The theme for this year’s celebration is," The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development for Children in Africa: Accelerating Protection, Empowerment and Equal Opportunity.”
Kadijatu Bah said that on the 15th June they held a news conference that assembled children from across the country to deliberate on issues that affecting them. She revealed that at the end of the conference they came out with a position paper that urged Government, United Nations Agencies and Child Protection partners to respond to their priorities in order to promote and protect their welfare. She admitted that the incident of child abuse in Sierra Leone affects them in schools, homes and their communities.
“We are always abused and exploited, thus violating our fundamental human rights and our future development,” she said, adding if the Government did not act fast in protecting the welfare of children their future will be marred with challenges.
A comprehensive position paper was presented to the Vice President, Ambassador Victor Bockarie Foh by Kadijatu Bah on behalf of Children’s Forum Network and the children of Sierra Leone for the attention of President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma and his Government.
In his address the Paramount Chief Bai Farma Tass Bubu N’gbak of Magbema Chiefdom expressed appreciation to the Ministry for choosing his district for this year’s celebration, noting that the year 1976 will forever remained in the hearts and minds of children across the world because of the massacre that befall thousands of children in the South African township of Soweto.
He appealed to the children to use the day as a reflection on their past and urged the government to accelerate means to help them achieve their desired goals.
He further called on parents and guardians to encourage their children to focus on education, explaining that education is the backbone towards any country’s development.
Speaking on behalf of UNICEF, Geoff Wiffin, disclosed that Sierra Leone has taken some important steps in the past years, citing the government’s launch of the Africa Union campaign on ending child marriage in August 2016 and the involvement of children in the preparation of the state budget in the county.
According to him the local theme, ‘Join han for make Salone pikin beteh tay go', meant it is time for all stakeholders at all levels from state actors to communities to come together and find solutions to end violation against children rights, be it teenage pregnancy, child marriage, sexual and gender based violence, or lack of access to education and health services.
He assured the children of his organization’s continued support to the government and the Ministry in ensuring that issues of children get the appropriate attention from the relevant authorities.
The Chairman Parliamentary Committee on Social Welfare, Hon Hassan A. Sesay, appealed to parents and guardians not to allow their girl child to engage in early marriage or force them into early marriages.
He maintained that early marriage is an added burden on families and a deterrent to government’s efforts in developing the country’s educational system.
He however revealed that with the domestication of the Child Rights Act of 2007, children will be given the right to education, better health-care services and friendly environment for them to live.
He maintained that children have been given the right to speak for themselves rather than listen to others as an effective and modern means of communication.
Speaking on behalf of the Minister of Social Welfare, Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, the Deputy Minister, Mrs. Rugiatu Neneh Koroma, expressed appreciation to the Vice President and other stakeholders for gracing the celebration and commended staff of the Ministry for their role in making the celebration a success.
She maintained that children are blaming elders for giving them out to marriage at an early age simply because stakeholders in their various communities will have their own share (Bora).
The Deputy Minister disclosed the Ministry is in constant touch with ‘Soweis’ across the country as a way of discouraging the initiation of children below the age of 18 years.
She called on the community people to serve as security guards to protect and monitor the activities of children.
“We always give children the opportunity to participate during our annual budget preparations, for them to have the opportunity to channel their programs and suggest ideas,” she noted.
In the absence of the substantive Minister, the Deputy Minister said she appreciated the children of Kambia and assured them of her Ministry’s commitment in upholding the rights and dignity of children across the country.
Delivering the keynote address, Vice President, Dr. Victor Bockarie Foh, expressed government’s commitment to protecting and upholding the rights and dignity of children at all levels.
He described the local theme for this year’s celebration as timely, stating that it is time for all to come together and fight for the rights and dignity of children across the country.
According to him the government has done lots in protecting the welfare of children for them to have a brighter future, describing the efforts of parents and guardians towards children as very vital.