By Rohey Jadama
SOS Children’s villages the Gambia, with funding from the European Union, yesterday 1 June, 2016 launched a three years nationwide project dubbed “Child Rights Instrument, Agent for Sustainable Change Project Launched” at the Westfield monument in Kanifing.
The overall objective of the project is to promote the understanding, access and implementation of Child rights in the Gambia and ensure children’s need are respected and fulfilled.
The project will have a focus on three specific instruments : The children’s Act 2005, the United Nations convention on the Rights of the child and The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.
Access and delivery of child rights will be increased at the community level by supporting 3 schools in Central River Region to meet the water and sanitary needs of the students.
In her launching statement, Mrs Saffiatou Ceesay, the Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, congratulated SOS Children’s villages the Gambia for the initiative which, according to her, is vital in their efforts to create child friendly Gambia and also the European Union for funding the project.
The Health and Social Welfare PS said the project would enhance and consolidate the gains achieved over the years for sustainable development. She added that the Gambia has signed and ratified major child right instruments and further domesticated them. “These are supported with sector policies to guide implementation, although with all these efforts more needs to be committed to raise awareness at the community level on their existence and implementation,” she said.
The Health and Social Welfare PS said over the years they have witnessed SOS moving towards community initiatives in the form of social protection thereby increasingly impacting on the lives of vulnerable children and families to build resilience. This paradigm, she added, responds directly to the government’s agenda and AU’s framework on social protection, adding that it is evident that once families are resilient, children are better protected from abuse and exploitation.
“It is evident that imperative that we are more concerned and place child protection at the center of policy agenda’s as child protection is the business of all. However, our programs, projects and activities should be more focused on these issues on the premises of creating robust and dynamic responsive programs that would call for collective collaboration and networking, participation to promote sustainability,” said PS Ceesay.
She reaffirmed Gambia government’s efforts in continuing the promotion, advancement and protection of children, thus collaborating with partners such as SOS to immensely improve the lives of children.
The National director of SOS Children’s villages the Gambia, Madam Oumou Tall, said in consolidating her work that started 34 years ago, her Organization is implementing a three years nationwide project that is funded by the EU to the tune of 299,041.93 Euros with an added contribution of 53,950 from SOS children’s Villages the Gambia thus making a total budget of 352,991.93, which is equivalent to 17 million dalasi.
“Many years ago, millions of children around the world knew no other life but servitude and exploitation; they were emotionally and physically robbed of their childhood which result to frustration and low self-esteem just to name a few,” she said.
Madam Taal added that here in the Gambia, with the conducive environment created by government, children and their parents are enjoying a clear focus on their needs and that so many legal documents have rooted the rights of children. She urged for them to be used wisely.
The National Director said as an organization, SOS is committed to guaranty these rights to all children through partnership, as we continue to strengthen families and work hand in hand with instances like the European Union to serve the children in the Gambia and around the world.
Delivering a statement on behalf of the European Union Ambassador and head of delegation to the Gambia, Mr. Josyllu Almalfi, the EU Programme Manager, said the Gambia has made great efforts in areas relating to children’s rights, such as access to health care and education, and equality between girls and boys.
He, however, said that despite these efforts, the situation remains very difficult and that hundreds of children in the Gambia are vulnerable to violence, exploitation and abuse.
“The European Union believes that Non-governmental organizations have a critical role to play in filing the gaps where social services are not provided adequately. SOS Children Village is a reliable partner with proven excellent capacity to support and protect Childs’ rights in the Gambia. We are therefore confident that this new project will have a great impact on the promotion of the Gambia children’s Act 2005, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child,” said the EU Progamme Manager.
“The promotion and protection of child’s rights requires a concerted effort as such the initiative of SOS children’s villages the Gambia to promote the rights of children demonstrates a clear public private partnership essential for the effective protection of children,” said Mam N. Jobe, the representative of the Children Unit of the Ministry of Justice.
She added that in recognizing the importance of children’s rights, the government of the Gambia has undertaken to create the required legal environment. She said the government has signed and domesticated most of the major human rights conventions protecting children.
“As the human rights of children are indivisible and inalienable, their rights are developmental issues of major concern, hence if sustainable development is to be achieved, priority issues should address the effective implementation of child protection. In this regard, the issue of child rights needs careful and concrete solution requiring more attempts to ensure the protection ,survival and development of all children,” said Ms. Jobe.