The Child Helpline used by the Edelweiss Foundation for image making

The Child Helpline is being used by the Edelweiss Foundation for image making, without taking into account the public nature of the service, and its initial mission. This is the conclusion of a group of non-governmental organizations, acting in the field of child rights protection, which state that during the “Protected Families” campaign, this issue was communicated in an unprofessional manner, which causes damage to the cause.

During a press club organized today, September 27, the experts pointed out a set of negative effects of the situation created. “Our documents are very well based on international standards or golden rules accepted at the international level. It is one thing to have some definitions, concepts and approaches on paper, and absolutely different thing using them to educate and inform the society, in order to offer the child a healthy environment for his/her development. In this regard, the drama of such actions within a campaign resumes to the creation of a stereotype, which the civil society has been combating for years: not only beating is a form of violence against children”, states Ana Revenco, Director of the International Center “La Strada”.

As mentioned by the expert, in such conditions the continuous efforts of civil society in making citizens and authorities accept the existence and gravity of other forms of violence against children, besides beating, are reduced to zero. The same source mentions that as a result of the campaign, there is an impression that the Child Helpline excludes and ignores the voice of children who, although haven’t been physically aggressed, experience other situations that make them feel neglected, not heard or in danger.

“The Child Helpline as a Pan-European service was created specifically for children, no matter the circumstances of their problem. We wanted and still want to learn from children, to let them tell us in which situations they don’t feel comfortable, those children should call and tell if something hurts them, bothers them or they feel in danger. Or, promoting this service as “especially created for reporting cases of physical violence against children”, as it is written on this foundation’s webpage, is wrong. This service was not created now, as we read in the materials of this campaign. It exists since 2014. Moreover, this is not an alternative to the 902 police service. As practice shows, children first call without saying anything, and then call back a few times more, in order to understand whether they can trust, and only after that they find courage to tell what bothers them. Following the logic of this campaign, it seems like we would tell the child that it is normal for him/her to be psychologically abused, trafficked, exploited or neglected; as long as he/she is not beaten, everything else is ok. We normalize things that are actually not normal at all”, added Ana Revenco.

At the same time, the President of the Alliance of NGOs active in the field of Child Rights Protection Mariana Ianachevici, mentioned other negative effects on a long term. “For twenty years we have been trying to explain to different actors, starting with ordinary citizens and ending with representatives of police, justice sector, medicine and other fields, that violence exists not only in families, and violence is not only physical. And in one single moment, as a miracle, with a magic wand we distort our activity and the messages that were provided to the public and to each specialist with so much effort. (…) As a taxpayer, every citizen of the Republic of Moldova, should require the authorities to ensure the quality of this service and not allow exploiting the topic of child protection, especially during sensitive periods, such as election campaigns. I would like that any distortion made would be assumed from any perspective, because the fate of a child is behind it”, mentioned Mariana Ianachevici during the event.

In the expert’ opinion, is it alarming that although the Ministry of Labor, Social Protection and Family was the co-author of thematic strategies, once it was informed about major blunders in advertising the service that belong to it, it comes with reactions that mostly encourage similar experiences for now and for the future.

Also, in order to demonstrate once again the superficial approach of the organizers of the campaign “Protected Families”, the host of the event, the President of the Center for Investigative Journalism Cornelia Cozonac, tried to call the number 022 116 111, which is shown in a video spot of the Edelweiss Foundation. But she gets an automatic answer that “this number does not exist”. According to the explanations provided by “La Strada” representatives, the Child Helpline is not a usual municipal number, but a hotline service for free, created following a European model, with the same number in several states – 116 111.

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