ZCEA urges presidential candidates to engage children

THE Zambia Civic Education Association has noted with dismay how little attention continues to be paid to children’s rights in this year’s campaigns and yet children demographically make up 53.4 per cent of the population in Zambia.

Commemorating the Day of the African Child (DAC) which falls on June 16, ZCEA executive director Judith Mulenga urged all the 16 presidential candidates to pay attention to “this special group of Zambians though they do not yet vote” but who make up the reservoir of the Zambians that were going to implement all the fantastic development plans seen or not seen in political party manifestos.

Mulenga said childhood was not static but an evolving phase in human development.

“A phase that shapes the individual child for who they become in adulthood. What happens in childhood determines whether the child of today turns out into the adult of tomorrow who become a benefit or a cost to the nation,” she said.

Mulenga said development plans do not implement themselves no matter how great they are.

She said people implement the plans.

“It is also well known that sustainable development is actualised by strategic thinking with clear immediate, mid-term and long term benchmarks. The long term benchmarks are obviously owned and actualised by those that are children today,” Mulenga said. “…Zambia joins the rest of Africa in commemorating the DAC established by the Organisation of African Unity, now the African Union, in 1991 to memories of the children of Soweto who gallantly rose up and faced the oppressive apartheid regime in South Africa in 1976. The children of Soweto unequivocally demonstrated that children’s agency and autonomy is not suddenly realised on their 18th or 21st birthdays but their capacities evolve from the time they are born into adulthood.”

She said this year’s theme for the Day of the African Child was “30 years after the adoption of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child: accelerate implementation of Agenda 2040 for an Africa Fit for Children.”

Mulenga urged all the presidential candidates in this year’s elections not only to familiarise themselves with the AU’s African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and the AU child rights treaty that Zambia ratified on December 2, 2008 but also the Agenda 2040: Fostering an Africa Fit for Children.

She further urged the presidential candidates to engage the children themselves.

“If as a presidential candidate one believes it is not important nor necessary to actually talk to children then as ZCEA we say that person who believes that 53.4 per cent of the Zambian population is invisible is not fit to be President of Zambia as he or she is not prepared to make Zambia fit for children,” she said.

Mulenga said the Agenda 2040 aspirations were only 10 and Zambian children were disproportionately denied the realisation of an existence of an effective child-friendly national legislative, policy and institutional framework with the enactment of a children’s code Bill started in 2006 still not done; inadequate registration of every child’s birth and other vital statistics at only 15 per cent of implementation; insufficient nourishment and access to the necessities of life especially for Luapula and Western provinces which are hardest hit; low quality education with the lowest literacy and numeracy rates in the SADC region; inadequate protection against violence, exploitation, neglect and abuse; no child-sensitive criminal justice system and children’s views not mattering in the nation.

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