African Union Side Event: Children voice their call to action for an Africa fit for Children
Africa Children's Parliament in Zambia
The Africa Children’s Parliament called for affirmative action on a sideline event of the Africa Union Heads of State Mid-term Summit in Zambia held 15-16 July 2022. One hundred children from 15 African countries participated and reminded governments of their commitments and aspirations in Agenda 2040 to make Africa fit for children. The event was organised by the Ministry of Community Development and Social Services supported by Joining Forces in partnership with UNICEF Zambia and ECOSOCC at the Zambia National Assembly.
Children called the decision-makers to ensure that children are actively involved in decision-making regarding issues that affect their well-being.
“It is not about being kind to let children participate; it is a right children have,” said 17-year-old Felicia from Eswatini. She encourages leaders to bring in the voices of children, including children living with disabilities.
Children’s aspirations reflected in the committee reports
The child parliament members submitted six reports prepared following a consultative process and engaging children from across the continent, including Ghana, South Sudan, Somalia, Uganda, Burundi, Niger, Sierra Leone, Malawi, South Africa and Tanzania, among others. Problems, solutions and calls for action were mapped on Climate Change and Resilience, Nutrition and Food Security, Social Protection, Child Protection, Education and Child Participation.
The parliament anonymously called the leaders to act to “reduce the rising food prices at markets so that every household can manage nutritious and balanced diets” when presenting the Nutrition and Food Security report. Lucia from Kenya urged governments to educate farmers on using additional drought-resistant crops.
Children are most vulnerable to climate change. “The effect, if not addressed, will only keep getting worse,” said Zakarias from Mozambique, Climate Change and Resilience Committee Leader.
“We want an Africa fit for all children by 2040. I believe this is only possible when we put children at the forefront of climate action and environmental protection. It will give us the ability to achieve sustainable development goals,”
“The covid-19 pandemic has made us lose many hours; some of our friends are not yet back at school after school reopened,” said Education Committee leader Nancy from Zambia. She explained challenges such as school infrastructures destroyed by floods, rising fuel costs affecting school transportation, teachers not wanting to teach in rural areas, and poor water and sanitation conditions affecting menstruating girls. Education is key to success, we call upon African leaders to invest in this key, so we can have a successful continent that is fit for children,” said Nancy.
The Committee report on Child Participation states “that [meaningful child participation] is the only way adults will know children’s challenges. This is how duty bearers can make informed and quality decisions about children.”
“What I want African government leaders to do for us as children is to make sure we are included in all programmes that can help us towards the realisation of Agenda 2040, fostering an Africa Fit for Children,” said Mona Lisa, 17, from Zimbabwe.
A vibrant question-answer session between child parliamentarians and decision-makers raised the government’s accountability issue and called for action while encouraging children to participate in community-level activities as young change makers.
“I am your ambassador and will always speak about children’s rights. About what matters to children. About what children want, because you are the future,” said Doreen Mwamba, the Community Development and Social Services Minister of Zambia, pledging her commitment to making the change the children called for.
Joseph Ndayisenga, the Chairperson of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights of the Child, Doreen Mwamba, Minister Community Development and Social Services of Zambia, Deputy 1st Speaker of the National Assembly of Zambia Malungo A Chisangano, Representatives from UNICEF Zambia and Joining Forces Country Directors listened to the children at the Africa Children’s Parliament.