By: Kabelo Kelepa ,Former Member of Children’s Parliament, Lesotho
World Vision International Lesotho (WVIL) is an international organization that seeks to create a protective environment for children. It is part of its mandate to advocate for the legislative adjustments in cases where there are gaps either by holding lobbying sessions or structured discussions aimed at conversing about the challenges facing children and device possible solutions through collaborative advocacy initiatives, strengthened child protection and participation in processes and systems that drive Lesotho towards creating a safe, protective and violence free environment for children.
As a child-focused organization, WVIL believes in all the laws; international, regional as well as national, that constitute the framework for the protection of children. World Vision advocacy promotes evidence-based solutions to systemic injustice against children, drawn from programmatic experience, research and from the direct input and participation of children.
All the laws, national and international, indicate that children should be given a chance to air their opinions on issues that concern them. This is premised in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 Article 12, African Children’s Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child Article 7 as well as Section 14(1) of the National Children’s Protection and Welfare of the Act 2011 which constitutes the grand norm for the protection of children in Lesotho. These laws provide basis for the participation of children in all forms.
In order to provide forums for children to participate on issues that concern them and influence policies and legislative change, WVIL organizes a forum dubbed ‘Children’s Parliament’. This is where children gather, discuss and debate to find possible solutions for the challenges they face within their different communities. In these forums, policy makers and legislature are invited to listen and take note of the matter tabled, recommended solutions and contributions that children present for their different challenges.
In the case of policy makers, the forum targets Ministers, Directors, Heads of Departments, Civil Society Organizations (CSO’s) and all senior officials who have influence in the laws and policies that protect children. In a democratic state, such as Lesotho, it is important to have forums of this nature as they are mechanisms which children hold service providers accountable.
Children’s Parliament offers an opportunity for children and young people to express their views and to participate in discussions, activities and decisions, strengthening children’s competencies and abilities to communicate, solve problems, and negotiate both individually and collectively.
Child participation develops and improves targeted and necessary services for the improvement of the lives of children. This is possible as children are able to discuss challenges pertaining to certain services. It also gives a long-term perspective on future issues that are difficult to be perceived by the older generation, lead to increased programme quality and more effective programmes and policies based on a better understanding of children and young people’s views, suggestions and needs.
It is highly recommended of policy makers to attend and actively participate in these forums so that when they get back to formulate any policies in execution of their office mandate to protect children, they have firsthand information from children themselves. It is also important for policy makers to receive feedback from children on how the current legislations, enactments being made on laws are helping transform their lives.
My experience of Children’s Parliament is that is a respectful, insightful and momentous as it is interactive. I have found it as an informative hub for learning and information sharing between people who have a stake in child protection systems. There is great power in having policy decision makers and children under one roof devising plans on how to improve service deliveries targeted at improving the overall wellbeing and safety on children.
I am blessed to have an opportunity to pay it forward through working with World Vision Lesotho in leading children’s parliament initiatives and witnessing children’s lives transformed through their active participation in issues that concern their lives and wellbeing.