Day of the African Child 2010
The Gambia; 16th June 2010 – “We need to start planning and budgeting sufficiently for you now, if we want to meet developmental targets by 2018. Governments and development partners must also show greater accountability and transparency in the execution of such budgets to ensure that all your rights are impacted upon positively.” These words were spoken by UNICEF Gambia Officer-in-charge, Mr. Jenieri Sagnia, in his statement on the occasion of the Day of The African Child, marked annually on 16th June 2010.
The UNICEF country office teamed up with the National Youth Council (NYC), under the Ministry of Youths and Sports, to mark the 19th anniversary of the Day of the African Child with the theme, Budgeting and Planning for Children: our collective responsibility. As the umbrella body for all registered youth organizations in The Gambia, and a strong upstream advocate for youth development issues, the NYC, with support from the UNICEF country office, coordinated the one-day national event with collaboration from the Child Protection Alliance’s (CPA) dynamic and innovative youth branch, VOICE.
The event, which was held at the Friendship Hostel Hall in Bakau, attracted around 110 students and chaperone teachers from various upper basic and senior secondary schools around the Kombo Saint Mary District; representatives from the government, local governments, and parliament; representatives from relevant NGOs and youth organizations; and a good representation from the media including the national television, GRTS, to discuss issues of children and how they fit into national agendas and budgets. The national event, including an opening ceremony, presentations, and a session for discussions, clarifications, and recommendations, was chaired by young people.
Engaging decision-makers and duty bearers
Like children all over Africa, Gambia children and young people face numerous health, social, economic, and other developmental problems. Many of them do not have the capacity or opportunity to advocate for their rights or participate actively in development at national level; they therefore rely on adults to advocate for them. As a result, UNICEF engages children and decision makers/duty bearers in dialogue, using events such as the International Children’s Day of Broadcasting (ICDB) and the Day of the African Child (DAC), to examine children’s issues for timely intervention.
This year’s Day of The African Child not only aimed to create visibility on children’s issues requiring urgent interventions such as child health, quality in education, and stronger social protection mechanisms particularly for vulnerable children, but also created the opportunity for children to hold dialogues with key decision makers, with focus on government officials, on how children and young people can be featured better in national planning and budgeting for survival, development, and protection.
High level participants included the Deputy Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Youth and Sports; a member of the National Assembly, deputizing for the Speaker of the House; the Director of Planning for the Ministry of Education; the Officer-in-Charge of the UNICEF country office; and the Executive Secretary of the National Youth Council. Representatives from the Ministries of Finance and Health were unable to participate due to competing priorities.
In their statements, the high level representatives present at the ceremony each acknowledged the need for improvement in the child/ young people sector, and demonstrated commitment to work more closely with children to better address their issues, especially at policy level. Mr. Alieu Jammeh, Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Youth and Sports, emphasize on his Ministry’s continuous and unflinching support to all children and young people living in The Gambia.
Discussing budgetary allocations for children
Following the opening ceremony, presentations were conducted from a child/youth’s perspective and from that of a duty bearer. In his presentation, Abdoulie Badjie, a youth advocate with the CPA’s VOICE, not only made reference to some of the benefits of increasing and sustaining budget allocations for Gambian children, he also pointed out the relevance of this increase for the proper and effective implementation of national and international human rights and legal instruments such as the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and its two Optional Protocols, and the African Charter on the Rights of Women and Children (ACRWC); as well as The Gambia’s Constitution with specific focus on areas relating to children and young people, the Tourism Offences Act, the Children’s Act, and the Trafficking in Person Act, for child survival, protection, and development. He further appeals to the government and other decision-makers to educate young people and children on how budgets works so that they can be more involved in the preparation of national budget.
For his part, Mr. Mohammed Jallow, the Director of Planning at the Ministry of Education, explained that with impact of the global economic crisis and competing priorities in other sectors, budget allocated to the education sector is yet to meet the EFA’s set target of 20% allocation of all government budgets to the Education Sector. This year, the allocation was 16.7%. Additionally, Mr. Jallow noted that the Ministry is nevertheless very conscious of areas in Education that require stronger support, notably, at the basic level where early preparedness is strengthened and quality improved at primary level. 60% of the education budget is directed towards basic education, and scholarships are offered to all girls at basic level nationwide with the exception of the urban three major urban areas: Banjul, KMC, and the Kombos, with the objective of achieving universal access to basic education, 100% completion at basic level, and gender equity in education.
The presentations, both of which proved to be interesting and educative, prompted many useful questions and comments during the ensuing Q & A session. Two key recommendations emanating from this session are: a) to provide more incentives for teachers to curb the problems of attrition, and b) to ensure that a Children’s Court, which The Gambia currently have only one, is established in all the regions for a much a much fairer juvenile justice system.