Remarks by Ms. Christine Muhigana, Representative at the Nelson Mandela Children’s Parliament 2021

As prepared for delivery

08 October 2021

Honorable Minister Lindiwe Zulu,

Our esteemed delegates of the Children’s Parliament.

Valued partners from the Department of Social Development, the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, Save the Children South Africa and the South African Human Rights Commission.

A very good afternoon to you all.

On behalf of UNICEF, I am very pleased to address you today as you conclude a stimulating morning of discussion and debate at this, the 2021 Nelson Mandela Children’s Parliament.

UNICEF is proud of its long association with Children’s Parliaments around the world over the past few decades. Forums like this help foster leadership, empathy, tolerance and the ability to bring solutions to the challenges that face us.

And indeed, what a difficult time it has been as existing inequalities and difficulties have been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic both in South Africa and globally. Like many millions of your peers around the world, your schooling has been disrupted, our families and friends affected and many of us have had to grapple with specific challenges for the first time.

Mental health, for example, has been an issue on which UNICEF is actively engaged. Indeed, a recent finding by u-Report found that 65 percent of young people stated that they had some form of a mental health issue but did not seek help. This is clearly a call to action.

Sessions like the Nelson Mandela Children’s Parliament remind us of the need for collective action to address these challenges and I am sure that we all now feel more equipped to understand and respond to the work that still needs to be done. It is fitting that what we have seen today is a Children’s ‘Parliament’ because Parliament promotes the constitutional right of children to participate in decision making and policy development on matters that affect them.

It also makes an invaluable contribution towards the development of a society that respects the rights of every one of its children, including freedom of expression.

It is heartening to see participants from all nine provinces here today. The efforts of the Department of Social Development to ensure that the whole of South Africa is represented is greatly appreciated and speaks to the commitment of Minister Zulu and her Department to ensure that the voices of children and young people are heard.

The work of UNICEF globally is guided in part by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the ‘CRC.’ It is worth noting that this was the first international treaty to be ratified by the newly-elected democratic government of President Mandela in 1995.  Contained in this treaty is a profound idea that children are not just objects who belong to their parents and for whom decisions are made. Rather, they are human beings and individuals with their own rights. The CRC defines childhood is separate from adulthood and the age of 18 is a cut off age of childhood to adulthood:  a special, protected time, in which children must be allowed to grow, learn, play, develop and flourish with dignity.

Delegates to the 2021 Nelson Mandela Children’s Parliament, in less than two months time, UNICEF will turn 75 years old. While much has been achieved towards giving children the best start in life, as your discussions this morning have noted, there is much that still needs to be done.

Equipped with the knowledge, skills and insights that we have all gained through this invaluable opportunity this morning, let us commit to mobilizing and working together to give every child a safer, happier and healthier future.

I thank you.

Media contacts

Sudeshan Reddy
Communication Specialist
UNICEF South Africa
Tel: +27 82 561 3970
Toby Fricker
Chief of Communication & Partnerships
UNICEF South Africa
Tel: +27 61 418 7486

About UNICEF

UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.

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