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Swaziland: Fit for children, one day at a time

MBABANE/SWAZILAND, 1 June 2009  – UNICEF gathered with more than 100 children, Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, 7 cabinet ministers, UN agencies, and 300 civil society representatives to launch Children’s Month, 2009 . The program featured narratives, dance, and drama performances by children to highlight relevant child rights issues such as disabled child equality, child participation, intergenerational sex, and HIV/AIDS.

Children have traditionally had limited avenues of expression concerning issues that affect them. Advocates for children’s rights in Swaziland realized the need to strengthen a meaningful child participation. June is recognized as children’s month with the highlight being celebrations for the Day of the African Child from 15th-18th of June which will take place in each of the four regions of the country. There will also be an ongoing child focused television and radio programming throughout the month.  It will culminate with a photo exhibition that will also feature the winners of the National Arts Competition.

Swaziland has adapted this year’s theme to:  Make Swaziland Fit for Children - an accelerated call for child protection.

Speaking on behalf of children living with disability, seventeen-year-old Mhlonishwa Mabatho who lost his sight at the age of seven, urged government to scale interventions aimed at helping people with disability.  “Government should ensure the protection of children living with disability from abuse”,  Mhlonishwa stated.  He further urged parents who have children living with disability to accept and give them the best opportunities in life rather than hide them.

Both the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister emphasized the importance of children in development efforts. “The future of Swaziland and Africa is in the hands of our children”, said Prime Minister, Dr. Barnabas Subusiso Dlamini. He added that, “Education will remain a key catalyst in whatever you do in the future”. He encouraged all stakeholders to unite against the abuse of children in the country. ” Our children remain a key human resource that can propel the development of our nation to greater heights”, said Deputy Prime Minister, Hon. Themba Masuku.

 “This year government approved the national children’s policy. We will be working tirelessly in ensuring that the related legislation is approved and enacted to protect the rights and welfare of children in the country,” the Deputy Prime Minister reiterated.  The ratification of the African charter on the rights and welfare of the child will be a priority, Masuku emphasized.

UNICEF country representative, Dr. Gulaid added remarks about the country’s progress and continued challenges.  He mentioned the milestones reached over the years such as the establishment of the Children’s Coordination Unit under the Deputy Prime Ministers office, a Domestic Violence and Child Protection Unit, child friendly courts at the Mbabane Magistrates Court, and Centre of Excellence for the care and treatment of children with HIV. He went on further to explain that despite these achievements, the country is behind in its development of the Policy and Legal frameworks that initiate a national response to children’s issues.  Currently Swaziland is classified as one of the 10 least child-friendly countries in Africa. “Each year gives us opportunities to renew our promises to children.” said Dr. Gulaid. “Should Swaziland address the draft policies and legislation promptly, I have no doubt the country will be surely classified as one of the most child-friendly countries in Africa”

Save the Children director, Mr. Dumsani Mnisi, emphasized that as much as civil society, government, and parents are working to ensure that children enjoy their rights, children must take personal ownership of their actions. Speaking at the same occasion, World Vision Director, Mr Marko Ngwenya pledged civil society’s commitment towards assisting children enjoy their rights.

UNICEF is on the ground in 155 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information, please contact:
Nonhlanhla Hleta-Nkambule, UNICEF Swaziland, Tel: +268 407 1000/1041
Email: nnkambule@unicef.org




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