6 June 2011 – Children and Youth in Southern Sudan gather to ‘have their say’ ahead of independence
JUBA, Southern Sudan – Under the motto ‘Sout Tai’ (My voice), boys and girls converged in Juba, the capital of Southern Sudan on 21st April to raise their voices to demand for their rights at the threshold of Africa’s newest nation due to be declared, July 9th 2011.
The children and youth consultative workshop organized by UNICEF comes barely two months before the declaration of independence by Southern Sudan following a historic referendum in which Southerners overwhelmingly voted for separation from the north.
The referendum was part of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement to end the two decade long war between the North and the South.
The forum provided the children a platform to contribute to UNICEF’s vision for children in Southern Sudan by 2020.
“The children and the youth are the cornerstone of the new republic of Southern Sudan and hence their contribution is significant”“The children and the youth are the cornerstone of the new republic of Southern Sudan and hence their contribution is significant”, said Peter Baptist, Under Secretary of the Ministry of Youth.
“The new country presents new opportunities for children and youth. We should all do our best to create a protective environment within which our children can thrive and develop to their full potential”, Mr. Baptist added.
The workshop brought together a cross section of children - those in school and out of school. Other than the group discussions and the open plenary sessions, the children engaged in drawings as one way to illustrate and communicate their ideas.
“The children and youth workshop could have come at no any other better time than now when Southern Sudan is set to become a new country”, said Dr. Yasmin Haque, Director of UNICEF Southern Sudan. “There is no single thing more important than an increased investment in services that provide its children a better start to life and to enable the child grow and develop”, Dr. Haque added.
The views put forward by the children clearly demonstrated the significance of their voices if relevant decisions and policies are to be made and if any meaningful results are to be achieved for children.
“I drew a school and a church. Without school we can’t do anything better in our life”, said 10-year old Emmanuel“I drew a school and a church. Without school we can’t do anything better in our life”, said 10-year old Emmanuel.
“I want protection if I am less than 18 years old. I should not be forced to marry, but to concentrate in my education” added 16 year old Emma.
Social Protection and quality education was one of the main concerns of children and youth. This, they linked to their dreams of a better future.
Other issues that featured prominently include increased demand for their voices and opinions to be heard and opportunities for the youth.
More than 200 boys and girls from 10 to 25 years old participated in the consultation process, exercising their fundamental right of participation and to freely express their views on matters that affect them.
Working together with the Government of Southern Sudan, UNICEF continues to advocate for the progressive realization of the rights of all children in Southern Sudan.