CHILDREN'S WEEK 2012 »The joys and hardships of growing up« – Slovenian Association of Friends of Youth drawing attention to the violation of children's rights in Slovenia

1. 10. 2012

In its message on the occasion of Children’s Week, the Slovenian Association of Friends of Youth drew attention to the poverty and misery of many children in our country who, as a result of parents’ or carers’ loss of employment status, have no access to the basic health insurance, education or healthy nutrition. Slovenia still lacks legislation that would ban corporal punishment of children, and the existing legislation on protecting the life, safety and dignity of children is unsatisfactory.

At the press conference, facilitated by Karin Elena Sánchez, SAFY secretary general, the guests discussed the Slovenian Association of Friends of Youth’s message on the occasion of Children’s Week, the joys and hardships of growing up, implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in Slovenia, progress of the Wink at the Sun campaign and operation of the TOM telephone helpline for children and youths.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted 23 years ago, came into force in Slovenia in 1992 and regulates the field of fundamental children’s rights. It represents an important historic landmark and conscience of mankind. It provides a guiding thread for creating, adopting and implementing standards for the protection, safeguarding and development of children. An important and fundamental principle of the Convention on the Rights of the Child is that the child’s best interest is a fundamental guideline for all conduct and all decisions with regard to the child. The signatories to the Convention take all appropriate measures to assure the child’s right to life, survival and development; to protect the child from all forms of physical and mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, and cruelty; ensure the right to the best possible healthcare standards and healthcare institution services and medical rehabilitation; acknowledge the right to a standard of living which corresponds his/her physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development; the right to receive formal education; the right to rest and have free time, leisure and recreation, according to his/her age, and the right to free participation in cultural life and art.

Darja Groznik, president of the Slovene Association of Friends of Youth: »Children’s Week is also dedicated to discuss the joys of childhood and we are glad that this year’s campaign Wink at the Sun was again a big success. With the help of donors we made holidays possible for 259 children at the national level, and additionally, with FIHO funds, a further 100 children could enjoy free holidays. However, the campaign being very strong also at the local level with 122 associations and societies within the Friends of Youth, we made free holidays possible at our sea and mountain resorts for at least 2,134 children. We believe there will be even more next year. In the name of all happy children I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all donors and sponsors and to our long-term partner Lek.«

Karin Elena Sánchez, SAFY secretary general: »TOM telephone is the only helpline for advice and support for children and youth in Slovenia. This year, as a part of the new campaign »New Number, Old Friends«, we introduced a new phone number 116 111, in accordance with the European Commission directive ordering all humanitarian organizations within the EU to use uniform phone numbers. Today we also marked the official launch of the new web site, through which children and youth can ask questions when a telephone is not accessible. The updated web site will now provide a source of information on topics of the most interest to them: school, drugs, family, love, violence and sex as well as the safer use of the internet. As a partner in the Safe Use of the Internet project we pay special attention to this issue. In 2011, TOM received a total of 34,084 calls, of which 6,328 calls warranted a counselling conversation and are subject to analysis. The majority of callers are between 12 and 15 years old, predominantly girls. The most common questions deal with love-life, pubescent development and sexuality, relationships with peers, society and school, physical and psychological problems, addiction and abuse.«

Katarina Klemenc, Head Corporate Communication at Lek: »For over a decade, Lek, a Sandoz company, has been a partner of the Association of Friends of Youth, and for 14 years we have been co-creating the Wink of the Sun campaign. Over this period, we allocated more than 200,000 Euros for free holidays for children from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds and for SAFY operations. Through the long-term collaboration with SAFY we have come across stories, some upsetting and some with a happy ending. Therefore we are well aware of how important the work of the friends of youth is, who are trying through various activities to create special moments for all children, especially those who find themselves in difficult circumstances. This year’s message on the occasion of Children’s Week will certainly leave no one indifferent and we hope it my draw in others to help those children and families who need our help.«

Darja Groznik, president of the Slovene Association of Friends of Youth: »Next year, our organisation will celebrate its 60th anniversary and on this occasion various activities will be organised across Slovenia under the auspices of our local associations and societies, through which we will promote our mission, key individuals, events and especially achievements of friends of youth from 1953 to 2013. In this year’s message, we, friends of youth, are very outspoken in order to draw attention to the (co)responsibility of the general public for children’s rights in our country. Non-governmental organisations including SAFY can alleviate children’s distress, but it is the state which has the obligation to provide the same opportunities for health, education, nutrition, extra-curricular activities etc. on a systemic level. Two weeks ago we proposed to the Minister of Health an initiative for a change to health legislation which would recognise children as individual holders of rights arising from compulsory health insurance independent of the (employment) status of their parents or carers. To date we have received no answer or invitation for discussion. The situation with regard to Slovenian legislation, especially the implementation of policy on children’s rights, is disappointing. We consider ourselves a democratic state, but Slovenian children do not have equal opportunities to access education, health insurance and other fundamental children’s rights, including the right to participate in leisure activities.«

Dr Zdenka Čebašek–Travnik, ombudswoman: »For many years the Slovenian Ombudsman’s Office has been drawing attention to the poverty issue in Slovenia which is still hidden to a great extent but is largely present. Unfortunately we still have no data available neither as to how many children suffer poverty nor as to how many children have no medical insurance. On the occasion of Children’s Week, we are again calling on those responsible and accountable in the country to provide health insurance for all children and adolescents up to 18 years of age irrespective of their parents’ status and at least one meal a day in schools for all children. The Slovenian Association of Friends of Youth and all non-governmental organisations in Slovenia, along with the help of supporters, are very active in alleviating difficulties encountered by children and families who find themselves in difficult circumstances. On this occasion I would like to add that it would be sensible to design programs for raising children’s awareness, teaching and directing them how to identify and respond to the poverty of their peers.«

More information:
Karin Elena Sánchez, SAFY Secretary General
Slovenian Association of Friends of Youth
Miklošičeva 16
1000 Ljubljana
tel.: 01/ 2396 720
fax.: 01/2396 722