The Viable and Operable Ideas for Child Equality (VOICE) conference was a three-day event convened from 12th-14th December at the Bali Convention Centre in Indonesia. It was organized by Care and Protection of Children (CPC) Learning Network and PUSKAPA, a child-focused NGO in Indonesia. Officiated by the Pungky Sumadi, Indonesia’s deputy minister for Population and Labour, the event drew participants from several entities counting Indonesia’s central government representatives, local and international NGOs, the academia and research institutions. These came together to deliberate on ‘finding scientific answers to the 21st century challenges for families, communities and public policy’, the theme of the conference.

Some of the eye-catching episodes during the event included plenary parallel sessions on various topics such as: children, climate change and migration, social norms that underlie harms for children and children and technology. Similarly, local contextualization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS) was reflected upon.

AfriChild Centre used this occasion to disseminate study findings for its research studies on ‘Utilizing ICT to prevent and respond to violence against children’ and ‘Understanding the role of social norms to prevent and respond to violence against children in Uganda.’ Joyce Wanican, AfriChild’s Executive Director chaired one of the sessions on social norms in which Dr Richard Wamimbi, AfriChild’s research associate presented findings on social norms that breed child marriages in Uganda. These include: the belief that parents who marry off their daughters early are honored by society; a girl should not menstruate in her parents’ home because it brings misfortune and that a girl should not get pregnant in her father’s home because it brings dishonor and shame to the family.

Other famous highlights included a key note address on ‘governing in a changing world’ by Yanuar Nugroho, the deputy chief of staff in the executive office of the president of Indonesia. He noted that Information Technology is alienating children from society rather than integrating them.

“What we know as culture is being reshaped very fast and if we don’t rethink this, we’ll all get lost. Technology is not an end in itself,” he told participants.

The VOICE conference was well attended with over 300 participants from about 20 countries. During the closing ceremony, Mark Canavera, the Co-director of the CPC Learning Network announced that the VOICE conference will be held every two years. He announced that the one in 2020will be hosted in Uganda by the AfriChild Centre in collaboration with PUSKAPA.