The Day of the African Child Message By Prince Y. Saydee  Speaker, Liberian National Children’s Representative Forum

Prince Y. Saydee  Speaker, Liberian National Children’s Representative Forum
The Day of the African Child Message
By Prince Y. Saydee 
Speaker, Liberian National Children’s Representative Forum
 
H.E Dr. George Maneh Weah, President of the Republic of Liberia here in spirit, Members of the 54th legislature if present, Hon. Williametta E. Saydee Tarr Minister of Gender Children and Social Protection, Cllr Frank Musa Dean Minister of Justice, Professor D. Ansu Sonii Minister of Education, Hon. Gbehzohngar Milton Findley Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Moses Y. Kollie Minister of Labour, Hon. Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah Minister of Health, Representative from the ECOWAS Commission of Social Affairs and Gender, Special Representative of the President of ECOWAS Commission to Liberia, Representative from the African Union, Madam Laila O. Gad, the Country Representative, UNICEF Liberia, Mrs. Andrew Brooks, Regional Advisor, Child Protection, UNICEF Regional Office in Western and Central Africa. The Hon. Swedish Ambassador to Liberia, the Hon. British Ambassador to Liberia, Representative from the US Embassy, Hon. Sara Walter, Mission Director, USAID, Representative from Irish Aid, Mr. Kingsley Opoku Amaning, Resident Coordinator ad interim, United Nations in Liberia, Mr. Augustine A. K. Allieu, National Director, SOS Children’s Villages Liberia, Mr. Foday M. Kawah, Defense for Children International Liberian Chapter. Officials and Members of the Vanguard children’s rights institution in Liberia, the Liberian National Children’s Representative forum, other special Guest, members of the fourth estate, distinguish ladies and gentlemen.
 
Before I proceed, with these powerful words, that are bound to be marked on the continent of Africa today, I will like to ask us all to please stand as we observe a moment of silence in remembrance of; 
Those children who were killed in 1976 Soweto uprising in South Africa.
The loss of many innocent children during the Ebola crisis in Liberia.
The loss of 27 children of the muslin community in a fire disaster.
The loss of the late Linda Sherman and Francis Mensah, and many children who have suffered or suffering from injustices and violence in Liberia.
 
Let’s us extend thanks and praises to God almighty for protecting our lives while under this global crisis, as we fight to eradicate COVID-19 out of Liberia and the world at large. As we follow all the necessary health measures put in place by the government of Liberia in observance of the International Day of the African Child, we must realize that; 
 
By adopting this day as the Day of the African Child, the African Union has drawn attention to the plight, not only of children in South Africa, but also to the plight of children across Africa. The day has also become an opportunity to examine the progress of the implementation of the regional African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. Despite the progressive nature of the treaty and initiatives that accompany it, there remain huge challenges such as poverty, violence, injustices and diseases to overcome before justice to the status of the child can be claimed. Each year, a specific issue facing the African Child is chosen as a particular theme, and the theme for this year DAC event is “Access to Child-Friendly Justice in Africa”
Every year June 16, governments, NGOs, international organizations and other stakeholders celebrates the children of Africa and calls for serious introspection and commitment towards addressing the numerous challenges and opportunities facing children across the continent.
 
In line with the global theme, “Access to child friendly Justice System in Africa’’ millions of children throughout Africa don’t have access to justice that’s needed to realize their rights in most countries children can’t approach a court in their own right. On the continent, only south Africa has a widespread legal aid system that’s available and accessible to children. Liberian children are not enjoying a legal representation or their rights to an appeal. Their voices maybe muted as other speak for them (such as elder). This denies their right to participate in proceeding affecting them. It’s not entirely negative, though. One particular advantage of informal outline that it does not resort to deprivation of children liberty through detention or incarceration. In this way it upholds the injunction in the Convention of the Rights of the Child that deprivation of liberty be used as a last resort. 
 
Whether children come into contact with the law as victims, witnesses, offenders or complainants, it is equally important that they are met with a system that understands and respects both their rights and their unique vulnerability. 
We must take special care with children whose lives have become entwined in the legal system which is the backbone of child-friendly justice, a movement that calls for a dramatic shift in the ways that our justice systems interact with children.  Child-friendly justice embraces the idea that courts can be a powerful tool to positively shape children's lives and at the same time recognizes the reality that contact with the legal system is all too often more a source of additional trauma than a remedy for children. Child-friendly justice introduces principles that empower children to enforce their rights and encourages government, court, and law enforcement officials to develop policies that address children's dangerous situation in the justice system.  Child-friendly justice introduces principles that empower children to enforce their rights and encourages government, court, and law enforcement officials to develop policies that address children's precarious situation in the justice system.  
In Liberia, Justice in Matters involving Child Victims and Witnesses of Crime should first of all characterize designing and implementing legislation, policy, programs and practices to ensure full respect for child victims and witnesses. We need to recognize that children are particularly vulnerable and require special protection in their interactions with the justice system, and reaffirm the general principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Under the Guidelines, child victims and witnesses have the right to be treated with dignity and compassion, to be informed, to be heard, to receive effective assistance and benefit from special protective measures, to have their privacy and safety assured, and to seek reparation in a holistic approach must be strongly encouraged. 
 
