Inaugural Conference on Child-Sensitive Policies Opens in Harare
Harare, 19 February 2014: A two-day conference to explore strategies for child-sensitive social policies has opened in Harare. The conference, under the theme ‘Towards a Child Sensitive Society in Africa’ brings together more than 200 participants from eight African countries. Participants include students, academics, think-tanks, non-governmental organizations, research networks, international agencies and donors. The conference has been organized by The Women’s University in Africa in collaboration with UNICEF.
At the official opening, the Vice-Chancellor of the Women’s University Professor Hope Sadza said the conference was necessitated by the need to share information on issues such as child poverty and social exclusion.
“Issues affecting children are similar enough to warrant dialogue. Every country is grappling with the increasing incidences of violence and exploitation of children, the neglect and social exclusion of vulnerable children, particularly girls and children with disabilities, and the relegation of child welfare in national fiscal policies.”
UNICEF Representative Reza Hossaini said the conference was a clear demonstration of the critical need for capacity development in budgeting for children and the importance of knowledge and experience sharing in the context of South-South cooperation.
“There is a need for child rights stakeholders to regularly meet to share knowledge and devise ways of doing things better,” he said. “These gatherings provide the platform for in-depth analysis of the status quo and for proposing policy changes in furtherance of child rights.”
The Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr. David Parirenyatwa who was the guest of honour, said the conference had come at an opportune time when Zimbabwe was putting in place a new constitution which recognized the centrality of children.
“The new constitution has a very progressive provision to protect and promote the rights of the child,” he said. “As a government, we anticipate that child rights in Zimbabwe will be fulfilled through the recently-launched Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation, which seeks to address on a sustainable basis challenges affecting public service delivery.”
Dr. Parirenyatwa said the focus now was on strengthening the constitution by improving and harmonizing existing laws and pieces of legislation to enable quality service delivery and empowerment of children.
The conference has been organized around three tracks: reconciling child rights and culture; social inclusion, poverty and social budgeting; and protecting children from violence, exploitation and abuse. Children will have a chance to express their views in a plenary session entitled ‘Listen to me and take me seriously.’
The conference builds on the growing partnership between UNICEF and the Women’s University, which started when the university, with UNICEF support, started offering a Post-Graduate Diploma in Child-Sensitive Social Policies in January 2013. The post graduate course aims at creating a pool of national experts who are capable of analysing and influencing public policy in favour of children and vulnerable communities and increase national capacities for research in child-sensitive policies, providing policy and decision-makers with the data and evidence necessary for informed decision-making. Since its launch, 44 individuals drawn from Government departments and NGOs working in the development sector have graduated.