|© UNICEF Tanzania/2011/Pudlowski|
|Children in Zanzibar played a active role in the development of the new Children's Act.|
By Shane Keenan
STONE TOWN, Zanzibar, Tanzania, 25 August 2011 – The President of Zanzibar, Dr. Ali Mohamed Shein, has signed into law a comprehensive Children’s Act aimed at providing better protection for the rights and welfare of children living in this semi-autonomous island region of the United Republic of Tanzania.
UNICEF Representative in Tanzania Dorothy Rozga congratulated the President and his government not only for the law but also for the engaging and innovative consultation process that led to its development.
“Zanzibar’s Government should be commended for the extensive community-level discussions and the participation of children whose shared experience and views helped to shape the new law,” she said. “The effective implementation of this comprehensive legislation will go a long way in helping to protect and promote the best interests of all children in the region.”
A foundation for child protection
The Children’s Act was approved during the first legislative session of the new Zanzibar Government of National Unity earlier this year. It lays the foundation for a coordinated child-protection system in Zanzibar – to effectively respond to cases of violence and abuse, and to better promote and protect the rights of children in conflict with the law.
The Act contains provisions relating to custody, guardianship, access and maintenance, foster care and adoption, children and health services, and children in residential establishments. It also establishes clear procedures, and outlines the roles and responsibilities of national institutions and professionals, in providing child-protection services and responding to cases of children in need of care and protection.
Enactment of the Children’s Act represents a unique opportunity for the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar.
“The right laws and policies – properly resourced, implemented and enforced – are an essential foundation for protecting children from violence and promoting their survival, education and development,” said the Minister for Social Welfare, Youth, Women and Children Development, Zainab Omar Mohammed. “By effectively implementing the Children’s Act, the Revolutionary Government can make a real and positive impact on the lives of all children and their families in Zanzibar today and in the future.”
Support from all sectors
The development of the Children’s Act involved a broad national consultation process throughout the islands of Unguja and Pemba. A wide variety of actors from civil society and the media, as well as community, religious and government leaders, worked together to ensure that the law would reflect the specific needs and protection requirements of children in Zanzibar.
The consultation process also involved an innovative programme of child participation. The programme aimed to provide children with an understanding of the content of the Children’s Act and the legislative reform process, and an opportunity to make critical suggestions on issues that affect their lives.
An overwhelming majority of young people involved in the consultation expressed support for the Children’s Act and for the principle that the state has a responsibility to protect vulnerable children.
UNICEF has been a key partner with the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar in the development of the Children’s Act, providing support and technical assistance throughout the process. “UNICEF continues to look forward to collaborating with government and all other relevant partners and stakeholders in working together to achieve the fullest protection and promotion of human rights for all children in Zanzibar,” said Ms. Rozga, the UNICEF Representative.