By Amie Sanneh
Antoinette Corr Jack, General Secretary, Gambia Teachers Union (GTU), has said that they are advocating for legal reforms towards the physical and humiliating punishment of children.
She said they have succeeded in banning child marriage and if all hands are put on deck they will be able to ban physical and humiliating punishment in all settings and have legal reforms saying is not just enough to say it by word of mouth.
Mrs Corr Jack, who also doubles as the Chair of the Advocacy Committee set up by CPA, made these remarks on Monday, 22 August, 2016 while opening a day sensitization workshop for journalists organized by the Child Protection Alliance (CPA). The workshop which was held at the GTU conference hall is aimed at soliciting the support of media practitioners in CPA’s effort to protect children against physical and humiliating punishment in all settings especially in advocating for legal reforms to prohibit the act.
According to her, the role of the media cannot be over emphasised as without which, the issues they are talking about will not be known to the public. She described punishment of any form as humiliating and degrading and expressed optimism that with the support of the media, they will reach higher heights. She also emphasised on the need for teamwork. “…and I am sure in this cause, we are going to be united to make sure that the legal reforms we are advocating for comes to fruition,” she said.
The National Coordinator of the Child Protection Alliance (CPA), Njundu Drammeh, describing the media as powerful, said they are the watchdog of the populace. He added that it amplifies the voice of the vulnerable. The GPU, he said is a member organization of the CPA and they have worked together over the years and they have developed a code of conduct for the protection of children and organized training workshops. However, he described this workshop as special noting that in the spade of six months, the Gambia legally prohibited Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and few months later it also prohibited child marriage. “Scanning the environment, we also realized that our children are also subject to physical and humiliating punishment in schools, in homes so we felt that it is important we instigate debate around that. How do we discipline our children, how do we ensure that our children grow up in a violent free environment,” he stressed. This, according to Drammeh is a difficult task but emphasized that once they are able to instigate the debate around that, a number of people will start thinking loud about the children, the forms of violence meted on children. He said in 2014, CPA did a research which was published in 2015 on physical and humiliating punishment of children in the Gambia which they hope to share with the media. “We hope that by the end of the day we will be on the same wave length and go ahead even if it takes a hundred years, we can still talk about corporal punishment on children and maybe one day we will succeed in its prohibition if not in all the settings but at least in the schools and other environments,” he stated.
Sarjo Camara Singateh, Assistant Secretary General of the Gambia Press Union, assured CPA that GPU and its members will continue to play their traditional roles of educating and informing the general public on issues affecting children in this country and beyond. She said during the campaign on harmful traditional practices such as FGM in the country, the media played a key role in informing the public and changing the concept of people towards these crimes against humanity. She promised CPA that the GPU will continue to work with them in the area of corporal punishment of children and other issues affecting them in this country.