500 Southern African children meet with their Presidents to mark World Children’s Day

21 November 2022
wcd2022
UNICEFZimbabwe/2022/Tanaka Ziyavaya

Lusaka, 20 November 2022 – The Presidents of Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe and the Vice President of Namibia have come together in a summit led by around 500 children to mark World Children’s Day. Under the theme of “A Better Future for Every Child” the event presented a unique opportunity to foster dialogue between children and the highest representatives of the four countries involved.

This event comes exactly a year after the same leaders brought together young people to light up the Kazungula Bridge in Kasane, Botswana, blue to commemorate the 2021 World Children’s Day and to celebrate UNICEF’s 75th Anniversary. At this event, a commitment was made to promote and protect children’s rights in their countries.

Gathered in Lusaka, children from across neighbouring nations reflected on their situations, celebrating progress achieved while also recognizing the challenges they still face. They also had an opportunity to engage their Presidents on progress made in four key areas: the regional learning crisis, climate change, disability rights and inclusive environments.

“Having a platform where we, children, can actively participate is very important. A day like this presents an opportunity for us to be heard on issues that affect our lives. I have really learned a lot from the rich discussions held here today and I hope that our Presidents have not only heard our voices but act on the commitments they have made to promote our rights,” stated Blessings Mwamba, 16 years old, from Zambia.

After last year’s event, a communiqué was released calling for further action on improving the quality of education, ensuring better learning outcomes for all children, making sure that all schools are safe-to-learn settings and to bridge the digital divide. Leaders also committed to address inequalities and existing gender disparities to address obstacles faced by girls and children with disabilities to reach their full potential while ensuring inclusive education for children with disabilities and recognizing that children and young people are essential actors in responding to the climate crisis. 

Since last year’s event, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe have made remarkable progress in advancing children’s rights:

  • In Botswana, the Government has made great progress in the use of technology to enhance learning in schools through the Smart Botswana Digital Transformation Strategy, as well as accelerated efforts to connect every learner to the internet. Currently, a total of 609 schools are connected to high-speed internet, empowering a community of more than 387,000 students with access to e-learning and other digital tools. In addition, the Government has procured 46,700 electronic gadgets which will be issued to teachers and learners across the country in January. Furthermore, concerted effort has been made to address violence against children, with Government establishing child friendly police centres in selected Districts across the country to make it easier for children to report cases of abuse.

 

  • In Namibia, the Government has embarked on a nationwide consultation with regional leaders, parents, children, young people, and children with disabilities to get a first-hand take on how the country should transform education and ensure that no child is left behind. A national youth leader has been appointed for coordinating activities with fellow young advocates on this agenda. Namibia is also focusing on narrowing the digital divide; one recent activity being the launch of Giga, an initiative to connect every school and every young person to the Internet.

 

  • In Zambia, the Government is taking important steps to improve the lives of children in the country. The introduction of free secondary education as part of the Education for All policy, the employment of 30,000 additional teachers, the adoption of the landmark Children’s Act and the expansion of UNICEF’s flagship cash transfer programme are just some examples of their commitment to ensure that every child in Zambia has a bright future.

 

  • In Zimbabwe, the Marriages Act, which criminalizes any act that promotes, permit, allow, coerce, aid or abet child marriage, was enacted into law, an essential milestone for the protection of children as one-third of the children in Zimbabwe are married before 18.  25 young people were included in the Zimbabwean delegation to the recent COP27, one of the many indications of a growing involvement of children and young people in the climate change debate in Zimbabwe, resulting in child-sensitive Nationally Determined Contribution and National Adaption Plans.    

The President of the Republic of Zambia, His Excellency Hakainde Hichilema, has put children's needs at the centre of the Government's priorities. This can be seen clearly in Zambia's 8th National Development Plan, which recognises that children are at the heart of human and social development - a key pillar of the Plan. His government's policy reform agenda has also been defined by child-centred legislation in key areas such as education and child protection.

His regional counterparts joined him – His Excellency Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi, President of Republic of Botswana, His Excellency Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, President of Republic of Zimbabwe and His Excellency, Nangolo Mbumba, Vice President of Namibia.

“Zambia is honored to host this multi-country commemoration of World Children’s Day. A day that we celebrate children for what they embody: the present and the future of this country. It has been inspiring to listen to their perspectives and their call for action for doing more and better, something that this Government is committed to doing. As our efforts continue to increase their access to quality education, and equal opportunities to thrive, we count on them to continue speaking their truth. To hold us accountable, and to inspire us – in creating a brighter present and future for Zambia,” stated His Excellency Hakainde Hichilema, President of the Republic of Zambia.

“Namibia considers the fulfilment of child rights our duty. We believe that investing in children has long lasting impacts. You, children, are the greatest assets we have. Our Government recognizes that accelerating progress to meet the demands of children and adolescents is a must. That is why we are working tirelessly to implement policies focused on children and allocate resources for child rights in collaboration with our partners while putting emphasis in meaningfully participation of children. All of us have a duty to create a social movement to advocate for child rights and make of our countries the best place for children,” said His Excellency Nangolo Mbumba, Vice President of the Republic of Namibia

 

“As leaders in Southern Africa, we are racing against time to make sure that our nations frog leap and overtake those who call themselves first world countries. Our best investment is you, our children. You are our security, our insurance for better lives for our people and countries”, stated His Excellency Mokgweetsi Eric Masisi, President of the Republic of Botswana.  

 

“I thank the children present today for the strong messages they shared with us. Dream big, but these dreams should be useful. In Zimbabwe, we feel strong about listening to children. We created a platform for children to express themselves and engage with the Government, including through the Children’s Parliament. Our Government is working on leaving no one and no place behind. In my office I have created a department for people and children with disabilities, also working on making schools accessible for all.  On leaving no one and no place behind, we need to invest in the digital space, because the future is digital. I call young people to embrace science, technology and innovation, be disciplined, abstain from using drugs and think about how they can contribute to the society they are part of,’ said His Excellency, Dr Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe.

 

“Today’s event has showcased the essence of World Children’s Day: a global day of action for children, by children,” explained UNICEF’s Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Mohamed Malick Fall. “We have witnessed children and young people working alongside their Presidents to make a brighter future for every child – advancing the rights of children with disabilities, tackling climate change and spearheading action on the regional learning crisis.”

 

World Children’s Day marks the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) on 20 November 1989. 

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Notes for editors:

Photos, b-roll and audio soundbites are available here: WCD 2022 - OneDrive (sharepoint.com)

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