KAMPALA–Government Wednesday launched its first-ever National Child Participation Strategy intended to promote meaningful and quality child participation at all levels of the Ugandan society.
The strategy provides direction for key stakeholders – families, communities, parents, leaders, teachers, policy makers to allow children participate in decision making.
While launching the report at Kitante Primary School on November 15, the State Minister for Youth and Children Affairs, Ms Florence Nakiwala Kiyingi, said the Strategy aims at providing an enabling environment to children to voice their views on issues affecting their lives and for adults to listen and respect these views.
“If child participation is not meaningful, it is not genuine. Child participation is about children and young people having the opportunity to express their views, influence decision making and the world around them,” Nakiwala said.
“The National Child Participation Strategy provides Uganda with an historic opportunity to transform the role of children in our society,” she added.
The right for children to participate is clearly articulated in international Conventions such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), to which Uganda is a signatory, as well as in several national legal frameworks and policies, children in Uganda face many challenges in exercising this fundamental right.
The National Child Participation Strategy was developed under the leadership of the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development and the National Children’s Authority, with support from UNICEF and Save the Children.
A report from UNICEF says that during the development of the Strategy, children shared how it is often difficult to know when, where and how to raise their concerns or make recommendations to people in positions of influence, including when reporting abuse and other crimes and concerns within their family home.
The strategy is an outcome of a study involving more than 250 children from across the country – including out of school children, children from rural communities, children in remand centres, street children, orphans, children with disabilities, and refugees living in Kampala.
The country director Ms Brechtje van Lith, save the children explained that children feel strongly that their voices are not respected, heard or valued in the family, community or government.
“Children are critical agents of change. They bring insights that can transform children’s lives today and for generations to come. All duty bearers, including the government, have a duty to allocate resources and implement the strategy,” Ms van Lith said.
Mr Doreen Mulenga, UNICEF’s representative to Uganda said children’s participation should be a process in which all children are able to express their opinions and contribute to the development of policies and decisions that affect their lives, said
“This strategy highlights the fundamental right of children to participate in decisions that affect their lives and aims to shine a spotlight on how children’s rights can and should be at the heart of decisions in all aspects of life,” said Ms Mulenga.
About the strategy
The National Child Participation Strategy is based on the founding principle of non-discrimination and targets all children living in Uganda, with a particular focus on those who are poorest and most marginalized. The Strategy has three clear messages:
Value children – recognize them as key stakeholders in our homes, communities and country
Make children visible in our plans, programmes, policies and service designs, as well as in the data that inform our decisions and actions
Ensure the voice of children is heard and amplified across all spheres affecting their lives and wellbeing.