Children Representative Forum Appeals for Inclusion in National Budget
By. G. Bennie Bravo Johnson
The Liberia National Children Representative Forum, with support from the United Nations, SOS Children Village, Save the Children, World Hope, and other partners, commemorated the Day of the African Child on June 16, 2022, in memory of the thousand schoolchildren who died in a protest in Soweto, South Africa, on June 16, 1976.
Thousands of black schoolchildren marched through the streets of Soweto, South Africa, on June 16, 1979, demanding that the low quality of their education be rectified and that they be taught in their native languages.
In 1990, the African Union passed Resolutions 1240 and 1290 to preserve the rights of African children, designating June 16 as African Children’s Day.
At the same time, the Liberian National Legislature established a children’s law in 1992 and again in 2011 to protect the rights of every Liberian child inside the country’s borders.
The “Day of the African Child” will be celebrated on June 16, 2022. This day is intended to raise awareness and educate national and international stakeholders on the importance of providing a safe space for children to speak out against harmful behaviours that impair their health.
In honouring the African child’s day, youngsters in a panel discussion discussed the significance of the day, the challenges children experience in obtaining an education, and the need to put an end to activities that violate children’s rights.
They claimed that the most serious threat to children’s rights was child labour, which comes as a result of the difficulty their parents experience to obtain job.
At the same time, the youngsters demanded that the government spend more money on education in order to improve it.
During the discussion, blind students from the School of the Blind expressed their dissatisfaction with the lack of power, access to public amenities, trained and competent teachers, and job chances for educated persons with vision difficulties. These were some of the most serious issues that blind people had to deal with.
They asserted that one of the major causes of child trafficking in Liberia is the lack of universities in every county, as well as a lack of health education in schools, as major causes of children, particularly girls, dropping out of school; thus, they urged the government to establish universities in every county and include sexual reproductive health education in the national teaching curriculum.
In another panel discussion, the ministries of gender, and health highlighted the rights of children, calling on parents and guidance to allow children to participate in major decision-making that affects them, in accordance with articles 2, 3.1, 6.2, 4.1, and 12.1 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Simultaneously, parents are encouraged to cease doing things that are harmful to their children and infringe on their rights.
The ministries requested that parents and school authorities create a secure space where children can talk about their concerns without fear of being judged during the discussion.
Domestic abuse and female genital mutilation were both outlawed by the government in 2016, thanks to legislation passed by the national legislature. FGM was opposed, but a three-year moratorium on the practice was passed later in 2018. The member of the panel applauded the government for how well the domestic violence and FGM legislation was implemented.
During the meeting, the ministry of health announced plans to collaborate with the ministry of education to provide sexual reproductive health information and menstrual pads to schoolgirls to prevent the issues they confront on school campuses.
The panellists also admonished the government, civil society organizations, and other key stakeholders to refrain from making dramatic remarks in order to protect children’s rights, and they urged all parents to provide opportunities for children to freely express themselves.
For his part, Joel U.K. Gray, the speaker of the Liberia national children forum, in accordance with sections 9.1, article 5, and section 9.5 of the Liberia children law, called on the government to provide free and quality education for all children through the ministry of education, as well as to include the children parliament in the national budget under the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection. Speaker Gray also urged the government to create chances for children with disabilities, citing section 4 and 4.2 of the Liberian Children’s Law, which states that every kid with a handicap has the right to enjoy all of the state’s advantages