NMYCW vows to protect girls’ and women’s rights
The Network Movement for Youth and Children’s Welfare (NMYCW) has stood firm to protect women and children’s rights in Sierra Leone through its 19 Days of Activism aiming at preventing women and children from human rights violations which a good number of them have been suffering in silence.
In his remarks, the National Coordinator of NMYCW, Mr. Ajie Bah, stated that the 19 Days Activism is an initiative of 500 groups across the globe. He continued to say that this year’s campaign theme was selected based on the need. He used this opportunity to introduce the campaign partners and those who supported the program despite the multiple challenges. The National Coordinator also stated that most parents send their children to campaign activities ignorant of the situation that the children get involved into. Therefore, he urged all advocacy/campaign partners to redesign a new road map to mitigate the issues of young peoples’ involvement into electoral violence as a result of alcohol and substance abuse in Sierra Leone. Furthermore, he also reminded participants that it was not really easy to also select a slogan but, was at last achieved. He inform participants that 30 organizations are working as partners in the campaign at local/national level and also gave a vivid information of the campaign at international level.
At the international level, the National Coordinator stated that to date, up to 500 organizations have responded to the Call to Action representing 135 countries as part of the global Network Call to Action by including the relevant United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Agenda (SDGs) to be achieved by 2030, adopted by world leaders at the UN General Assembly in 2015, which are truly inspirational and transformational. A new paradigm for development and human rights has been inaugurated and we need to partner with Government to help deliver the pledged results for children and youths with no one left behind. He ended up by stating that it was really very difficult and challenging to work with Government MDAs but, however he said the campaign partners moved on and managed to continue their engagements despite the multiple huddles to have reached to this end today. He thanked all present for their kind attention and referred to the Chairperson of the program.
The Chairman thanked the National Coordinator for the overview and moved the program to the making of statement/s. Under this agenda item, he referred to the Chairman of the Sierra Leone Alcohol Policy Alliance (SLAPA) to make a statement on the “efforts to enact alcohol policy in Sierra Leone”. Mr. Ibrahim Kamara Chairman of SLAPA came in and stated that he is happy for seeing CSOs gathered together on the issues of alcohol and drug abuse by young people in Sierra Leone especially during electioneering periods. Mr. Kamara gave a brief background of SLAPA and its activities over the years. He said that SLAPA will not rest until Sierra Leone as a country enact and alcohol and drug Laws/policies. He continue to state that this can only be achieved if all of us put hands on deck to help take up the issues with the Government and its line MDAs, development partners and key stakeholders. Keeping children and youths away from alcohol and substance abuse especially during electoral periods is important and timely. He stated that since 1920, the country had no Law/policy on alcohol and drug abuse until the Cocaine plane landed in Lungi sometimes in 2014 which caused the then Parliamentarians to draft a Law mainly focusing on punishment. This he said implies that the country does not have any alcohol and drug Law/policy and that the old existing Law/policy does not suit the present day Sierra Leone and that there is all need to undertake advocacy initiatives to enact alcohol and drug abuse Law/policy. He informed attendants that there are series of gaps within the existing Law/policy. Following this, Mr. Kamara cited examples of what is happening in Eastern part of the capital city during election related activities as a result of alcohol and drugs abuse by young people and the violence acts that they get involved in during election related activities. He said that we all need to do something about it. He further informed participants that SLAPA will be conducting series of research around the issues and stated that the missing things in our work is monitoring and evaluation aspects including surveillance of activities. At the end of his statement, Mr. Kamara highlighted the action points of SLAPA for 2018 and at this end; he thanked participants for their kind attention.
The program Chairperson thanked Mr. Kamara and highlighted critical points that he raised during his statement. He informed attendants that NMYCW is taking note of key issues which the movement will later use. At this juncture, the Chairman called on the representative from of the National Youth Commission (NAYCOM) to make a statement on “youth and development with perspective of the fight against addiction and substance abuse of alcohol/drugs during and after electoral events”. Miss Jaminatu Jalloh the representative from NAYCOM stated that it is an opportunity for the youth Commission to be part of this discussion with regards young people’s involvement in alcohol, drug and or substance abuse especially during electoral times. She stated that NAYCOM is doing all it can to help change the statues of youth involvement into electoral violence especially getting involved in substance abuse which leads them into violence. This she said will only be achieved with the help of the Network and its general partners.
