Tanzania: Promoting Children's Rights - From Dialogue to Actions

WORLD Children's Day is celebrated every year on November 20 to promote international togetherness, improving the children's welfare and to spread awareness among the children.

It is an opportunity for everyone to promote and celebrate children's right, translate the dialogue into actions which can help to build a better world for the children. Like every year, this year would also witness the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) holding events in specific countries.

These events are dedicated to draw people's attention to the children's rights in addition to initiating national-wide campaigns for highlighting the importance of caring for lads.

In Tanzania, UNICEF in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children and other partners are organizing a National Summit for Children to commemorate the World Children's Day and the 30th Anniversary of the UN Adoption of the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC).

According to UNICEF Country Representative Rene Van Dongen, the high level event to be attended by multiple stakeholders will have an opportunity to deliberate on the way forward for children of Tanzania and actions that each stakeholder can take to ensure every child in Tanzania enjoy their basic rights.

Vice-President Samia Suluhu Hassan is expected to be the chief guest. As Tanzania joins other countries in celebrating this day the most significant event to remember is the crucial steps taken by the government to abolish all school fees and contributions that were required to primary and secondary schools.

President John Pombe Magufuli banned any form of contributions charged to parents, guardians and relatives of pupils in public schools. Dr Magufuli responded to this following complaints raised by the public during the 2015 presidential election campaigns.

Among other complains raised was too many unnecessary contributions charged to parents, guardians and other relatives in public primary and secondary schools.

Addressing members of Parliament for the first time since he was elected as the president, Dr. Magufuli said that there was a great effort done towards expanding pre-school, primary school, secondary school and university education in Tanzania.

However, he said that his government will direct its energy towards improving the quality of education provided including putting emphasis on science subjects. Furthermore, he said that the government will ensure that the teaching and learning materials are available including laboratories, books, desks etc.

"We will ensure that starting January (2016) education from primary level to the ordinary level of secondary education will be provided for free, as per our promise during the campaigns; We will ensure that more students of higher education have access to timely study loans; We will work on the interests and problems of teachers at all levels including building teacher's houses in rural areas and support the teacher's bank so that it would benefit many," he said.

The president's statement goes along with the country's 2014 education policy that aims to increase access to primary and secondary education, improving quality in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG's), which targets all countries to offer all children free, equitable and quality education by 2030.

The introduction of the feefree basic education policy in 2015 has played a key role in encouraging more girls to remain in school and transition to higher levels, and therefore has helped improve gender parity. According to National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), a total enrolment has increased by 5.1% from 8,222,667 pupils in year 2014 to 8,639,202 pupils in year 2016.

This has been contributed by an increase of Standard one pupils enrolment as a result of fee free education policy. The Government of the United Republic of Tanzania has adopted other several measures guaranteeing the rights of the child in the country including the child's right to secure maintenance from his or her parents or guardians.

Firstly, the country has adopted the Child Development Policy of 1996 that, inter alia, gives direction to how children's issues should be handled and given priority. Secondly, the government has enacted laws providing for the rights of the child that, inter alia, protect children from discrimination and impose duties on parents or guardians to provide the children with maintenance.

These laws include the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania of 1971, and the Affiliation Ordinance of 1949 (the ordinance) which regulates the law pertaining to maintenance of non-marital children. Thirdly, the country has ratified international human rights instruments that guarantee the rights of the child, notably the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989 and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child of 1990.

There are also other international human rights instruments that contain a catalogue of human rights which apply to 'all human beings' and therefore implicitly to all children.

These include the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966, the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women of 1979 (CEDAW) and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights of 1981.

Ratification of the above legal instruments by the government without reservations demonstrates the willingness of the country to be bound by the provisions of such instruments.

Tanzania being among 4 pathfinder countries in the world to spearhead effort to end violence against children on 13th December, 2016 officially launched the National Plan of Action to End Violence Against Women and Children (NPAVAWC) 2017/18 - 2021/22.

The Plan was launched by Hon. Minister of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children on behalf of Hon. Vice President of United Republic of Tanzania Hon. Samia Suluhu Hassan. The launching was attended by 11 Ministries and stakeholders responsible for implementing policies in women and children welfare and development.

The NPA-VAWC is, therefore, a tool designed to provide direction on the engagement of children's contribution and their involvement in matters that concern them which ultimately contribute to child survival, protection and development.

Responsibility for this Policy is under the auspices of the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender and Children who is also responsible for the family.

The Five-year NPAVAWC has been developed by consolidating eight different action plans addressing violence against women and children to create a single comprehensive, National Plan of Action to eradicate violence against women and children in the country.

With the creation of this single, comprehensive, National Plan of Action to End Violence Against Women and Children, Tanzania has consolidated the prevention of violence agenda into one document that recognizes violence occurs on a continuum, that violence in childhood has an impact on a person's health and well-being well into adulthood, that violence is cyclical and that addressing violence in childhood will also reduce violence against women, that violence is interpersonal as well as intergenerational, and impacts individual, family, and community health and wellbeing.

The NPA-VAWC envisions a Tanzania where women and children enjoy their right to an environment free from all forms of violence. According to the 2010 Demographic and Health Survey (2010) on Violence against Children (VAC), nearly one in three girls and one out of seven boys experience some form of sexual violence before turning 18 years. Most children do not report their experience, few seek services and even fewer actually receive any care, treatment, or support if they do report. Rates of physical and emotional violence are high: among girls, 72% experience some form of physical violence, while for boys the figure is 71%. The findings show that, emotional violence affects approximately one quarter of boys and girls. Exposure to violence during childhood leaves physical marks on the brain that can impact a person for the rest of their life. The brain is most vulnerable to trauma in the first two years of life, when many new neural pathways are still being formed and again in the teenage years - when adolescents learn complex analytical skills and mature emotionally. Thus it is apparent that children's participation promotes civic engagement and active citizenship. Through their experience of direct participation in matters that concern them, children develop the capacity to contribute to the formation of peaceful and democratic societies in which they were born or have since become where they now live. This adds to the development of a culture of respect in which decision-making is carried out through negotiation rather than as an outcome of conflict. Children learn that human rights are reciprocal and common and do not promote selfish individualism.

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