What a breakthrough for our CRG program in Pujehun!
Getting children’s voices to be heard, especially on issues relating to their own rights has been a challenge in Sierra Leone. It becomes even more challenging in rural areas where social and cultural traditions hold strong that children ‘are meant to be seen and not to be heard’. As a result, children are not often given opportunity or asked for their views, even on issues that affect them. Despite the fact that several laws and policies have been enacted in Sierra Leone pertaining to children’s rights, these laws are rarely enforced, and policies are not backed by resources and commitment to ensure implementation.
Save the Children, through our Child Rights Governance (CRG) program, is working with Government, civil society, communities and children to help ensure that children themselves are able to hold their government duty bearers to account. Our CRG program focuses on: strengthening national systems to fulfil children’s rights; increasing the level and influence of children’s voices on decision-making processes at national and local levels; and supporting the overall process of monitoring, reporting, and advocating for the Government of Sierra Leone to improve its accountability to children through the implementation of national laws and policies, and the fulfilment of its commitments under international conventions.
In Pujehun Save the Children and partners have achieved a remarkable success by lobbying the District Council authorities to involve children in their regular planning and decision-making processes. Children in Pujehun now have a regular seat and their concerns have become part of the agenda in District Council meetings which is the highest decision making forum in the district. The first meeting attended by children was held in late July where children were not only given a seat in the Council meeting but their contributions were at the top of the agenda. In order to allocate enough time and due audience to the children’s concerns, the Council authorities decided to suspend the usual updates from the district wards. “This is another great achievement for Save the Children and for children. The first time in the history of Pujehun District for children to be allowed to meet with duty bearers and express their concerns on social services and facilities they deserve as children”, remarked Sahr George Fillie, our CRG Program Officer in Pujehun.
No one could be happier for this success than the children themselves. “We are overwhelmed as today marks a joyous movements for our participation in decision making on our rights with the district duty bearers” David Musa, one of the Children’s representatives. In their submission, the children highlighted a number of issues they want the local authorities to address related to education, health, water and sanitation, protection and increasing financial investment in children.
In their response the Vice Chairman of the Pujehun District Council, Kalilu Fofanah, expressed his amazement at the bold manner in which the children put their concerns across and assured them that the Council was going to do everything possible to address their concerns raised. You can read all concerns raised by the children and responses given by the Council Chairman here.
Congratulations to our team in Pujehun and all those who made this happened -- and most of all the children!