On the Day of the African Child, the Government of South Sudan and UNICEF are calling for more support to children in conflict with the law
JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN, 16 JUNE – Too many children in South Sudan are not yet receiving the necessary support when they are in conflict with the law, the Government of South Sudan and UNICEF said as Africa commemorates the Day of the African Child. This year’s theme, decided by the African Union, is: Access to a Child-Friendly Justice System in Africa.
Minors in conflict with the law are entitled to social support and legal representation to help them throughout the process; informing them about their rights, navigating them in the judiciary system and supporting their defence. Yet, this rarely happens unless the family has the means to pay a lawyer.
“The legal foundation is there, now we need to ensure the law is enforced,” said Minister of Gender, Child and Social Welfare Ms Hon. Aya Benjamin Warile. “The transitional Constitution and the Child Act are examples of what already exist to give guidance on how to treat, support and protect children in conflict with the law. With great support from our partners in the justice sector we will be able to implement it, keeping the best interest of the child at heart.”
Being in conflict with the law regardless of guilt status can be stressful and cause anxiety. Uncertainty about what will happen next, worrying about the family and being in an unfamiliar and unfriendly environment can cause distress for the concerned children. A child in conflict with the law is in touch with many adults; police officers, judges, lawyers, social workers, security personnel, prison guards, medics and cooks. Regardless of the professional role, all can play a positive part in these children’s lives. You can be the one person that makes a difference.
“We know how much a smile, a friendly gesture or just a greeting in the morning can mean for children in distress,” said Mohamed Ag Ayoya, UNICEF South Sudan Representative. “Research shows, that children who had one reliable person in their lives while going through a difficult time, are doing better than children who didn’t had the same support. Next time you meet a child in a difficult situation when you are performing your duties, decide that you will be the one.”
Not only professionals can support children in conflict with the law. Family members, friends and neighbours can also be the one by visiting the child in detention regularly, help sorting out some of the things the child is worried about and be a good listener. Making sure children feel loved is something everyone can contribute to and it is free.
“As adults, our job is to guide the youth and help them when they stumble- supporting them to become productive members of the society. It is said, it takes a village to raise a child. We are all members of this village,” said Ayoya.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work in South Sudan visit: www.unicef.org/southsudan