At a glance: Liberia

Children’s Law offers promise and protection to Liberia’s children

By Ban Al-Dhayi

MONROVIA, Liberia, 9 March, 2012 – In early February, some 7,000 children converged on the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex in downtown Monrovia  to celebrate the day-long Liberia’s Children Festival .

4 February 2012: UNICEF correspondent Chris Niles reports on an important step forward for children's rights in Liberia.  Watch in RealPlayer

 

Not long ago, the same stadium had been used as a safe haven for thousands of children and women during Liberia’s civil war.  But on this day, it was a place of promise, as thousands of children and adults celebrated the launch of the long-awaited Children’s Law , which marked a legal victory for all children in Liberia.

A long wait

After a review of existing child rights legislation, the Government of Liberia requested UNICEF support the drafting of a comprehensive children's law that would enshrine the principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in national law.

It passed the House of Representatives unanimously that year, but then stalled in the Senate for another two years. With continued advocacy by UNICEF, the Ministry of Gender and Development, the Children's Parliament and members of the Child Protection Network, the Senate passed the bill in September 2011. 

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Liberian/2012/Jallanzo
Children display placards calling for their rights at the Liberia Children’s Festival in Monrovia.

Now, Liberia is one of the first countries to adopt comprehensive legislation for children that is largely based on the CRC and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.

Senior government officials, members of the Liberian Children’s Parliament, and UN and civil society representatives gathered at the stadium to celebrate the day with speeches, exhibitions, cultural performances, dances and sports.

“When we see you walking around, talking to each other, enjoying the day, we can just be so happy and say, this particular [Children’s Law is] to protect you, is one that has been long in the making,” said 2011 Nobel Peace Laureate and President of Liberia Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf , to the thousands of children in attendance  .

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Liberian/2012/Jallanzo
Children attend the Liberia Children's Festival at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Sports Complex in Monrovia. They wear visors bearing the message "All rights for all children in Liberia."

An important start

Children and women in Liberia have long faced neglect and discrimination. They have been unable to fulfil their potential, contribute to Liberia’s prosperity or benefit from its development.

The country contends with a high maternal mortality ratio, as well as high rates of child malnutrition and out-of-school children. A variety of policy responses are urgently required to address these issues, from providing safe drinking water and sanitation to improving protections for children in the judicial system, to implementing social protection programmes for poor households.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Liberian/2012/Jallanzo
Noble Peace Laureate and President of Liberia Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf greets children celebrating at the Liberia Children's Festival in Monrovia.

The Children’s Law is an important start. It will ensure birth registration for all children  and will help improve child nutrition. It will also find innovative ways to provide education for those living in remote areas, and will develop social protections for the most vulnerable households, helping put an end to the cycle of poverty.

The new law signifies a serious commitment from the government toward the rights and future of its children.

“We must not fail the children of Liberia, who deserve nothing less. As the Government of Liberia moves with great force to promoting gender equality and to the rights of children – as enshrined in the new Children’s Law – we have to continue our support,” said UNICEF Resident Representative in Liberia Isabel Crowley.


 

 

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