A soccer player, a doctor, an entrepreneur, and more: nine neatly dressed children from grades 5 to 10 took turns to describe their dreams to Queen Silvia of Sweden. The soft-spoken queen, in monochromes and pearls, attentively listened to the excited mix of halting English and innocent Bahasa Indonesia. “I know nasi goreng,” Queen Sofia said to Regi, a 10th-grader who wished to be a chef to promote Indonesian food. “Would you cook one for me?”

Gathered in front of a tiny, green-painted library run by Komunitas Jendela Jakarta in Manggarai, sitting on the queen’s right, were Olof Skoog, the Permanent Representative of Sweden to the United Nations, and Anna Hamilton, the First Lady of the Court. On her left were Pernilla Baralt, the Swedish State Secretary to the Minister of Children, the Elderly and Gender Equality, and Ravio Patra, the National Coordinator of Youth Network on Violence against Children (YNVAC), who moderated the sharing session.

Hidden in a shady green corner of a Manggarai area known to have problems with youth gangs and local violence, the library is a place for these children’s weekend activities.

Originating in Jogjakarta, the community is led by a group of young volunteers to provide marginalised children with life-skill education and to encourage higher education for a better future.

“The library in Manggarai is very small,” said Queen Silvia. “But let me assure you, there is nothing small about the dreams and aspirations of the children and young people that I met there today.”

Following the library visit, Her Majesty attended a round-table discussion on ending violence against children at Mandarin Oriental, Jakarta. In her opening speech at the discussion on ending violence against children, the queen also said that the visit also reminded her of the challenges facing many children today from Stockholm to Jakarta.

Moderated by Gunilla Olsson, UNICEF’s Country Representative for Indonesia, accompanying Queen Silvia in the discussion were Pernilla Baralt and Olof Skoog. Indonesia’s delegation were Yohana Susana Yembise, Minister of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection, and Hamid Muhammad from the Ministry of Education and Culture.

Other policymakers present were Sujatmiko, Deputy Coordinating Minister of Human Development and Culture for Women and Children’s Protection, and Subandi, Deputy Minister of National Development Planning for Human, Community and Culture Development.

More in Indonesia’s delegation were Maria Ulfah, Commissioner of National Commission on Child Protection (KPAI); Prof Irwanto, Founder and Director of the Centre on Child Protection at the University of Indonesia (PUSKAPA); David Bloomer, Director of Programme Development and Quality at Save the Children; and with Ravio Patra.

As pathfinding countries in the Global Partnership to End Violence against Children (GPtEVAC)—a supporting board of countries to those working to prevent and to respond to the issue—and global champions to the issue, Indonesia and Sweden must prioritise an end to violence against children.

“Violence against children is a global epidemic that’s costing around 2 to 3 per cent of annual GDP to governments in the Southeast Asia and Pacific region,” Skoog said.

GPtEVAC involves member countries’ governments, the United Nations, civil societies, the private sector, foundations, researchers, academics and children themselves—with an end goal to build political will, promote solutions and accelerate actions.

“Children and adolescents are at the heart of a nation’s growth,” Queen Silvia said. “And we have a long way to go until children’s rights are respected, protected and fulfilled.”

More than 193 government and heads of state have committed to 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. Children’s wellbeing is at the heart of the 17 SDGs and their targets, especially goal 5 and 16 that compel governments to eliminate all forms of violence against women and children.

“Our ministry is now pushing the ‘3- Ends’ programme to end violence against women and children, end trafficking, and end economic deprivation,” said Yembise on Indonesia’s effort. Aside from home, school is another place that should be safe.

“Sweden is the first country to ban corporal punishment,” Baralt said. “Large-scale education and awareness raising campaign has reduced the rate of such punishment from 90 per cent to 10 per cent over 35 years.”

In Indonesia, however, the effort to prevent violence and corporal punishment in school is being challenged. Currently, several teachers object and is seeking a judicial review on articles 9 and 54 of Law No. 35, year 2014, regarding child protection.

They view that those articles limit their authorities to discipline children, and some teachers were criminalised for doing so. When it comes down to policies against efforts to reduce violence in schools, Patra suggested in his speech that a change of social norms is one of the solutions.

At the end of the short but intense discussion, Her Majesty gave a closing remark that summarised the dialogue.

“I am pleased that Sweden and Indonesia are working together as pathfinders in the Global Partnership to End Violence against Children,” Queen Silvia said. “Indeed, we have a long way to go, but with this meeting today we are taking yet another step forward together.” 

(Text by: Edith Emeralda)

Also read: President Joko Widodo On Building An Interconnected Indonesia

Tags: Sweden, Violence Against Children, Queen Silvia