FOROYAA Newspaper (Serrekunda)

Gambia: Children Still Yearning for Child Affairs Ministry, Others As Voice of the Young Commemorate 10th Anniversary

Gambian children are still yearning for the establishment of the Ministry of Children's Affairs. The latest call is made by Haddy Jonga a former member of Voice of the Young who was speaking last Saturday at the 10th Anniversary of the Voice of the Young held at SOS Senior Secondary School.

Miss Jonga said the non existence of the Ministry of Children's Affairs has been a challenge in their struggle for children but was quick to add that it is top on the agenda of the advocacy team.

Haddy also calls for the establishment of more Children's Court across the country. "Although we already have 2 children's courts, one in the KMC area and one in Basse, which deals with cases of children who come in conflict with the law, we are still yearning for more to be established in all the other regions in the country", she said. She also raised concern over some cases of child abuses which makes their work difficult. The other challenge they are facing she said is funding, noting that they have lot of activities in the pipeline but are yet to be implemented.

Giving a history of Voice, Haddy said 'Voice of the Young' was created on the 3rd of October, 2002. She said Voice is a non-profit making children's organization under the Child Protection Alliance (CPA) and that serves as the mouth piece of CPA to make their work easier. The aim of Voice amongst other things according to Haddy are to empower children with the necessary skills they need to help them in their daily activities, to enable them play their part in the decision making processes and issues that affect them. She explained that CPA established the Voice of the Young as a result of the felt needs to tackle the many injustices done to children. Highlighting some of its achievements, Haddy stated that a lot of people are now aware of the many issues affecting children in The Gambia. Children are now aware of their rights and their responsibilities, she added. Voice, she continued, has played a great role in the area of sensitization in enacting the Children's Bill, now the Children's Act of The Gambia 2005.

In a brief remark, a former Voice member and also a Senior Marketing Officer at QCell Modou S. Jallow said, before he joined Voice, there were lots of things he was not familiar with but today they know more about child protection. He described this as a major achievement that Voice has made. He added that they were also able to participate in locally and globally thus giving the country recognition. Jallow noted Voice has achieved a lot but added that more need to be done.

The Programme Officer of the Child Protection Alliance Musukuta Badgie said they still need Voice to grow. She said Voice achieves a lot since its establishment ten years ago and the members made themselves who they are. This, according to her is also possible with the establishment of the Convention on the Rights of Child (CRC) which seeks to protect children and defend their rights. She described the day as a day of reflection and smile. The challenge remains whether they are encouraged to speak out, make decisions, she said. She urged them to continue with their struggle and advocacy both nationally and internationally.

Giving a presentation on National child protection and referral systems, Isatou Jammeh of the Social Welfare Department said child protection systems are meant to provide easy access to care and protection at the community level for all children. These systems she added should do advocacy, describing sensitization as important, adding that it will help parents to be aware and be able to identify abuses and protect their children. Child protection unit are established in various units in the country such as the police child rights unit, the immigration child protection unit, the children's court which is under the judiciary and the prison juvenile wing in Old Jeshwang and Basse. The Gambia Tourism Board have in place a code of conduct to ensure that children are protected from Child Sex Tourism and other things, she said. She added that CSOs, NGOs, SOS Children's Village, Child Fund amongst others are all part of the child protection system. She urged the various stakeholders working in the child protection system to coordinate and collaborate to ensure that the system works effectively.

Other speakers at the ceremony include Fabakary Kalleh and Abdou FB Boye of the Peace Ambassadors - The Gambia.

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