By Itumeleng Monamane
History was made in Lesotho this year when the Children's Protection and Welfare Act of 2011 was passed into law, over a decade since its preparation.
The law was described by the majority of speakers at the launching in Maseru as a highly ambitious piece of legislation with a comprehensive and holistic approach for child protection and social needs.
The Act, a culmination of over five years of extensive consultations, advocacy, lobbying, and technical and financial support on the part of World Vision Lesotho and other partners, is a comprehensive statute that brings together all policies and regulation on children’s protection and welfare. The statute unambiguously emphasises the State’s role in the provision of social services and strengthening the capacity of families and communities to care for and protect children.
World Vision Lesotho’s contribution towards the ultimate enactment of the Bill into law has included among others sensitisation of more than a hundred members of parliament and senators on child rights, training of paralegal teams, formation of children’s committees and building their capacity to speak on child protection, facilitation of children’s parliaments, and engagement with senior level government and political leadership and other partners.
People trained by World Vision are speaking up
During the launch, children’s representatives from Nthabiseng Area Development Programme (ADP), pastors and paralegals who World Vision has trained in child protection were able to speak about the roles they play in protection of children in their presentation to Her Majesty the Queen and the Honourable Minister of Ministers.
The Minister of Law and Justice, Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs, Mrs. Mpeo Mahase-Molioa said the law replaced the outdated Children's Act of 1980, which was silent on social needs and challenges of the children rather focusing on children on the bad side of the law.
She said the present Act is a special law that greatly differs with any previous law ever enacted, saying that it combines numerous laws from the country, regional and international levels while maintaining Basotho cultural values which put children's interest at the forefront.
The Minister said the law focuses on the protection of children, their needs and their challenges which are far different from those of the older generation.
She said the part where children's opinion are to be considered might cause misconception with the public as the culture does not create a room for such liberty, further indicating the need to change attitudes and to embrace a shift for the benefit of the children.
She said the law further prohibits people including relatives from taking advantage of orphaned children where in some cases the property belonging to their deceased parents are taken and in some cases children become victims of different kinds of abuse.
Mrs. Mahase-Moiloa said the law further ensures that Basotho children grow with their cultural values along with responsibilities such as respect from family to community levels.
It also ensures that children are law abiding citizens that are also productive to their country, she added.
The implementation of this law, she said, will however require a huge amount of funds and called to development partners to continue with support which they provided during the preparation of the Act.
Also speaking was the UNICEF Representative to Lesotho, Dr. Ahmed Magan, who commended the country for launching the Children Protection and Welfare Act, describing the move as the milestone marking the country's commitment to child protection.
He praised the act saying it is responsive to challenges brought by the HIV and AIDS epidemic that has seen a growing number of orphaned children, poverty and worsening economic outcomes which have shattered the traditional social safety nets.
He said the law also goes to the heart of UNICEF and World Vision mandate of advocating for the protection of children's rights, helping them meet their basic needs and expanding their opportunities to reach their full potential.
The launching of the act was held jointly with the commemoration of the Breast Feeding week officiated by Her Majesty Queen 'Masenate Mohato Seeiso.