Miss Jalloh informed participants that the Commission is engaging young people in various places on the abuse and misuse of alcohol and drugs. She stated that many people use alcohol and drugs but, abusing the substances is the huge concern. She said that the Commission is open to new innovations. However, she said NAYCOM is doing a lot with regards youths and substance abuse/misuse but, needs complementary effort like yours to enable us get there. She informed the participants that there is an important to engage alcohol producers in country to see how possible it will be to reduce the alcoholic content of their products. This is because, the alcoholic content of some drinks are too high which is a critical issues that needs intervention. At the end of her presentation, Miss Jalloh stated that NAYCOM will be very much interested in some of the critical issues emanating from the dialogue Forum. She ended up by stating that there is also every need to view the issues of young people’s increased involvement in violence as a result of drugs and alcohol abuse and misuse especially during electoral periods as a key development challenge to the electioneering processes in Sierra Leone. She said that it is serious and must be viewed as such. She thanked participants for their kind attention.
Mrs. Jenneh Jalloh said that she is happy to make a statement on the topic. She came in to thank the Chair person and all participants especially the organizers – NMYCW and partners for the laudable advocacy/campaign initiatives on drugs and alcohol abuse by young people especially during electoral times in Sierra Leone. She stated that several efforts have been made from two levels of interventions which are at global and regional levels. Firstly, she said that the United Nation has done a lot to control or combat drug and alcohol abuse at the global level of which Sierra Leone is a member. We should know that abuse of alcohol is a global health issue as stated by the World Health Organization (WHO) looking at the causes it has on the user. Mrs. Jalloh stated that the higher level of concern is on misuse and effect in every area in society. She also stated that most parents spend huge money on alcohol and forget to send their children to school which has many adverse effects on the child and society at large. Interestingly, Mrs. Jalloh stated that it is good that men drink and women don’t. This is because, if both parents drink, the rights of children will be of huge concern at global level.
At Civil Society level, it is very important that CSOs increase their advocacy initiatives to make national Government enact Laws/policies on alcohol and drug abuse and push alcohol producers to abide by those rules, regulation, Laws and or policies. Furthermore, drug and alcohol advertisements are not fair because, producers use nice and or fictitious adverts that capture and or lure young people into drugs and alcohol abuse. Alcohol advertisements actually draw young people’s attention and involve them into substance abuse and misuse. Marketing of alcohol is also a global concern because; alcohol is sold within 24 hours period. WAPA has held international conference on alcohol and substance abuse which outcomes will help international and regional bodies begin the process of Law and policy formulations at country level. The development of Law and policy affects not only the West African countries but, also countries in southern and Eastern regions of Africa. Informatively, GAPA will be launched in Sierra Leone and this is a good opportunity for partner organizations. She encouraged SLAPA to get connected to the focal point person who seats at FORUT office in Freetown. WAPA is now operational in 6 Districts but, hope to spread across the country. Finally, Mrs. Jalloh stated SLAPA and WAPA need to work together to help achieve greater program outcomes on substance abuse in Sierra Leone. She thanked all participants present and pledged her support to the advocacy initiatives.
Furthermore, Mr. Kanneh stated it is really pathetic to note that ill motivated politicians are aware of this and take advantage of the innocence and ignorance of young people and buy them alcohol and drugs to get involved in violent activities while pushing forward their own political agendas. This should be a serious by all stakeholders including Civil Society groups. This is a means to directly exploit young people who are really not aware of the overall situation but, continue to get involved in political violence with the aim of getting money from the politicians. Note that there is a general saying that it is only during this time that young people should get money from the politicians because, after elections, they turn their backs on youths and their related development issues across the country. Moreover, it is also important to note that during electoral periods, drugs and alcohol is almost free to be use by youths across the country and can be misused and abused open in the streets without any question or comment that seek to remedy the situation. It is now a culture that during electoral activities, drugs and alcohol is free and can be used anywhere and at any time. Lastly, Mr. Kanneh reiterated that because politicians lie a lot as their strategy is to get young people intoxicated whilst they give them false promises which youths will not dare to remember so as to hold them accountable. Hence they will at the end dump the youths after election because, they have nothing meaningful to remind and hold their elected representatives accountable. Finally, Mr. Kanneh ended up by stating that CSOs need to serve as peace ambassadors to help change the mindset of young people before, during and after electoral activities across the country. He thanked all participants for their kind attention and said AI SL is committed to the advocacy initiatives.
“I would like to suggest that we take a long term approach and encourage a sense of partnership. You have to tutor others and the Sierra Leonean people using information from scientific inquiry about what works and what does not. You can assume that Mr. Alie Bah and other members of NMYCW will take the results of your work and be your public servant,’ he concluded.
By Illyasa Baa
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