A Consultative Meeting on the Children's Bill was held yesterday at La Pirogue Resorts and Spa in Flic en Flac. Around 100 children attended the meeting which allowed them to discuss and exchange views on the draft legislation as well as to engage their active participation in all issues and decisions that concern their rights and wellbeing.
The event was organised by the National Children's Council (NCC) under the aegis of the Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare. Children of different age groups and coming from several Shelters and Children's Clubs run by NGOs as well as by the NCC were in attendance. Participants were given an overview of the Children's Bill and were divided into groups to brainstorm on several topics. The different groups of children then proceeded to make presentations.
In her opening address, the Minister of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare, Mrs Roubina Jadoo-Jaunbocus, emphasised that a Children's Bill is long overdue and it is important now to make the Bill a reality. This Bill is a piece of legislation being prepared to ensure that all the rights of all children are respected, she pointed out.
According to the Minister, it is also crucial for children to understand that, while they have rights, they equally have responsibilities such as listening to parental advice and choosing to tread on the right path instead of letting themselves be led on the wrong path.
Speaking about the consultative process, Mrs Jadoo-Jaunbocus said that it is an essential one as the subject discussed concerns children directly and their voices should be heard so as to find the best solutions to address the problems children have faced or are facing. All issues, whether positive or negative, raised by children during the meeting are important and Government will ensure that the law will protect children's interests and rights which is primordial, she highlighted.
The Minister also assured that the Children's Bill will make provision for appropriate measures to address issues related to emerging and new challenges with the aim to better protect children and ensure their development. The legislation, she said, will put into practice Article 3 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) which stipulates, amongst others, that 'in all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration'.
For his part, the chairperson of the NCC, Mr M. Murtuza recalled that in 1959 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child defining children's rights to protection, education, healthcare and shelter.
The CRC, he further stated, which was adopted 1989 has changed the way children are treated that is as human beings with rights instead of passive objects of care and charity. Much has been accomplished since the adoption of the Convention from declining infant mortality to rise in school enrolment but much remains to be done, he indicated. Stakeholders in Mauritius have been given a challenging task to meet the objectives and goals set by the UN and the Government of Mauritius and there is no doubt that the desired outcome will be reached to ensure that children's rights are protected and that they become the ambassadors of tomorrow, he added.