Botswana, 5 April 2012: Parliament discusses the “unfinished” child rights and development agenda for children
GABORONE, Botswana, 5 April 2012 – In a review of progress made since the Children’s Act came into force in 2009, members of Botswana’s parliament acknowledged that children with disabilities, those living in remote areas or belonging to certain ethnic groups are still excluded from some of their fundamental rights.
Assistant Minister of Local Government, Honorable Maxwell Motowane, updated the Parliament on the progress made on the implementation of the Children’s Act. He cited some of the achievements, including the existence of the Children’s Consultative Forum that facilitates children’s participation in decision making at national, district and community level.
The Children’s Act in Botswana provides crucial legal framework for the promotion and protection of the rights of children in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child. It further encourages the establishment of structures in support of the protection of children’s rights. Since its inception, the parliament has committed itself to further strengthening the implementation of the Act.
Issues raised by the Parliament
Members of Parliament raised issues concerning the lack of access to education by all children; child labour and lack of facilitates for children with disabilities; and the Government’s lack of support to civil society organizations that work with children with disabilities. Parliament also commented on the non-availability of the children’s courts in Botswana and trained legal personnel to deal with children’s issues.
A recommendation was made that the law should enforce deterrents for parents who fail to send their children to school under the pretext that it was against their cultural beliefs. The Parliament also suggested that the Children Act to be translated into the Setswana language as a reader friendly version for members of the public.
The members made it clear that the Children’s Act does not condone marriages of adolescents under the age of 18, and it applies to all citizens, including to the San community where early marriages have been common practice. Furthermore, the Government was requested to improve transport opportunities for children in remote areas to improve school attendance, and to look into child labour which is widespread in the farming areas.
The Chairperson of the National Children’s Council (NCC), Reverend Councilor Mpho Moruakgomo emphasized the importance of building capacity among social workers, police and judicial officers and other service providers to implement the provisions of the Act.
He recommended the establishment of a Children’s Desk at the Ombudsman’s Office as well as at Ministerial level, as recommended by the committee on the Rights of the Child. He also highlighted the importance of increasing available funding for activities benefitting children.
Presentation on the Convention on the Rights of the Child
UNICEF Representative Doreen Mulenga highlighted that parliamentarians are in a unique position to ensure that government, private sector and civil societies are accountable for children’s rights.
She brought to everyone’s attention that in Botswana the statistics point to an “unfinished” development agenda for children. Dr. Mulenga underscored the need to harmonize all laws and regulations on children that are in conflict with the Children’s Act 2009 to reflect the principles and provisions of the CRC.
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