Nationals Congresses of the Children's Parliament
I NATIONAL CONGRESS OF THE CHILDREN'S PARLIAMENT
On April 12, 2003, in celebration of Bolivian Children's Day, 130 child deputies aged under 12, and 27 adolescent senators aged 13 to 17, held a National Congress session of the Children's Parliament. This event took place in the city of La Paz.
The Bolivian Children's Alliance (ABNA) coordinated the organization of this event with the Social Policy Commission and the Parliamentary Management Support Unit of the Chamber of Deputies.
Two novel characteristics of this Congress were its representativity and its importance. The deputies and senators came from the nine departments of Bolivia, and from both urban and rural areas, reflecting the social, regional and cultural diversity of the country. Also, the BCA included criteria of positive discrimination in the call to elections, designed to encourage the participation of disabled children.
In previous Child Parliaments only children under 12 years of age from La Paz and the city of El Alto had taken part. These assemblies were held on April 12 in 2001 and 2002 in La Paz.
The Congress also broke with the merely symbolic tradition of previous parliaments. For the first time, Congress members have to continue their legislative duties for a whole year. To monitor their draft laws, children and adolescents are receiving support from the organizing institutions and the Parliamentary Brigades for each region.
Fruits of an intensive day of work
The Chamber of Deputies and the Chamber of Senators sessioned simultaneously. Throughout this intensive day of work, Congress members of the Children's Parliament looked for consensus and presented Bolivian society and the Government with their demands relating to:
· Eradication of child abuse in different areas of Bolivian society.
· Eradication of the worst forms of child labour. Children and adolescents called on the Government to create more employment for adults, so that there would be no child and adolescent workers and no street children.
· Eradication of discrimination of disabled children and adolescents in schools.
· Free and improved public education in rural areas.
· Improved quality of education in state schools, in both pedagogical and other aspects, such as infrastructure and equipment. They requested access to new technology, such as computation, Internet connection…
· Fulfillment of the right to an identity. They called for birth registry certificates to be issued or free, as well as identity cards for children aged from 0 to 18 years of age.
· Improved nutrition, health and education conditions in the departments of Beni and Pando. Congress members stated that in many provinces of these regions school breakfast programmes do not exist.
Preparatory Workshop for the Congress
On April 10 and 11, in the city of La Paz, a preparatory workshop was held for the Congress. Its objective was for deputies and senators to become familiar with legilslative practice. Work was organized as following:
· First Day: child and adolescent Congress members had an initial contact with legilslative practice/ In an open space, lent for the occasion by the Bolivian Boy Scouts Association, they carried out participative and play dynamics. Their motto was "Learning throught play".
· Second Day: child and adolescent Congress members worked independently and simultaneously with the support of the Chambers of Deputies and Senators. The children and adolescents learned, amongst other technical aspects, the processes of deliberation and voting. Later, Congress members elected their representatives for the head positions in each Chamber. Also, they determined the topics to be debated at the First Session of the National Congress of the Children's Parliament.
IV NATIONAL CONGRESS OF THE CHILDREN'S PARLIAMENT. Building with participation and identity a democratic country
On April 12, 2006, Bolivian Children’s Day, the IV Children’s Parliament was installed at the Republic Congress.
The 157 senators and deputies created proposals to specific issues in accordance with the Bolivian childhood reality. In this way, they achieved the approbation of principals’ law bills that promise to improve the standards of living of their pairs all over the country.
The members of the congress that met separately (senators and deputies), treated, and approved law bills such as the affidavit of national and regional priority; building and repairing medical centers in communities and remotes places of the country; creation of education centers in the rural area, etc. As well, among others proposals, they instructed to the Ministry of Education to introduce within the School Curricula the knowledge of Boy, Girl and Adolescent Code and the Political Constitution of the State, and requested the widen up of the scholar breakfast to superior levels, i.e., up to the last level of secondary in all the departments of the country.
That way, boys, girls and teenagers, members of the congress, put their dreams of a better word for Bolivian childhood in the hands of adults, institutions, and civil society.
In the subject, the President of the Republic, Evo Morales, solicited to members of the congress to organize and to present bimonthly proposals with the objective that all the childhood will be taken into account within the re-foundation of Bolivia.
The President told them “From the parliament, from the Palace, we can do something.”
Days before the session of the IV National Congress of the Parliament of Boys, Girls and Teenagers, the young members of congress were involved in several activities, principally in workshops on Democracy and Functions of the Parliament and in the organization of the proposals by departments. Participants were divided in two groups: one of deputies with boys and girls up to 12 years old, and the other one of senators composed by teenagers.
Project law bills approved by the IV National Congress of the Parliament of Boys, Girls and Teenagers
• Creation of shelters for street’s boys, girls, and teenagers.