DAC in Sierra Leone: ‘‘Protecting children’s Rights during Violence and Crisis in Sierra Leone’’
Save the Children in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, other government ministries, the communities, UNICEF and other NGOs commemorated this year’s Day of the African Children in grand style. This year’s global theme from the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (“Conflict and Crisis in Africa: Protecting all Children’s Rights”) was translated, together, with the Ministry and partners, into the Sierra Leone context to reflect the current situation for children in the country: ‘‘Protecting Children’s Rights during Violence and Crisis in Sierra Leone’’. ‘My ministry has put the theme into our local context to ensure that children are protected from all forms of violence in times of crisis’, said Dr. Sylvia Blyden, Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs.
Save the Children actively participated, supported and organized the 2016 DAC commemoration at the national level and district/community levels in our districts of operation.
The national DAC commemoration was held at the Miatta Conference Centre in Freetown. The event was attended by a representative of the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, other Government Ministers and heads of agencies the National Children’s Commission, the Child Rights Coalition of Sierra Leone, the Children’s Forum Network and other children-led organizations, national and international NGOs, and children from various schools in Freetown.
Government officials, children’s representatives, and representatives from various organizations made statements on the theme including our own very Country Director, Isaac Ooko, who delivered one of the most stirring speeches of the day. ‘We often say that ‘‘our children are our future, we should invest in them. But if we want to take this claim seriously, then we must put our money (i.e. our expertise our people and our political will) where our mouth is” said Isaac, urging stakeholders to do more.
Perhaps the key moment of the event was the point at which a position paper was presented by the President of Children’s Forum Network to the representative of His Excellency the President, Dr. Sam Sesay. The paper which was developed at a one-day consultative conference involving children from across Sierra Leone, highlighted a number of issues that affect them which they want the Government and its partners to address. Their recommendations include, but are not limited to, the following:
Support children’s organizations to raise awareness to the public on child rights and child participation.
Combat all cultism or clicks in schools and communities.
Punish all teachers and pupils involved in corporal punishment and sex for grades.
Provide for children’s basic welfare needs like free education, free medical care, food, and shelter.
Provide equal justice for children.
Produce certificates to children who have served in the Children’s Forum Network to show their hard work in various children’s programs.
Punish all child abusers.
In his response to the position paper received from the children, Dr. Sam Sesay assured the children that they as a government were going to look into their concerns. “I want to assure you that your position paper will be presented to the President. I have already discussed with Minister Blyden here on the table to also present this paper to the cabinet to see how we can address the issues raised in it”. Dr. Sesay described the event as an ‘opportune moment’ to reflect on their commitments to children. “Our future as a nation depends on how we shield our children against violence”, he said.
The event was also went along with beautiful entertainment by children including dancing, drama and a performance. And guess what?! Our child advocates/campaigners also used the event to promote Save the Children’s ‘Every Last Child’ campaign and urged stakeholders present to pledge their support to the campaign by signing on the pledge banner.
District and Communities
Save the Children also supported and facilitated the commemoration of the DAC in all of our operational districts, Western Urban and Rural, Kailahun and Pujehun together with district and community stakeholders, and the children themselves.
Freetown (Western Urban District)
Apart from the support we provided to the national event, our Freetown team, also organized a consultation session with community stakeholders and duty bearers, parents and caregivers for discussion around the theme. “The rationale was to identify factors relating to violence, and identify roles and responsibilities of various actors in addressing violence at home and in communities across [SC’s targeted] 12 city sections and beyond”, says Moses Foray, Child Protection Officer in Freetown. The session was also designed to further strengthen links between formal and informal Child Protection groups and structures to address violence affecting children through a multi sectoral approach; and to increase community awareness on the negative effects of violence on children, families, and communities. This could not have happened at a better time than a day specifically set aside to prioritize and reflect on children’s issues.
In Kailahun, Save the Children collaborated with the MSWGCA and other partners to support this year’s commemoration at district level. A series of activities were organized with various schools (16 primary schools and 6 junior secondary schools) in the District. Activities included: a debate competition among junior secondary schools with the title “The role of child protection agencies in protecting children: is it visible in Kailahun District”; a spelling competition among primary schools’; and talent shows.
At the end of the day, children were able to feedback on the work of child protection agencies, highlighting the areas of gaps during their debate. “For the role of CP agencies in protecting children in Kailahun district, SC was rated as the leading agency, which highlights the positive work [we have done]in protecting children in the Kailahun District”, says Andrew Vandi, Child Protection Manager in Kailahun. Successes noted from the children’s assessment of our work included construction and rehabilitation of schools and health facilities, provision of teaching and learning materials in schools, livelihood support to vulnerable families, and support to EVD affected and other vulnerable children. Congratulations to our Kailahun team!
In Pujehun Save the Children also jointly organized the DAC with the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs (MSWGCA), duty bearers, community stakeholders and children in and out of school. Our team in Pujehun provided T-Shirts and banners to mark the day; and provided mattresses, blankets and mosquito nets for the Bo Remand (Juvenile Detention) home as a gesture for the children that are staying there.
The main event was held at Massam Town, about 2 miles from Pujehun Town, where different stakeholders in the District made commitments to end violence and abuse against children at all times. Members of the Children’s Forum Network in Pujehun also did a skit on “the negative effects of child trafficking”. Among the rights demanded by the children was ‘quality education to develop Sierra Leone’.
Tombo (Western Rural District)
The Tombo Office also collaborated with the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs and involved all stakeholders and children. Our events in Tombo were more of a community engagement in which community members discussed issues affecting children in the communities, coming out with strong recommendations to which everyone committed.
On the 15th June, our Tombo team mobilized various community stakeholders and deliberated on child protection issues in the communities. On the actual day (June 16th), they also mobilized different stakeholders at community and district levels, who made commitments based on the deliberations from the previous day. “The two events at both community and district level were very successful”, says Konday Marah, Child Protection Officer in Tombo Field Office.
Congratulation to the entire Sierra Leone Team for making this year’s Day of the African Child a memorable one. We hope all issues highlighted would be properly addressed so that Sierra Leone will once again become a place fit for every child to live and be safe, educated, healthy, and happy.