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Accra (Ghana), 6 Sep: Children and youth globally may soon be able to advise the UN on violence and harmful practices they face in their everyday lives.
Marta Santos Pais, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General on ‘Violence Against Children’ has mooted the idea of an advisory committee of children and youth across all regions of the world to inform her work.
Ms Santos Pais on Thursday shared her vision with over 100 child and youth delegates from 13 countries in West and Central Africa on the concluding day of a consultation forum on ending harmful practices affecting children and youth, organised by the child rights organisation Plan International.
The creation of an advisory committee will be a new milestone in child and youth participation at the global level. The proposed mechanism, once operational, will provide children and youth leaders a direct communication channel with the UN Special Representative.
“Plan welcomes and supports the UN Special Representative’s proposed initiative as it will galvanise the efforts to push for urgent and decisive action against harmful practices and violence against children,” said Adama Coulibaly, Plan’s Regional Director for West Africa.
In Africa alone, millions of children continue to suffer from various forms of harmful practices, including female genital mutilation/cutting, early and forced marriage, bonded labour, fertility proving, accusations of witchcraft, and a number of other lesser known practices. In West Africa, for example, even though all countries have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, children in the region still continue to suffer a wide range of violations many of which are deeply rooted in traditions and customs.
In her address at the Forum earlier on during the week, Ms Santos Pais had said that children and young people are uniquely placed to expose harmful practices and make known the hidden face of violence. “As true agents of change, their involvement is fundamental to achieving lasting solutions in our common struggle to prevent and address all forms of violence, including harmful practices.”
Plan has led the setting up of National Child and Youth Advisory Boards in all its 12 countries of operation in West and Central Africa. At the Accra Forum, delegates passed a resolution calling on all governments to create and adequately fund mechanisms to prevent and combat violence against children.
Among other recommendations, the resolution called for integrating child rights in school curricula and teachers training, and increasing public awareness in ending harmful practices.
A Regional Child and Youth Advisory Board of 24 members, comprising male and female representatives from National Boards, was also inaugurated at the Forum.
- Plan International is one of the world’s oldest and largest child rights and community development organisations with programmes in 50 developing countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas.
- Plan has been working in Ghana since 1992, helping poor children to access their rights to health, education, food security and protection.
- Plan’s West Africa Regional Office has led the creation of National Children and Youth Advisory Boards (NCYABs) in 12 countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo. To date, 10 out of 12 have been officially launched and are fully functional. The boards have been created in collaboration with the government Ministry responsible for child protection in each country.
- The NCYABs comprise children and youth between the ages of 8- 24 years; however each country focuses on an age range that ties in with their national laws and policies. The official size of a board is a maximum of 40 gender balanced group.
- The aspect of tackling exclusion is highly considered in the composition of the NCYABs, so children from excluded populations, marginalised groups (such as those with limited abilities) and other vulnerable children and youth (HIV and AIDS orphans and children in difficult situations) form part of the board.
Communication Specialist, Plan Ghana
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