By: Kebba AF Touray
The Children National Assembly of the Gambia (CNAG) has tasked the government of the Gambia to be more committed to adequate, effective implementation and enforce the Children’s (Amendment) Act 2016.
This appeal was made to the government on Saturday, 9 August at the Gambia’s Legislative House during the First Ordinary Session of the Children National Assembly of the Gambia.
The session among others, allows the children to discuss issues affecting them, with a view to ensuring that the relevant authorities take those issues and concerns into consideration and provide remedies.
This and other commitments were leveled against the Gambia Government in a motion with the theme “ACCELERATE ACTIONS TOWARDS THE GAMBIA WE WANT.’
The motion entitled the position paper of CNAG captioned “CALL TO ACTION” also features the calls of the CNAG for the government to ensure that children’s rights are respected, protected, and fulfilled in The Gambia irrespective of background.
The position paper also outlines the stance of the CNAG on the need for the Gambia Government to be committed to ensuring the provision of basic and secondary education, making it totally free, compulsory, qualitative, accessible, and available to all children, including children in Madarasas.
Laying the motion before the members of CNAG, Hon. Tida Barrow, Member for KM, on behalf of 105 members of CNAG, which represent the Gambian children, strongly urged the government to fulfill its commitments and act for child rights now, once and for all.
She noted that the Children National Assembly of The Gambia (CNAG) is a child-led, non-statutory body established by the Government of The Gambia through the Gambia National Assembly and the National Youth Council in partnership with UNICEF-The Gambia, Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare, Child Protection Alliance, Child Fund – The Gambia and National Youth Parliament.
“The ultimate aim of CNAG is to promote and advocate for the rights of all children as enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, and all other legal instruments pertaining to the promotion, protection and development of children in The Gambia,” she said.
She expressed appreciation to CNAG for the enactment of the Children’s Act 2005, Women’s Act 2010, Tourism Offences Act 2003, Persons with Disabilities Act 2021, and other relevant legislation to guarantee their fundamental human rights, protect us from all forms of abuse, exploitation and violence and build for children an environment which is enabling, loving and protecting.
She further acknowledged the provision of free education at all basic and secondary levels, the legal prohibition of FGM and child marriage, and the establishment of the Children National Assembly of The Gambia, Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare, and the National Human Rights Commission, amongst many other efforts and national initiatives;
She recalled existing regional and international human rights legal instruments ratified by the State, in particular, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child inter alia, with a view to respect, protect and fulfill the rights of all children without discrimination or distinction
She noted, “The obligation of the State as the primary protector of children to effectively implement and enforce all the laws that protect children against all forms of abuse, exploitation, and violence, and to diligently investigate, prosecute and punish child sex predators both online and offline, rapists and child traffickers.”
She said that despite the progress made, there are still challenges the country is grappling with which called for collective action by the Government and other relevant stakeholders to address them.
Barrow said in view of the aforesaid challenges, coupled with the need to provide adequate protection, provision, participation, and development of children in The Gambia, they request the Government of The Gambia to commit, to “Respect, protect and fulfill the rights of every child in The Gambia irrespective of background, religion, ethnicity, disability, or any other consideration or status; adequately and effectively enforce and implement all the laws which protect children from all forms of sexual abuse, violence, exploitation, hazardous labour, and trafficking.”
It added: “Adequately and effectively implement and enforce the Children’s (Amendment) Act 2016 which prohibits child marriage and the Women (Amendment) Act 2015 which prohibits Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting and diligently prosecute violators of these laws. Put in place effective mechanisms to reduce road accidents and casualties of children as a result of road accidents.
“Effectively enforce and implement the Tobacco Control Act and the National Drug Law Enforcement Act to ensure that no child is involved in the buying of tobacco or any other harmful and illegal substances and drugs. Put in place effective mechanisms and measures to support children who dropped out of school due to pregnancy, child marriage and drug and substance abuse”
The children’s body calls on the government to put up effective and firm mechanisms to address increasing numbers of teenage pregnancies in the country, especially in rural areas as well as work closely with partners to address irregular migration with a specific focus on children, and ensure all schools are child friendly and free from all forms of bullying.
“Make basic and secondary education, totally free, compulsory, qualitative, accessible, and available to all children, including children in Madarasas. Establish standard science and IT laboratories in all schools in The Gambia and support their effective functioning, provide adequate school buses in all the regions of The Gambia, particularly for rural Gambia, and ensure that all schools including Madrasas and health facilities have sanitary pads which are always available and accessible to girls and young ladies.
“Ensure adequate and accessible medical supplies in all health facilities in The Gambia, ensure children have access to Sexual and Reproductive Health information and services which are friendly and non-stigmatizing as well as reintroduce Population and Family Life Education in the school curriculum. Establish recreational and sporting facilities for children in all the regions of the country, in fulfillment of their rights to play and development”
It also calls on the government to provide a budget line in the national budget for the effective functioning of the Children National Assembly of The Gambia as well as establish rehabilitation centers for children who are experiencing stressful and traumatic situations, including mental health and sexual abuse.
“Provide young people with disabilities the opportunities to access higher education that is affordable and appropriate to their needs. Make justice accessible, affordable, and disability friendly by providing sign language interpreters in all major Government services institutions (national television, hospitals, police stations among others) and make all important national documents in braille form to be accessible to persons with visual impairment,” the body recommends.
The children’s parliament tasks the government to break the culture of silence surrounding child sexual abuse and exploitation by organising open national and community dialogues using all available channels by promoting and fulfilling the rights of children with disabilities, fighting discrimination and stigmatisation against them, and ensure they have access to all services and buildings.
“Encourage the active participation and involvement of children in decision-making processes at the national and local levels, including through child-friendly digital technologies.
“We wish to earnestly urge the Government, on behalf of the children of The Gambia, to effectively implement this Call to Action as it will contribute greatly to advancing our rights,” she said.
She concluded, “A Gambia fit for every child is a Gambia that protects, safeguards, and provides the environment for the realization of our potential.”
The motion was subsequently adopted by the members of the Children National Assembly of the Gambia.