds passionately: “We cannot
expect children to completely stand up for themselves.
The states, the governments, should promote
your participation. We have to do more!”
In the discussion with the young people, the
idea of a “school for parents” comes
up. Pinheiro sees a huge potential in this,
saying that “a lot of parents have not
the slightest idea about children’s rights.
We cannot put all the responsibility on the
children’s shoulders. The parents have
to help, but many of them need help themselves
in the education of their sons and daughters.”
After more than an hour with his young interviewers,
Prof. Pinheiro has to leave to prepare for the
opening of the regional consultation meeting.
A picture with Tatiana from Moldova, a present
from Milos from Serbia-Montenegro, some hand-shakes
with the children and then he leaves the Youth
Hostel where the meeting took place. But he
will soon see the young people again, at the
conference later in the day. And nobody has
the slightest doubt that he will again listen
to them carefully and takes their suggestions
and concerns into account.