Strengthening the Gabon national child protection system is a national priority
Child protection systems for Gabonese children face several impediments like inadequate enforcement of the regulatory framework, insufficient allocation of resources, lack of coordination between various sectors, the burden of cultural norms, family environments that do not favour girl children and a lack of specialization among field actors like social workers and investigating officers.
Many children undergo abuse, exploitation, violence and discrimination and the national systems in Gabon are not strong enough to protect them.
Child Protection challenges in numbers
- During the first quarter of 2016, 241 minors — including 12 girls in 9 prisons — were detained in Gabon.
- According to the general population and housing census of 2013, of the 6332 children aged 12-17 years are currently living in some type of union (married, common law or union without cohabiting) or recently single (divorced, separated or widow), 73% are girls.
Under the child protection program at UNICEF Gabon we focus on three major areas:
Justice for Children: When it comes to dealing with minors, the justice system in Gabon faces bottlenecks. Lack of judges to try juveniles and not enough minor’s quarters and juvenile detention centres all make access to justice for minors difficult. UNICEF Gabon is strengthening the network of access to justice for minors by building the capacity of all required stakeholders for minors to access justice.
Child Trafficking: As a country on the west coast of Africa, Gabon is a potential hot spot for child trafficking. Many immigrant children from as far as Benin, Togo, Mali and Nigeria, among other neighbouring countries, are brought into the country. Many of the victims are girls who are exploited for labour. This exposes migrant children to violence, sexual harassment and crime. UNICEF Gabon works hand in hand with social workers in Gabon to rehabilitate children who have been victims of trafficking.
Birth Registration: At UNICEF we believe that every child has the right to be recognized, for the sake of their basic needs. Failure to achieve this right can lead to discrimination, as in the case of Gabon where children from indigenous communities often fail to attain a birth status. While birth registration is effective, indigenous communities are often left behind.
One of the lessons learnt from implementing the programme agenda of 2016/17 is that child protection cuts across, social, health and education and are vital for collecting statistics that will form a base of the nation’s data on children.