5TH SESSION OF THE CHILD AND ADOLESCENT PARLIAMENT
The Child and Adolescent Parliament arose from an initiative of the boys and girls of the Bolivian Children’s Alliance in the year 2002, with the aim of becoming a public voice that would allow children and adolescents (CA) to participate in and have an influence on the creation of public policy in this country.
The first session of the CA Parliament took place on the 12th of April 2003 in honour of Bolivian Children’s Day. Every year since then, the boys, girls and teens who have acted as senators and representatives go to the National House of Congress to exercise democracy and their full citizenship, upholding the values of freedom, equality and the respect for others’ opinions.
The second, third and fourth sessions of the Child and Adolescent Parliaments - held in 2004, 2005, and 2006 respectively - were even more fully attended and representative than the first, and worked on issues related to the Constituent Assembly.
Complying with the proposal set forth by the children and adolescents themselves, the Parliament represents the entire nation and insists on three types of equity: gender (50% male - 50% female), generational (representatives are children; senators are adolescents) and socio-cultural (urban, indigenous and peasant children).
The CA Parliament brings traditionally excluded sectors of the population (indigenous, working and handicapped children) into national arenas of participation.
The process of organising, training and mobilising the adult National Parliament to work together with children and adolescents is a completely participative process, from the planning stages to the forming of each committee.
In recent years, the National Parliament has taken on greater responsibility in terms of training and developing the CA Parliament, and has helped to consolidate this important way of allowing children and adolescents to participate in and influence policymaking: the children draft laws and proposals and submit them to the adult congressmen and women for consideration.
The National CA Parliament is moving towards permanency, holding at least two national sessions per year, and works during the Departmental Parliamentary Sessions.
Departmental Elections of Representatives and Senators
Elections are held each year to allow young people to participate in this national encounter. The children and adolescents themselves choose their representatives, who get their starts through local grassroots groups and organisations. Later, these children take part in municipal and departmental events and elections, and finally arrive at the National Child and Adolescent Parliament.
All kinds of boys, girls and teens are invited each year to participate in the Parliament: working children, handicapped children, from children’s homes, from the countryside, from the city, students, native children … everyone has a place in this legislature.
In the early years, the process was led by the Bolivian Children’s Alliance, which at the same time was children’s network that promoted this participative initiative.
This year, the National Parliament has assumed more responsibility for the election process, becoming a more involved stakeholder and making it easier for kids to participate in politics.
At each meeting, the children are clearly motivated and enthusiastic about being able to share their experiences and feelings.
During the training process, they have the opportunity to talk about education, health, work, the family, the environment and citizen safety. They also talk about parliamentary procedures, rights, leadership and self-esteem.
PREPARATORY ACTIVITIES LEADING UP TO THE 5TH SESSION OF THE CHILD AND ADOLESCENT PARLIAMENT
Chairman of the Social Policy Commission, Guillermo Mendoza, and Bolivian Children’s Alliance Representative Blanca Mendoza, opened the 5th Session of the National Child and Adolescent Parliament (NCAP) on April 9th at the Casa Libertad in the city of La Paz.
On this day, NCAP congressional elections took place using a straight-party voting scheme to select the senators and representatives who would participate in the April 12th (Bolivian Children’s Day) Parliamentary Session. To remove any doubts about transparency, the children and adolescents themselves recounted the votes along with the trainers who were present for the event.
The representatives and senators ran a simulation session at the National Congress Hall to help the youths to find their places and instruct them on how their oaths were to be taken. It also helped to orientate them on how to use the microphones and how to take the floor.
DRAFT LAWS PASSED IN THE 5th SESSION OF THE NATIONAL CHILD AND ADOLESCENT PARLIAMENT
- Expanding the Juancito Pinto programme from primary school sto include to secondary schools as well, suggesting that the programme be made law.
- Building of temporary youth shelters for victims of family violence and abandonment.
- Installing health posts in every municipality in the country.
- Regulations on adolescent labour, emphasising that those guilty of employing children 14 years of age or under should be subject to civil prosecution; adolescents must receive the same salary as an adult for performing the same job; adolescents must prioritise studies and be allowed only to work part time; adolescents may not be discriminated against by employers, workmate, etc.
- Building and equipping of hospitals and health centres throughout the country, with preference given to rural areas.
In addition, they declared the following as National, Departmental and Regional priorities:
- Creation of special education centres.
- Creation of health posts equipped to prevent and treat infectious diseases.
- Improvement and ongoing maintenance of school infrastructure.
- Creation of an ongoing vigilance and follow-up system for medical staff at state health centres.
- Citizen security for children and adolescents, including citizen participation in neighbourhood security co-ordinated by the National Police; creation of anti-crime brigades in neighbourhood frequented by children and adolescents.
- Including handicapped children and teens in regular school units in order to avoid discrimination.
- Enforcement of school breakfast distribution to primary and intermediate levels, with priority given to the community of Sinais, Beni Department.
- Control of children and adolescents exiting the country.
The young members of Parliament addressed the following concerns to the Executive Branch of the Government:
- Corruption and discrimination amongst public officials.
- The critical lack of basic services for much of the Bolivian population, recommending that municipal governments expand and improve these services.
- Building of social support centres and public schools for handicapped children and adolescents, allocating of more money to schools and hospitals in both rural and urban areas in order to improve them both qualitatively and quantitatively.
- Increased safety for children and adolescents who work in mines, factories and other potentially dangerous places.
- Teachers specialised in one single area in order to improve the quality of education in this country.
In addition, the Honourable Representatives of the Department of Tarija requested a report from Prefect Mario Cossio, detailing how and on what the Prefectural Government spent monies from the Central Government during the 2006 fiscal year.
The twenty-seven adolescent senators, aged 13 to 17, passed a Pre-draft Law on the “Permanent Institutional Status of the Child and Adolescent Parliament”, which consists of 5 articles detailing its aims, makeup, election processes, workings, resources and means of sustainability.
They also produced a Pre-draft Law on “Reforms to the Child and Adolescent Code”, reforming Title VI of the Code as follows:
- Use of the term ‘child and adolescent worker’ instead of simply ‘adolescent worker’.
- Article 126 (Minimum Age): the minimum age for adolescent workers is 15 years old.
- Addition of an article that states that Children and Adolescents should only be allowed to work under conditions that are appropriate to their ages and degrees of development; also that all levels of government should guarantee primary and secondary education for working children and teens, also providing them with training and legal protection on labour-related issues.
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