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Press Centre (5/2008)

2008/05/16 - Child Protection


Children First: a fond farewell to phase one The closing ceremony of the first phase of the EU?backed project was marked by frank personal statements from project beneficiaries.
A girl speaking
Ambassador Marc Pierini, Head of the European Delegation to Turkey and Ankara child
court judge Ms. Gökten Koçoğlu listen as a
Children First participant gives her views on
the project.
Photograph by Oğuz Sağdıç © UNICEF Turkey 2008
Children First logo
Towards Good Governance,
Justice and Protection
for Children in Turkey

The closing ceremony to mark the end of the first phase of the 33–month EU–financed project Children First:Towards Good Governance, Protection and Justice for Children in Turkey was held in Ankara on May 14. The project, implemented by the Government, UNICEF and non–governmental organisations (NGOs), aimed to uphold the rights of children in contact with the law and strengthen the protective environment for vulnerable children and families.

In attendance were Minister of State, Nimet Çubukçu, the Head of the Delegation of the European Commission to Turkey, Ambassador Marc Pierini, and UNICEF Turkey Representative Reza Hossaini. Key figures from all the state agencies that took part in the project, including the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of National Education, the Social Services and Child Protection Agency (SHÇEK), Turkish Bar Association and the Gendarmerie General Command — the main project coordinator — were among the audience.

Professionals, volunteers, parents and children who played a direct part in the project as participants and beneficiaries spoke about their experiences. TV presenter and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Tayfun Talipoğlu introduced the speakers in an atmosphere more reminiscent of a live debate than an offıcial gathering.

Hande Dikmen with her family
My mother listens to me more carefully now, said Handenur Dikmen the daughter of a
couple who had attended a My Family parenting education course.
Photograph by Oğuz Sağdıç © UNICEF Turkey 2008

Better parenting

One girl explained how she had learned to express herself better, cope with stress, resolve conflicts, and eventually pass these skills onto her fellow adolescents as a qualified peer trainer. I can help my friends with anything, she declared.

My mother listens to me more carefully now, said Handenur Dikmen the daughter of a couple who had attended a My Family parenting education course. I used to wonder, Why don’t they listen to me? explained her mother Emel Dikmen, But then I learned how to get on the same eye–level and explain myself. There were problems between me and my husband and [the course] came like medicine. I recommend it to everyone.

Thanks to Children First, the My Family programme for parents aged 0–6 has been improved and expanded. Already, 600,000 fathers, mothers and children have taken part: many of them from poor backgrounds with low levels of educational attainment. As a result, they know more about their children’s health, development and education and make less use of violence to discipline them. Parenting courses have also been developed for families with adolescent children, in addition to the peer–to–peer Life Skills–Based Education programme implemented by adolescents themselves.

Reza Hossaini
UNICEF Representative Hossaini:
The project has brought children’s
issues out of the shadows, put the
spotlight on children in difficult
circumstances, generated evidence
and developed models of child
protection that can be extended.

Photograph by Oğuz Sağdıç
© UNICEF Turkey 2008

 

From punishment to education

The child justice system, the central focus of Children First, was also a major talking point at the closing ceremony. They regard us as more trustworthy now, said Mr. Sefer Demirci chief prison guard from a child detention centre, a beneficiary of one of the many training programmes developed and implemented for those dealing with child suspects and offenders. Nobody cuts themselves any more, he added, referring to self–mutilation, a common reaction by both children and adults to the stress of confinement that is observed in detention centres the world over. It has become less of a prison and more of an education institution, declared another prison guard.

Children First has also provided social workers at detention centres with new activities and materials for use with chldren in custody and with their families. The programmes are now being implemented by the Ministry of Justice using its own resources.

Ankara child court judge Ms. Gökten Koçoğlu stressed the importance of listening to child offenders and of ordering alternative measures to punishment. She indicated that the Children First project had been useful both in educating members of the legal professions and by increasing coordination among relevant government institutions. She thanked the project for the perspective it has brought to their work.

Children with a voice

For her part, Cansu Aydin of the child–led Children’s Rights Committee in Ankara province was grateful for having had the opportunity to discuss children’s issues with high–level officials including the President of the Republic and members of parliament. She said members of the committee had provided child rights education to many other boys and girls including some living in children’s homes and detention centres.

Children First supported the development of a model for increasing the involvement of children in local governance and in monitoring their own rights, and this model has been field–tested with children, local authorities and communities in 25 provinces. Meanwhile, participation of children was adopted as a guiding principle for all project activities – including, of course, the closing ceremony.

Nimet Çubukçu
Minister of State, Nimet Çubukçu:
This project is not a project which has
come to an end … We are moving
towards a process in which important
steps will be taken to strengthen the
protective environment.

Photograph by Oğuz Sağdıç
© UNICEF Turkey 2008

Building capacity

Minister Çubukçu described the Child Protection Law of 2005 as a turning point in child protection. Acknowledging that the capacity of Turkey’s institutions to implement the Law was previously limited, she said that Children First had helped to integrate the Law into institutional practice as well as to break down social resistance in areas such as the treatment of child offenders and the use of violence against children as a form of dscipline.

This project is not a project which has come to an end, the minister promised, We are moving towards a process in which important steps will be taken to strengthen the protective environment.

Ambassador Pierini gave voice to the feelings of all present when he commended the determination and passion with which all those concerned have worked on this project.

UNICEF Representative Hossaini underlined that the project had brought children’s issues out of the shadows, put the spotlight on children in difficult circumstances, generated evidence and developed models that could be extended.

Moving on

Fortunately, this is not the end of Children First. Agreement has been reached on a further phase of the project: Modelling Child Protection Mechanisms at the Provincial Level, which will build on the achievements and information obtained during the first stage. This phase will provide an opportunity to complete unfinished strands such as a catch–up education programme developed for children aged 10–14 who have never been enrolled or have been out of school for a long time, and minimum standards drawn up for children living without parental care and ensure that the service models developed for disadvantaged children are operating efficiently. The second phase will run for fifteen months with funding of €5.8 million. The EU will provide a grant to the value of €4.8 million while UNICEF will provide a further €1 million in addition to technical support.

State Minister Nimet Çubukçu thanks UNICEF.

For more information about the closing ceremony:

Sema Hosta, UNICEF Turkey Communications Officer:
+90 (0)312 454 1000, Cell: 0533 622 8346

For more information and resources related to the project, see the Children First Information Resources page.

UNICEF Turkey Country Office, Yukarı Dikmen Mah. Alexsander Dubçek Cd. 7/106, 06450 Çankaya/Ankara. Telephone: +90 312 454 1000 Fax: +90 312 496 1461 E-mail: ankara@unicef.org