A Call for the Domestication and Implementation of Laws and Policies Concerning Children

Maxwell Simbuwa from Zambia wrote this blog after attending the RIATT-ESA sponsored Children and Youth conference at the 2017 Psychosocial Forum.

The 2017 International Children's Day of Broadcasting (ICDB) commemorations in Zambia received no funding from the government. That they took place at all was thanks to the commitment of civil society and a few media houses.  How disappointing.

Many child rights advocates say it's because children don't vote, and so their issues are not a priority but are taken as a favour, which can be granted or not.

This is just one example of how little is being done to make happiness, justice, dignity and safety for all children a reality. Many governments have turned a deaf ear to the cry of child rights activists to involve children in decision making processes.

Issues of the economy and rival politics take centre stage at the expense of children's issues. Research has shown that many projects concerning children's issues are mostly carried out by civil society organizations.

Now for some definitions− we know that laws are a system of rules created to regulate human behaviour. Policies are promises by the government to its people and some are legally binding, therefore making them law.

When a government ratifies an international standard or instrument, it becomes national law. In order for laws to have effect, they need to be implemented. In this case, I am talking about laws that promote the well-being of children. Examples include the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC) which define a child and outline the different rights children are entitled to.

African Governments have also committed themselves to implementing budget-focused agreements such as the Abuja Declaration and the Cairo Protocol, which fix health and education allocations at no less than 15% and 20% of the national budget, respectively.

The Abuja Declaration and Cairo Protocol have existed for years, and should have by now ensured major milestones in the education and health sectors. But this has not happened. For example, the Zambia education and health sectors received 17.2% and 8.3% respectively in the 2016 national budget, and with the lion’s share for both sectors going to administration-related costs.

It is important to note that the implementation of laws and policies requires various stakeholders, the most important being the government, the media and the rights holders themselves. But the media are also increasingly ignoring children’s stories. Because of this focus on politics, advocacy journalism is failing, thereby contributing to the failure to implement laws. The media also has the belief that children's stories don't sell, hence the deteriorating involvement of Zambian media houses in the annual ICDB. If people are not aware of their rights, they cannot fight for them.

It is my hope and that of many others that all existing laws are implemented to the fullest in order to have well-developed children, well-developed nations and a well-developed world.