NHRC Chairperson Urges Action against Ongoing Child Rights Violations

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Sariba Manneh

In his address delivered at the PAPEV Phase II Launching Ceremony and Steering Committee Meeting, Emmanuel Daniel Joof, the Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), underscored the urgent need for accountability and action in addressing the persistent challenges faced by children in The Gambia.

Speaking at the Senegambia Beach Hotel on Thursday, Joof acknowledged the existence of robust legal frameworks in the country, citing the 1997 Constitution and the Children’s Act of 2005. However, he pointed out that despite these legal provisions, children, especially the girl child, continue to be at risk of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), child marriage, violence, exploitation, and other forms of abuse.

Joof stressed, “The Gambia currently has adequate laws and a satisfactory legal framework protecting the rights of children,” but went on to highlight the ongoing challenges. He cited instances of FGM, child labor, limited access to healthcare, inadequate nutrition, and the non-operationalization of the Persons With Disability Act 2021, leaving children with disabilities behind.

Despite the government’s efforts to address child trafficking and exploitation, Joof emphasized the necessity of effective implementation of existing laws. He urged, “There must be consequences for those who violate the rights of children,” and emphasized the need for accountability among those tasked with protecting children’s rights.

The NHRC Chairperson commended the government for recent initiatives, such as the stakeholder dialogue on Koranic Memorization Centres and the integration of Islamic education into the national system. However, he called for more substantial efforts to improve access to quality education, especially for foundational literacy and numeracy, and to protect children from all forms of violence and exploitation.

In a direct appeal to the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Welfare, Joof encouraged further research into the plight of children in The Gambia, pointing out that the last study on child street begging was conducted in 1992. He urged increased monitoring and implementation of the Minimum Standard of Care for Residential Child Facilities.

Joof concluded his address by emphasizing, “It is the responsibility of the state to respect, protect, and fulfill the rights of children,” expressing hope for collective action to create a Gambia where every child enjoys their fundamental rights and freedoms. The NHRC Chairperson’s powerful statement resonated with attendees, including government officials, UN representatives, and members of civil society, sparking a renewed call for concerted efforts to address the challenges faced by children in the country.