Sierra Leone: '20,000 Kids Live On the Street in Sierra Leone,

15 September 2020

-Gender Minister tells Parliament

Minister of Gender and Children's Affair, Madam Manty Tarawalli

The Minister of Gender and Children's Affair, Madam Manty Tarawalli has told Members of the Parliamentary Oversight Committee on Social Welfare that 20,000 children are living in the street across the country.

Minister Tarawalli made the above disclosure on Friday (Sept.11) while responding to a question posed by Hon. Tawa Conteh on policies formulated by the ministry to take children off the street.

"There are 20,000 kids scattered across the street and we don't have the model to remove them from there. We know that institutionalising them does not work and we need a model that will help to get them out of the street. We are still hoping to have those models and we will appreciate any proposal of such," she said.

She said the problem is triggered by poor parenting, adding that the ministry was working tirelessly to sensitize communities about he reasons to keep their children at home, and to have a social safety net for the street kids.

The Gender Minister explained that the ministry was detached from the Ministry of Social Welfare Gender and Children's Affairs in November 2019 and it became operational in January 2020.

She said the ministry has four thematic priorities, among them is the prevention and early response to gender based violence, which strategy had been launched.

She said child protection, and the amendment of the Child Rights Act were also among the priorities of the ministry as the issue of child maintenance is becoming a threat to society as most men do not support their children.

She added that they have partnered with the ministry of Youth to help sensitize the community, thus noting that the implementation process has been so far been successful.

She stated that based on a research conducted by the ministry, they were looking to developing parenting activities in the fight against sexual and gender based violence as most times the situation begins from the homes.

She added that they have started implementing the toll free line to report cases of sexual and gender based violence, but that most of the calls are prank.

She explained that the ministry has also developed a policy for women's empowerment which includes the 30 percent quota of women representation in all appointment.

She stated that they were currently working on the inherited ECOWAS project which aims to empower women through entrepreneurship.

Earlier, Chairperson of the oversight committee, Hon. Katherine Zainab Tarawally welcomed and acknowledged the commitment of the authorities in boosting the newly established ministry.

The chairperson assured the ministry officials of their commitment to supporting them in all aspects, noting that the committee was interested in knowing the challenges of the ministry especially their budget circular since they did not have an independent allocation for 2020 financial year.

She said the committee has engaged the ministry of Finance and the leadership of Parliament for independent allocations to be made to the ministry for the financial year 2021.

The Permanent Secretary, Madam Zainab Buya Kamara, cited the limited office space of the ministry,which, she said cannot accommodate all the staff, thus noting that three Directors are sharing the same office space.

She said they have sent out correspondence to the ministry of works since they are the one that allocate office space for MDAs although they are still looking out for space.

Hon. Ibrahim Tawa Conteh commended the team for their work, stating that child protection is critical for the ministry.

"If you go to the streets, you will see a number of kids. What strategy or policy program have the ministry got or put in place for these kids to be removed from the streets? What policy could be made for them to stay off the street. Don't you think that there is need for uniform law as there are different laws in both the customary law and the child right Act that are conflicting?

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