7 February 2018

Ethiopia: Involving Children Pays Dividends

Considering that children need to have the right to participate in all socioeconomic spheres, the government has signed internationally endorsed conventions, particularly attached to children's right, and is implementing accordingly. As a result, though a lot of work remains to be done, promising strides have been done so far.

Some of the actions that have been taken to ensure children participation in all socioeconomic sphere are now bearing fruits. These days, beyond perceiving their right, children are highly rigorous to the protection of these rights. Thus, involving children in every aspect is of paramount importance in a bid to produce tomorrow's well responsible, responsive and demanding generation.

Involving children in every development aspect, protecting from any sort of harm and providing them family, social and institutional support is critical for social well being, Women and Children Affairs State Minister Alemitu Umod said.

Children should be safeguarded from any natural and man-made disasters, including the Harmful Traditional Practices (HTP) that affect the well being and lives of children.

The Ministry is undertaking various tasks in collaboration with concerned stakeholders to curb the bottlenecks and improve the lives of children. As a result, the Ministry, identifying the root cause of each problem, has been issuing the national strategy and action plan. It is also working aggressively to raise the awareness of the society and improving the legal frameworks through public mobilization.

In fact, some improvements are witnessed in that regard. However, due to entrenched misconception of the community in some areas, the activities have not borne fruit as expected. So, every stakeholder should work for the effectiveness of this action plan, she indicated.

The Ethiopian government's strong commitment to child rights, including child participation, is reflected in its national development agenda, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia Gullian Mellsop said.

In particular, it has taken decisive measures to increase child participation in communities across the country. For instance children in Ethiopia actively participate in children's parliaments and right clubs.

Meaningful participation of children is not only a fundamental right - and enshrined as such in the convection on the right of the child - but it is also key to ensure that decisions made by adults are relevant to the actual needs of children, thereby playing a critical role in safeguarding accountability of decision makers.

However, despite government's and partners strong commitment to realizing children rights in Ethiopia, much remains to be done with regard to avoiding FGM, child marriage, child labor, etc.

"The challenges ahead urge all pertinent bodies to work together, listen to children so as to address the many barriers that children are facing in realizing their full potential. "We also need to empower children to take part in the decisions that affect their lives so they can become agents of change to lighten their future."

Ethiopian Human Right Commission has been working on the way that the right of children is respected along with other stakeholders working in the area Commissionaire Dr. Addisu Gebregziabhair said. "Unfortunately, most of us were not raised in a community who valued and respected the right of children," said adding that children are not only part of the community, if they grow up with respect, they are the generation of tomorrow.

To this effect, policies; rules, regulations and directives are issued with the aim of maintaining and respecting the rights of children. And there are also international conventions that Ethiopia has accepted. With regard to applicability, much to be done in relation to breaking attitudinal barriers and the society should participate on the awareness raising process.

"As a Human Right Commission, we are working to change the attitude of the community through distributing various instructional materials to educational institutions."

Federal Instant Court Children Project Office provides all the necessary support focusing on children whose rights are violated, according to Judge Leuleseillase Liben.

According to him. formulating court structure that is conducive to children, hiring trained professionals and facilitating condition for abused children to get additional support from concerned individuals are among the many tasks of the Office.

If there is no child-friendly court environment, and child friendly court procedures and judicial attitudes, children would not able to express themselves as they wish. This apart from limiting their participation, it makes the court process very difficult to examine the cases and pass judgment on wrongdoers, he said.

It is true, if we desire to create a favorable environment to children, we should exert utmost efforts for the realization of the set policies and strategies. Indeed, the Ethiopian government has been striving to implement those conventions accordingly. However, the efforts should be supported and further strengthened by all pertinent bodies, parents the schools' communities, the general public and stakeholders.

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