Child-friendly justice can sound abstract and theoretical, so it can be helpful to review sound laws, policies and practices that flow from accepted principles of child-friendly justice.  However, it is first important to note that there may not always be one correct solution to a problem that children face in the legal system.  Rather, the aim of child-friendly justice is to provide a range of strategies that can be used to adapt a legal proceeding to the particular circumstances of the child or children involved.
 
As our government and partners fight to protect children from the impact of coronavirus in our country, we want to use this medium, through our analysis of the U-report findings for action, we realize that 5,716 responded out of 155,742 with montserrado county being the top region 2670 responses polled, from the information gathered, 53% of 2-5 children are living in a household while 6-8 children are 20%. 89% of children in Liberia know what corona virus is and how to prevent it. 72% of children under this lockdown are faced with a big issue of no school/Not learning, 6% are abuse at home/in communities, while 19% of children lack of food. 57% of children who are home, are taught by their parents while 8% are learning through Radio lesson. 66% of children in their household have no food to eat. 18% of children under this lockdown have nothing during, while 55% of them are reading home from parent’s knowledge. At the level of the children’s parliament we want to take this time to appreciate our partners for mapping up these significant data from our careful observation and analysis of the U-report, we believed that there are more needs to be done as a means of ensuring protection and catering to the wellbeing of children of this republic under this global crisis 
 
The children of Liberia are going through lot of difficulties while under this global outbreak, Lack of food, Lack of Electricity, majority are not learning. 
 
I therefore want to use this time to call on the government of Liberia and International partners; 
in other to stop children living on starvation we need more food for children at home before they become more vulnerable to society or bread winner for their family, 
 
We need stable electricity to keep children at home while under this lockdown.
We need more outreach awareness’s on the radio and in communities as a means of easing the learning system for children under this global crisis.
We need more budgetary support to ensure that caregivers are collaborating in an effective manner that they can be able to respond to violence against children under this global crisis. 
We need to ensure that the LNP/WACPS and other lines ministry of the government, and child welfare organizations are empowered with the necessary support to take children from the street. And stop being street less children. 
 
Social workers, police officers, teachers, doctors, nurses, hospital receptionists and anyone else who might encounter child victims should receive appropriate training and be able to quickly refer them to designated points of contact in the legal system.
We need to take immediately Steps to protect child victims from further harm and to link them with services they may need to reach a full physical and psychological recovery.
We need Free 24-hour helplines that should be put in place to offer child victims a chance to discuss their options before bringing matters to the attention of authorities.
Children should be interviewed by trained professionals in the presence of trusted adults.
When a child agrees to testify in court, measures should be taken to keep the child at ease. Children should not be forced to have contact with alleged perpetrators.
 
Any child apprehended by the police and suspected of wrongdoing should be given an immediate opportunity to contact a parent, guardian or trusted person and provided with access to a lawyer free of charge.
 
We need to ensure that the African Union Chapter recommendations are implemented full in Liberia. 
Submit it periodic report to the committee on the status of the implementation of the ACRWC
Harmonize customary and statutory marriage laws with the chapter 
repeal provisions of the penal code imposing death penalty and life imprisonment on children 
Ban corporal punishment in all settings and undertake awareness creation activities to introduce positive disciplining.
Ratify Hague convention on inter country adoption
Ensure effective coordination between the various governmental actors working on child rights and welfare in counties and nationally through the MOGCSP.
Undertake measures to ensure that pregnant girls and adolescent mothers are giving the necessary support to continue their education
Implement the inclusive education policy and ensure that children with disabilities in urban and rural centers enjoy their right to education.
Establish juvenile courts in more counties and increase the number of rape courts
Train female police members to be part of the women and children protection police unit to increase reporting on rape
Identify and address root causes of rape and other sexual abuse;
Explicitly ban FGM and take other measures to eradicate the practice.
 
Under Child friendly Budgeting;
the committees note that there is no clear link between child right laws and budget hence making it difficult to implement child rights laws. Furthermore, the MOGCSP is under resourced heavily and reliant on partners funding.
 
Distinguish ladies and gentlemen, the notion that children deserve special attention in the legal system is not a new one, what are we waiting for to make the legal system more child friendly? we need to make the justice system of Liberia more accessible to children and child friendly, we need to ensure that cases involving children in court are handle adequately and effectively without discriminating judgement based on ages or status. 
 
On behalf of the children of Liberia and the Liberian National Children’s Representative Forum, let me use this medium to extend thanks and appreciation to the Government of Liberia and our International partners for their support to the children of Liberia.

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