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Child Rights Act Bill 2022 YACAN engages Stakeholders on Popularization Campaign

Child Rights Act Bill 2022 YACAN engages Stakeholders on Popularization Campaign

A renowned Child advocacy organization called Youth and Child Advocacy Network (YACAN), in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Welfare (MoSW) and the Ministry of Gender & Children’s Affairs (MOGCA), and concerned stakeholders, has concluded fruitful engagements to popularize the reviewed Child Rights Draft Bill 2022. (Photo: In Waterloo Council Hall from left to right YACAN Director, Kanu and HM Wenz)

The popularization meeting, which was held at the Waterloo Council Hall on York Road in the Western Area Rural District Council (WARD-C), attracted several MDAs, youth groups, community stakeholders and other child rights organizations Saturday 5th November 2022.

Giving the welcoming address, the Headman of Waterloo Community, Leslie Osili Whenzle, expressed appreciation to YACAN, MDAs and other participants for honoring the invitation, and wished everybody a fruitful stay in Waterloo.

Headman Whenzle described a child as someone very vulnerable and needs total protection until he/she attains maturity or age of consent.

The Executive Director of YACAN, Hassan Fuad Kanu, said his organization was established mainly to advocate for youths and kids across the country, adding that YACAN had actually been monitoring issues around child protection with meaningful interventions and empowerment programmes for young people.

He added that there is no better way to say children are protected if there are no proper laws governing the affairs and welfare status of youths and kids.

Before now, both past and present governments had been putting resources together on child protection matters, but the issues around child sexual penetration are actually very expensive and time consuming to the extent that government still needs to invest heavily to enhance quality in protecting children.

“To respond is always very expensive than to prevent and YACAN will continue to take the lead to ensure that the CRA Bill 2022 become a law. I will assure this gathering that we are going to start our campaign to raise awareness on this new law which government is about to put into law soon, the YACAN Executive Director noted.

He continued that as an advocacy group, they want to see Sierra Leonean children grow above the age of consent before they would be allowed to marry their preferred partners.

He said they are not against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), but FGM practitioners should note that under-age children must not be part of any initiation ceremony because of their vulnerability and immaturity.

“I want to ask a question to Sowei that if a child is initiated into a secret society, how that secret society will guarantee such underage activities. In some cases, we say catch them when they are young but for FGM initiation we say no until they reach the age of consent,” Hassan Kanu noted.

He asserted that prior to such  engagements, they now have an understanding between them and the Bondo FGM society women across most districts and chiefdoms, noting that they as child advocacy group  do not intend to discredit any traditional society ‘but all we want is to protect our children.’

Delivering the keynote address and also updating on the review process, a senior staff from the Ministry of Gender and Children’s Affairs (MOGCA), Daniel Albert Gbow, expressed happiness to the host community, especially WARD-C and the various stakeholders present for making the occasion a successful one and also recognizing the efforts of YACAN and other child protection groups for their collaborative efforts.

He stated that they are responsible for monitoring, evaluating and also  making policies on various child-related matters to ensure that the rights of children are actually maintained, adding that they are not operating in isolation but with other line Ministries, Departments and Agencies ( MDAs) to make sure that the right things are done.

He informed the gathering that YACAN is a registered child protection group operating under the Ministry of Gender and Children Affairs to enhance a level playing field with regards the review process for the Child Rights Act Bill 2022.

He furthered that the 2007 CRA bill is overdue, and that if the Act is not reviewed, the country would continue to face serious issues with human capacity and empowerment.   

He noted that the Child Rights Act 2007 provides for the promotion of the rights of the child, which was well-matched with the Convention on the Rights of the child adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 20th November 1989, and its optional Protocol of 8th September 2000.

He added that the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the child clearly states policies which need thorough review to encourage other children in African countries and the world at large.

“Before now, we have engaged all the expertise involved in child protection areas to form technical working platforms or groups to look at the Child Rights Act 2007 and see what is good or bad. We have developed some documents and looked at the areas that affect children mostly,” he said.

He added that they have already compiled the reports and validated it at regional, district and chiefdom level, and they have finally sent it to Law Officers’ Department.

He said Child Protection Partners were well aware of the final stage of the Child Right Act 2022.

He noted that all what the people recommended at both district and chiefdom level would be in the final draft and that it is now left with parliamentarians to adopt the bill and pass it into law.

Other speakers, including the District National Youth Council Chairperson, Madam Marie Bangura and the representative from the Ministry of Social Welfare, Edson Kamara, also made meaningful contributions.

By Alhassan Bangura

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