DAY of the AFRICAN CHILD Remarks By Mrs. Williametta E. Saydee-Tarr Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection
DAY of the AFRICAN CHILD Remarks
By Mrs. Williametta E. Saydee-Tarr
Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection
June 16, 2020
Hon. Edwin M. Snowe, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee & Chair of ECOWAS Parliamentary Committee on Political Affairs, Peace, Security and African Peer Review Mechanisms and other Members of the Honorable Legislature here present;
The Dean of Cabinet Hon Gbehzongar M. Findley, the Minister of Justice, Hon Frank Musah Dean, and other Officials of government here present;
Our Keynote Speaker Master Prince Y. Saydee, Speaker of the Liberian National Children Representative Forum;
UN Resident Coordinator H.E. Amaning Kingsley; Ms. Laila O. Gad, UNICEF’s Resident Representative and other members of the One UN Family here present;
H.E. BABATUNDE AJIMOSO, Special Representative of the President of ECOWAS Commission to Liberia;
Dr. Siga Fatima Jagne, Commissioner of Social Affairs and Gender, ECOWAS Commission;
Hon. Andrew Brooks, Regional Advisor, Child Protection, UNICEF Regional Office/Western & Central Africa
Hon. Amira Elfadil Mohammed Elfadil, Commissioner for Social Affairs, African Union *in absentia*
Members of the Diplomatic Corps here present;
Our Regional and Local Partners and other friends supporting the work of Women and Children in Liberia
Traditional Leaders and Elders of the Council of Chiefs;
Youth and Student Organizations;
Friends of the Media Community;
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen and, most importantly, our Liberian Children:
Every year, on 16 June, the African Union and its Member States observe the Day of the African Child (DAC) as a commemoration of the 1976 student uprising in Soweto, South Africa, where students who marched in protest against apartheid-inspired education, were brutally murdered. Inspite of its dark beginnings, this day is set aside to celebrate the children of Africa and call for serious introspection and commitment towards addressing the numerous challenges they face in Africa. Let me say that on behalf of our President, His Excellency George Manneh Weah, who has already issued a Proclamation commemorating today as a working holiday, it is with great honor that Liberia joins other nations around the globe to commemorate the Day of the African Child. Today is not only historic because it is set aside to recognize the struggles and challenges children across Africa endure in their everyday lives, but it is a day when African leaders and stakeholders can also retrospect on how we are taking care of our children, and design new ways of addressing issues related to their development throughout our great continent.
To complicate already existing social issues like rape, child labor, child trafficking, female genital mutilation, social abandonment, teenage pregnancy, which children in Liberia and Africa are experiencing, the coming of the Ebola Virus Disease, and now the COVID -19, have further rendered more children vulnerable. Like in many other African States, the children of Liberia continue to face challenges which is as a result of our struggling socio-economic infrastructure. Though the Government of Liberia under the leadership of President Weah continues to make gains in the restoration of basic social services and improvements in the lives of children, violence against children, poor health, lack of full access to education, nutrition, clean water and sanitation, and protection systems, continue to dampen the livelihood of children across the country. As Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, my team and I have been working tirelessly with support from our many development partners to tackle the many issues affecting children. We believe that we have made undeniable gains in solving children related issues since the signing and ratification of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of children by forty-eight African Countries. Nevertheless, in the face of all our achievements, many children across Africa are still yet to feel the impact of our work.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I urge all well-meaning Liberians, local and international organizations to continue to design innovative ways to address issues affecting children. This begins by creating a space where children can share their vision and their concerns. Children organizations like the Liberia National Children’s Representative Forum must be given the space to participate in the formulation and implementation policies that affect the lives of children. This year marks the 30th Anniversary of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and, with this milestone, we at the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection are very happy to be collaborating with UNICEF and ECOWAS to allow a space for the voices of our children to be heard and listened to; I look forward to hearing from the Speaker of the Liberian National Children’s Representative Forum as he shares the children’s vision for a Liberia, free of COVID-19, where their rights and welfare are fulfilled. I also look forward to hearing their presentation on the U –report. We want to ensure the sustainable implementation of the ECOWAS Child Rights Policy (2019-2030) and its’ Strategic Action Plan, and the ECOWAS Strategic Framework for Strengthening National Child Protection Systems to Prevent and Respond to Violence, Abuse and Exploitation against Children in West Africa, with Liberia as the pilot country.
Before I close, I will like to remind all of us that this year’s celebration is being done under the important Global theme: “ACCESS TO CHILD-FRIENDLY JUSTICE IN AFRICA” and the national theme: “ENSURING THE PROVISION OF CHILD JUSTICE-FRIENDLY SYSTEM IN LIBERIA.” For us to achieve a child friendly justice system, we need to begin to ensure that we have elements of a child-friendly justice system. We can do this by employing already researched guidelines including having an accessible, speedy - age appropriate system; having a system that does its’ own due diligence and that is adapted to, and focused on, the needs of the child; we need to respect children’s rights to due process; respect their rights to be educated about the legal processes, to enable them participate in, and understand, the proceedings; and, we need to respect their rights to private and family life; and their right to integrity and dignity. The aforementioned, coupled with the application of a child rights-based approach and the usage of the four principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, namely - Non-Discrimination – which is a general principle as identified by the committee on the rights of the child that all children should enjoy their rights and should never be subjected to any discrimination. We should always act in the best interests of our children, and ensure that we protect their right to survival and development and their views.
These principles should continue to be used as tools for realizing access to a child-friendly justice system in Africa. We must exert all efforts in creating a platform for dialogue among children, policymakers, organizations working on children’s rights, and the academics on the major challenges in ensuring equal access to child-friendly justice for all children in Africa, yea Liberia. I am happy to report that my colleagues Ministers from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Justice, Labor, Health and Education and I, are working very closely together on all issues affecting children. Coupled with the Children’s Law on the books, our recently passed law on Domestic Violence goes a long way in also protecting our children and bringing perpetrators to justice. No longer can cases fall prey to compromise, as with all criminal acts against minors, it is now legally the State versus the perpetrator. The Ministry of Labor leads Liberia’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Taskforce that we are all a part of; we have seriously doubled down on TIP and are on track to ensure we have locally tailored solutions to ending Child trafficking. We have been working on ending Early Child Marriage (ECM) and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Liberia, Presently, I am on my way to Grand Capemount County as a part of a monitoring exercise on the suspension of all bush schools.
As a government, our commitment remains to ensuring that the rights of our precious jewels, our children who are the future of this land, are protected. Let’s continue to work on “ENSURING THE PROVISION OF CHILD JUSTICE-FRIENDLY SYSTEM IN LIBERIA. I thank you.