MONROVIA, 4 February 2012 – President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf today officially launched the Children’s Law of Liberia to protect children and their right to participate meaningfully in their development.
“When we see you walking around, talking to each other, enjoying the day, we can just be so happy and say, this particular act to protect you, is one that has been long in the making,” the president, who was the 2011 Noble Peace Laureate, told thousands of children at the Annual Children’s Festival in Monrovia.
The law is one of the most comprehensive pieces of children’s rights legislation in the continent and is largely based on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, ratified by Liberia in 1993 and 1992 respectively.
Liberia is one of the first countries to adopt comprehensive legislation for children that incorporates the UNCRC and the African Charter. This new law reflects the government’s commitment to support the progressive realization of all rights for all children: including their right to health: education; freedom from violence, abuse, and exploitation; and their right participate meaningfully in their own development.
Peace has prevailed in Liberia for more than eight years since the end of the brutal 14 year- civil war in 2003. With the conclusion of relatively peaceful presidential elections in late 2011 the country is transitioning steadily from post-conflict to pursuing a full-fledged development agenda. Liberia is currently developing its second poverty reduction strategy geared towards a vision of becoming a middle-income country by 2030.
Cooperation for Progress
Today’s passage of the Children’s Law is the result of more than two years of advocacy by the government of Liberia, domestic and international non-governmental organizations, the Liberia Children’s Parliament and UNICEF, all working together through the Child Protection Network.
“The Children’s Law is a powerful example of the progress that Liberia is making through cross-cutting partnerships,” said Ms. Isabel Crowley, UNICEF’s Resident Representative.
“We need to work even harder now, to ensure that the law is translated into concrete actions for children’s health, education, protection and participation in every county, district, clan and community, reaching the most disadvantaged and vulnerable children and families.”
In support of the legislation, the Child Protection Network organized discussion sessions for lawmakers, days of direct advocacy in the Capitol, and media outreach activities. “Today is a huge and long-awaited victory for Liberia’s children,” said Rosanna Schaack of THINK Liberia, a member organization of the Child Protection Network. “We also know that the work of making this law meaningful is just beginning. We look forward to continuing our partnership with the government and international organizations like UNICEF as we begin to put this law into practice.”
Moving forward with Children
The Liberia Children’s Parliament, comprising children and youth representatives from all parts of the country, has played a key role in supporting the Child Protection Network. “It was a struggle. We’ve participated in public and media events advocating for the children’s law. This is a good day, no, actually this is a great day, for all children, and for Liberia,” said 17 year old Emmanuel Bropleh Jr., Speaker of the Liberia Children’s Parliament.
Preparations for implementing the Children’s Law are already underway. Members of the Child Protection Network plan to meet in the coming weeks to map out a plan for resource mobilization, education activities and skills trainings across the country.
Back at the children’s festival, girls and boys enjoyed their day of fun, food and games, laughing, running, singing and dancing, without a care in the world. “This is how it should always be for our children,” said Fatu Wheremonger from a local art NGO working for children. “We have to make this law work, so that all children in Liberia are safe, well fed, happy and going to school. I think we will never have to face the horrors of war ever again.”
UNICEF works in 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org