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Children’s rights occupy an obscure place in govt’s eyes – ZCEA

LET every child within the borders of Zambia live protected and adequately provided for lives, says Zambia Civic Education Association executive director Judith Mulenga.

Mulenga said 31 years after the Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly and 27 years after Zambia ratified the Convention on December 6, 1991, children’s rights keep occupying an obscure place in the eyes of the PF government which is the primary duty bearer for children’s rights.

She said two years after Zambia was ranked among the least child friendly governments in Africa, there had not been any tangible efforts to move the country out of the shameful ranking by improving the lives of children in the nation.

“What is remarkable about the situation of children in Zambia if not child abuse, child neglect, child labour, child marriage, school drop outs, violence against children, reduced funding to child related programmes in the national budget?” she asked.

Mulenga reminded the government that the continued lip service commitment to children’s rights to the extent of ignoring treaty based child rights committees such as the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child’s 2016 concluding observations and recommendations only serves to irreparably harm Zambia’s children.

She said a matrix of the government’s compliance to the 2016 recommendations shows little, inadequate and lack of attendance to them when Zambia is due to report to the same Committee in January 2021.

“Though human rights are not hierarchical, it is our considered view that respecting, protecting and fulfilling children’s rights is that much more imperative than obligations on any other human instruments because children are vulnerable on account of their age and dependency,” Mulenga said in a message to mark the universal children’s day which falls on November 20. “Besides Zambia has more children than adults, a potentially demographic dividend that is being squandered by the current government. If as psychologists contend, that what happens to a child in childhood determines whether that child in adulthood becomes a cost or benefit to society, then common sense dictates that childhood needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth.”

She however said the government did not seem to care.

“It fails even to rise to the challenge on fulfilling obligations that are within attainable reach. For example, why does the government not put in place measures to ensure that businesses operating in Zambia respect and promote children’s rights? Why does the government not compel PACRA to mainstream the key child rights and business principles as part of the registration requirements for businesses?” she asked. “We are made to understand that the Ministry of Mines is developing a regulatory framework for small-scale mining. Is the relevant department even aware that the Committee on Child Rights recommended that Zambia puts in place a clear regulatory framework for the mining industries operating in the country for their activities not to negatively affect or endanger environmental and other standards, particularly those relating to children’s rights?”

Mulenga said as Zambia reports back to the Committee in January 2021 and there was nothing to report back on the issue.

She said the Committee had further recommended that the government obligates companies to undertake assessments, consultations and full public disclosure of the environmental, health-related and human rights-related impacts of their business activities and their plans to address such impacts.

“But as usual the government is only content to obtain corporate social responsibility funding from businesses for the so-called development projects for political expediency. We want to remind this government that childhood is not static and any failure in upholding child rights is always too late to remedy,” said Mulenga. “Nearly 28 years after ratifying the Convention on the Rights of the Child, we should move out of perpetual lamentations of child abuse, neglect, exploitation and let every child within the borders of Zambia live protected and adequately provided for lives.”

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