FOROYAA Newspaper (Serrekunda)

Gambia: Stakeholder's Forum On Violence Against Child Protection Opens

The department of social welfare in collaboration with UNICEF and the child protection alliance organized a two-day forum to sensitize and create awareness in the communities on the child rights protection and their commitment to individual and collective action when the rights of child are abused. The forum is aimed at preventing, responding and resolving child abuses such as neglect, exploition and violence experienced by children in all settings which require a multi disciplinary and multi sectoral approach.

The forum was organized in response to the recommendation of the CCPCs and ANWGs during the monitoring. The objective of the forum is to bring together representatives from all the CCPCs and ANWGs in the Gambia to share good practices, learn about their challenges and to provide technical support for the effective and efficient functioning of the CCPCs and ANWGs. This they believe will enhance the protective environment for children within their communities.

The Director of Social Welfare Fanta Bai Secka stated that the forum is important in two folds, firstly, they appreciate and value the protection of our vulnerable children by community child protection communities and the neighborhood watch group and secondly, they value the partnership that we have all developed over the years with our partners and sponsors, UNICEF, Child Fund, CPA and CEDAG,

Director Secka added that the issue of child protection cannot be addressed without taking the family into consideration. The family as a living, evolving social institution faces what may be its most difficult challenges in history, adding that many societies are changing so rapidly that the speed of change alone is a factor of stress in families which affects children greatly.

She went further to emphasize on the importance of children and young people which flourish when they are surrounded by adults, families and communities that value them by respecting their rights and recognizing their contributions and responsibilities. She added that how children take up their responsibility and apply the competence they develop, depends in large part on the influences in their lives to which we all have a communal responsibility. "our social responsibility to protect children in our homes and communities must be enhanced to ensure the value we place on children in our Gambian society, is not compromised.

The Director of social welfare said lots of children are survivors or victim's especially of domestic violence at the very homes that they are supposed to be protected. Many a time we do have cases of very young children violated and abused as a result of their exposure on the streets. She highlighted the diversity in family forms and there are questions about the correlation between families and households. Nevertheless, she said, we probably all agree that the one feature of a family that is most telling about it is the way it cares for and supports it's children.

She pointed out that the government of the Gambia has made significant strides in creating and established the necessary structures and legal framework to ensure that children's rights are promoted, protected and fulfilled. She went on to say that it's not in the liking of government to place children in care institutions or homes. It is also un-African to let children stay away from their communities. However, she said, government has no choice since families and communities have abdicated their responsilities; that they look back in anger or forward in fear but look around in awareness. She then finally concluded by saying that the government is coming with many programs in the PAGE such as protection to alleviate poverty and added that we cannot all rely on what the government is offering but we have all collective responsibility to save the family and protect our children. She then declared the forum opened.

The deputy respresentative of UNICEF Mrs Meritxell Relano stated that the CCPCs and ANWGs were first formed in 2007, which were meant to be community based child protection mechanism. As community based child protection mechanism, they were supposed to be frontline child protection actors, responsible for responding to child protection situations, which were also meant to do prevention work and also to collect data on child protection cases in their communities.

She further stated that they at UNICEF are proud to be associated with the CCPC\ ANWG initiative and to provide funds and technical support for child protection. She concluded by thanking the government of the Gambia for it's commitment in promoting, fulfilling and protecting the rights of children.

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