By Lerato Brown | Communications & Marketing Manager
The first week of January saw children representing their peers in the Berea District convene in a children's parliament fashion to raise some key issues affecting Berea children in the presence of parents, service providers, and the District Child Protection Team (DCPT) towards influencing decision making processes that are more collaborative and inclusive for children and young people.
In 2011, World Vision Lesotho introduced the ‘Children’s Parliament’ initiative to create a coordinated platform for children to voice out their concerns and solutions on community, district and national issues affecting their lives and wellbeing. Through this initiative, children are trained on political processes, learn how decisions are made and are equipped on existing policies centered around child protection to help them know and understand the laws that govern the world they live in and empower them to speak up for or against those laws.
"Children’s Parliament is one of the many initiatives that WVL is implementing towards creation of safe, protective and violence-free environments for boys and girls in Lesotho. We are committed to ensuring that boys and girls are cared for, protected and participating in collaborative advocacy initiatives," explained Motlatsi Taaka, WVL Community Engagement and Sponsorship Plan Technical Program Manager.
Since the commencement of Children’s Parliament in Lesotho, there has been a significant improvement in services delivery on issues affecting children as well as considerations, evaluations and amendments of the Child protection laws in the Child Protection & Welfare Act 2011 (CPWA 2011) on Criminalizing Child Marriage, the Domestic Violence Bill and the Initiation Bill.
Children’s Parliament creates a platform where children can contribute to public debate and influencing decisions that affect their lives, provide an opportunity for children’s participation in different levels of decision-making processes and creates a platform where key stakeholders, policy makers & decision makers in child issues can hear first-hand the concerns of children in their communities for adoption in their mandates.
Below are the motions passed and the interventions the child parliamentarian implored to the Government and related stakeholders:
Most parents of children working in South Africa leave behind child-headed families. Elder siblings are unable to go to school, tending after the households and their siblings. The inability for children to provide for themselves also renders them vulnerable.
The parliamentarians request the department of social development to investigate the issue and assist in finding ways to protect children against child neglect, as this action impedes their rights as children.
Most parents are unable to produce sufficient food to sustain their families, and hunger is on the rise in Berea with families unable to provide food for their children; this is especially evident in households where parents are not in the country and households are managed by children or the elderly.
The children requested the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security to intervene in assisting in sharing solutions to mitigating the impacts of climate change on farming and assistance with food production initiatives to ensure vulnerable families are self-sufficient enough to provide for their children.
Ending Child Marriage:
In TY there are still some communities who are practicing child marriage, where young girls are still being married by young and old men.
The children inquired about what the government is doing to fast track criminalization laws of this act and holding the people perpetuating the act accountable.
Child Drop outs in school:
Due to the current increase in rain and floods in the district, children are unable to go to school due to unsafe roads and broken bridges enroute to their schools which has led to increased school dropouts. Secondly, they raised the issue of expensive school fees, which their families cannot afford, resulting in children staying home instead of going to school.
The children requested the government to help work on the road’s infrastructure with sustainable roads and bridges to enable them to go the school and requested the department of social development to assist with school grants for children whose families cannot afford the expensive school fees.
Schools do not have sufficient teachers; teachers are allocated to 4 classrooms which inhibits them from learning as they should and causes an increased rate of failure in the schools.
The children requested the Ministry of Education and Training to intervene with allocating more teachers in schools to meet a ratio that creates a space conducive for learning in schools.
Alcohol and drug abuse:
Children in TY make use of alcohol and drugs at a high rate. Establishments sell alcohol to young children and this is affecting their future and health.
The children requested the Ministry of Tourism, Environment & Culture and the Lesotho Mounted Police Services to intervene in ensuring that laws against selling drugs and alcohol to children are enforced in establishments, in the homes and in the community. That police take action within the communities against such conduct.
Gangsterism is on the rise in the district, with children participating in gangs, engaging in criminal activities and throwing away their lives and future.
Gangsterism and the government is doing to mitigate this criminal act in society for the safety of the children and the community as a whole.
Children’s parliaments currently happen at Community level, District level and National level. It is fun and engaging for children and helps amplify their voices on issues that they see, witness and experience in their daily lives.
The District Child Protection Team expressed that they would like to have these children’s parliaments conducted annually; however, due to budget restrictions, these do not happen as frequently, but they are supportive of the initiative because through the parliament; children can now advocate for themselves relating to the issue that affects them.