|A young child in Guinea-Bissau in the 1990s. Although the country ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990, a youth Manifesto says many child rights remain unfulfilled there.|
BISSAU, Guinea-Bissau, 10 November 2008 – The Children’s Parliament of Guinea-Bissau last week presented its ‘Manifesto’ of young people’s concerns to 19 political parties and two coalitions campaigning for legislative elections that will take place here on 16 November.
The Manifesto calls for increased youth participation in decision-making that affects children’s lives, and for the fulfillment of internationally recognized child rights. It also asks political candidates to integrate children’s issues into their campaign agendas and future government programmes.
“The upcoming legislative elections are an opportunity that cannot be ignored,” said UNICEF Representative in Guinea-Bissau Silvia Luciani. “This is the time when the future representatives of the people of this country are campaigning. We hope that they will prioritize – not only during their campaigning but especially once elected – children’s needs and the implementation of their rights.”
The right to participate
Developed by young people with support from UNICEF, the Institute of Women and Children, the National Youth Council and the Guinea-Bissau League for Human Rights, the Manifesto was officially endorsed by the Children’s Parliament on 16 June, the Day of the African Child. Child participation was the theme of the annual observance this year.
“It is important to remember that the Convention on the Right of the Child was ratified by Guinea-Bissau 18 years ago, the 20 of August 1990, but until now, most of ours fundamental rights are not respected,” said a member of the Children’s Parliament.
The Manifesto specifically calls for action to address the dire situation facing children in Guinea-Bissau, based on the most recent statistical data for health, education, HIV and AIDS, and child protection.
For example, 200 out of 1,000 children in Guinea-Bissau die before their fifth birthday due to malaria, acute respiratory infections and diarrhoeal diseases, among other preventable causes. Malnutrition and an HIV prevalence rate of 17 per cent among women over 15 also contribute to high child and maternal mortality rates.
In addition, primary school attendance levels need improvement; about half of all children are not in school. And children in Guinea-Bissau are still victims of trafficking, violence, abuse and female genital mutilation and cutting.
The Manifesto underlines the need for harmonization of national legislation with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international instruments established to protect women and children.