April 2012: Inaugural meeting of the Parliamentary Caucus on Children
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) supported an induction meeting for the Zambian Parliamentary Caucus on Children (PCC) 11-13 April 2012 at Chaminuka in Lusaka at which members developed a five-year strategic plan which places child rights at the centre of legislative and Constitutional reform.
The Caucus is made up of a 10 member executive committee, which includes representatives from the regular standing committees of Parliament and interested MPs. Membership is open to all parliamentarians based on interest and commitment to the rights of women and children. The newly elected executive committee includes the Ministers of Communication, Transport, Works & Supply; Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection, Community Development, Mother and Child Health; Deputy Ministers for Community
Development, Mother and Child Health, Gender and Child Development and MPs representing different constituencies and political parties. National elections held in September 2011 necessitated a renewal of the membership of the Caucus which was undertaken during the first 2012 sitting of Parliament.
The goal of the Caucus is to promote awareness, fulfilment and protection of the rights of children and women to achieve a Zambia Fit for Children. Zambia is governed by a democratically elected President and 150 member National Assembly with legislative power vested in the Parliament.
The Caucus was established in 2008 and is an initiative of members of the Zambian Parliament. The Caucus aims to influence relevant national institutions to place issues related to children, particularly orphans and vulnerable children at the top of the government’s political and development agenda. The Caucus serves as a forum to strengthen the capacity of Zambian MPs on issues of children’s rights at both national and constituency levels.
In his opening remarks, the Chairperson of PCC Mr. Munji Habeenzu, MP for Chikankata, noted that, “Parliamentarians are supposed to cater for the needs of all citizens regardless of the age and status in society. And children being amongst the most vulnerable groups are therefore, supposed to receive special protection of society and Parliamentarians.” He added: “one of the most important roles of the PCC will be to strive to ensure that our national legislative standard offer the best possible protection for children from violence, abuse and exploitation.”
During its induction workshop the Caucus laid out its five year strategic plan and developed and annual implementation plan for the year 2012. The committee has since conducted a child rights audit of the first Draft Constitution of Zambia to ensure that children’s views are reflected in the public debate by engaging children at both constituency and national levels. In addition the Caucus will prioritize legislative review including the Bill on Persons with Disabilities which domesticates the Convention on Persons with Disabilities into Zambian law and which will be presented to Parliament in its June sitting.