Children’s rights must be on top of election agenda, demand NGOs

THE Joining Forces Alliance has expressed concern over lack of prioritisation of children’s issues on the election agenda.

In a joint statement, ChildFund International, Plan International, Save the Children International, SOS Children’s Villages Zambia, Terre des Hommes International Federation, and World Vision International stated that children’s rights must be on top of the election agenda.

The Alliance stated that as the nation draws closer to the August 12 general elections, they were concerned about the lack of prioritisation of children’s issues on the election agenda.

The organisations called for those aspiring for political office to clearly outline the plans they have to address issues affecting Zambian children.

“In line with the agenda 2040, we want to hear how those aspiring for public office at various levels will ensure that we have a nation that is fit for children. The political discourse and indeed commitments must include how the various political players will improve the national legislative policy and institutional framework in creating a Zambia fit for children,” they stated.

“In particular, we want to hear commitments from those vying for seats in our parliament on how they will advance the agenda for a child friendly national legislative environment in Zambia. We want to see the enactment of the draft Children’s Code Bill on top of the agenda for the next legislative body.”

The Alliance stated that the delayed enactment of the Children’s Code Bill had denied many Zambian children who would have benefited from its progressive provisions in the last 12 years since the comprehensive review of all child related legislations begun.

They stated that in addition to the national legislative environment, the Alliance hoped to hear plans for education, health, child protection and child poverty.

“We want to know what short, or long term policy adjustments will be put in place to cushion households at risk and those negatively affected by the COVID-19. How will they ensure that they address the legal gaps in our laws that are contributing towards children failing to attain their rights to survival, learning and protection?” they asked. “We expect to hear about plans for safe spaces and recreation facilities for children at community level, among other things. How will the national budget look like in terms of education, health and social protection? Will they increase allocation towards secondary school boarding facilities to keep children, particularly girls, in school? Will they prioritise children and gender issues in the way they spend public resources? These are among the many conversations we want to hear with regards to children.”

The Alliance noted with concern that the media agenda had been significantly skewed towards the elections and the electoral processes with no particular discussions on how those aspiring for public office would address issues affecting marginalised children.

It called upon the media to be the strong voice for children’s needs during the election period.

“Through their interactions with those who are vying for public office, the media must ask questions on the specific plans contestants have for children. This is for all the various levels of political office, from councillors to presidential office,” stated the Alliance. “Using child friendly reporting principles, the media must seek the views of children on what they expect from those aspiring for political office. We further call on political actors to uphold the highest standard of behaviour and avoid all forms of violence because we know that majority of those who are attending political events are actually children. Political spaces must be safe for all groups of people including children.”

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