Rwanda’s Prime Minister calls for all children to grow up in families
Responds to issues raised by the country’s vulnerable children
Kigali, Rwanda, January 5, 2012: At the closing ceremony of Rwanda's seventh annual Children's Summit, which brought together close to 800 children and policy makers in Rwanda’s National Parliament, the country’s Prime Minister, Pierre Habumuremyi, said that it was unacceptable that children were growing up in orphanages.
“I hope that next year, when we meet again, that the majority of these children in orphanages would have found families.”
His comments came at the end of a three day summit, organised by the National Children’s Commission, in partnership with the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion, UNICEF and other partners to discuss how children could contribute to the nation’s second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS) as well as ensure their rights to family life, quality healthcare and inclusive education.
What was unique about this summit was the participation of children living with disabilities, from orphanages and from refugee camps, along with children who represented each of Rwanda’s 416 sectors.
Top amongst their recommendations was the inclusion of children living with disabilities in all fora and special attention to their needs, whether in school, in health facilities or in families.
Children also emphasised the importance of better social protection for vulnerable children, fighting violence against children, eliminating malnutrition, promoting hygiene, ensuring school meals, increasing access to early childhood development services and making sports and electricity available in all schools
The summit was aired live on Rwandan television, radio and on social media and children who could not attend were able to sms or call in with questions for government officials in attendance, who in addition to the Prime Minister, included the Ministers of Education and Gender and Family Promotion, Governors, faith-based leaders and mayors/vice mayors of several districts.
“Rarely have I heard of such an inclusive process in the planning of a national development event,” said UNICEF’s Executive Director Anthony Lake, who taped a special message for the summit. “You [children are] contributing ideas…debating recommendations…and shaping the future of your country. That does not happen in many countries.” He went on to congratulate Rwanda for its focus on equity -- reaching the most disadvantaged – which he felt was not only morally right, but financially shrewd.
In her remarks to the summit, UNICEF’s Representative to Rwanda, Noala Skinner highlighted the importance of every single child, regardless of background and means, counting in national development planning.
“I feel full of hope,” she said “that the footprint of children and in particular the promotion and protection of the rights of the most vulnerable children and families will be firmly planted in the nation’s new Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy.”
The Summit was officially opened by the Children's President, Eric Ngabonziza, who thanked Rwanda's Prime Minister and his government for helping children, especially the most vulnerable, to feel that they can become the leaders of tomorrow. But Eric is not just any boy. He cannot hear or speak and uses sign language to communicate.
"Because of this summit," he explained, "I feel more confident. I have met children from all over Rwanda and discussed with them what we can do to help children who are not as fortunate as us."
As the summit came to an end, Rwanda’s Prime Minister thanked the children: "You have spoken and we have listened. Thank you for your wonderful ideas and in the way in which you have managed this meeting. We have all been inspired and filled with hope. I will personally communicate your recommendations to our President and ask the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion and the National Children's Commission to turn them into actions. I also ask local authorities to ensure that your welfare is part of their performance contracts. You have a role to play in the development of our country!”
Thousands of children across Rwanda participated in pre-summit consultations in the month leading to the January Summit. During these discussions, held in each village in the nation, children made recommendations related to family life, health and education. Although the actual Summit took place on the 4th of January, children who were elected to come to Kigali, held two extra days of deliberations before the summit to discuss these recommendations and which issues they thought merited urgent attention.
Children's Summits have been organised in Rwanda since 2004 to give children a democratic forum to express their views on matters that concern them. Six have been held so far; focusing on unity and reconciliation; a Rwanda fit for children; children and the country’s development plan; the role of children in fighting genocide ideology; the role of children in fighting violence against children; and education fit for children.