Welcome to another edition of Children’s Corner. In today’s edition, we are going to feature the interview we had with Lamin K. Saidy, the Youth Coordinator of Child Protection Alliance (CPA). MrSaidy will be talking about child marriage, child sexual abuse and the un-operationalised ministry of Children Affairs. He said he is optimistic and hope full that someday a law will be enacted to ban child marriage.
Children’s Corner: Can you introduce yourself to our esteem readers?
- Saidy: My name is Lamin K. Saidy, I work at Child Protection Alliance (CPA) as a Youth Coordinator responsible for a group called the National Child and Youth Advisory Board, but I also give support to Voice of the Young that my other colleagues coordinate, but generally support the CPA activities and implementation programmes. By extension, I am a human rights defender.
Children’s Corner: What motivates you to be a child rights activist and a human rights defender?
- Saidy: Women and children are a vulnerable group in the society, when disaster strikes normally they are the one who suffers a lot and most of the time they are victims of circumstances that they don’t even know about issues such as political violence and its associated issues, normally women don’t play a role in those issues but there is a problem they become victims and equally children because they are the disadvantaged group because when disaster strike men will find their way and women will not want to live their children behind and again during those disasters you realised that women will be raped with children because they cannot support themselves physically and for those reasons and when you looked at the global trend of development, women and children have been left behind and they have not been featuring in the agendas of our national development and their issues have not been put on the table. There is a big parity between them and the other groups so for that reason I am motivated since at the tender age but again the highest motivation I drew it from my father who as I grow up as a young child I have seen the role he played in terms of supporting us as his children and the support he has been giving to my mother because my father is one of those during weekends he will go to the market and do the shopping, launder our cloths and some of the encouragement my mother will give me through the struggled she went through in raising her children to a larger extend to stand for this disadvantage group call the women for example when there is divorce in marriage no matter what the mother will play a crucial role in supporting the husband but once the husband is settled most of the cases there is divorce and that woman will go scratch and will go with the children and start struggling. I have been motivated by all of these problems and I think somebody needs to speak for this group but also the culture of silence has also silent our women and children so for that I think i got the opportunity of being educated and I knew about the legal instruments and I need to add my voice to those voices raised in advocating and advancing the plight of women and children and that’s where my motivation has been really.
Children’s Corner: Child Marriage continues to be prevalent in the Gambia especially in URR, as an Activist working with CPA how will you advocate for an enactment of law to ban it ?
- Saidy: That is where I have a special interest and Child marriage compromises all other rights of children, like the right to education, health, etc. once a child is subjected to marriage at that tender age she or he misses the opportunity to completing his or her education and there are a lot of complications associated with it. Again if children are married at that age it goes with a lot of socio-economic consequences because when a child is not educated it compromises the economic status of that particular girl or boy. They become dependent in the house and they cannot do anything. Like I said statistically, am not a health personnel but in my interaction with them and of course the figures that have been coming out about children who will die during labour or who’s babies will die during labour is prevalent among children who got pregnant and for that I think there is need for people to speak up against it. So as a child rights advocate I had the opportunity of representing my organization in 2013 in Nigeria during one of the capacity building organized by the West African Civil Society Organization (WACSO) which was centered on child marriage and a lot of discussions was made and strategies were crafted. Again in 2015 this year I was also fortunate to attend the ECOWAS sub-regional training on child marriage and currently thing about the subject matter is that that ECOWAS and AU has taken up on themselves and AU has a clear agenda as to what strategies to be put in place and what needs to be done in other to combat child marriage meaning for the first time of course in matters of children AU have come out plainly with a clear cut agenda on to really addressed this problem and for me personally as an individual and as an institution that’s the agenda that we are really working towards to realizing its set goals. You did made reference to the Gambia and what we having been doing as an institution CPA but again as an Individual we have to engage in extensive sensitization campaign because peoples and parents needs to be aware of the consequences of those practices that they involved their children in . They only look at the short term benefits and maybe children are getting pregnant so the best thing is to give out the child to marriage not taking into account the other factors and the long term consequences of the issue. So education is paramount in addressing the issue but again you did mentioned something very significant that is about legislation. Currently a lot of efforts have been made in the country and during the CRC concluding observation and the UPR observation in those instruments it has been categorically clear that the Gambia government has rejected 18 years as legal age for marriage and in fact it has not been reserved but rejected completely. Again at the government level, CPA has and is continuing to engage the government stakeholders to critically look at the issue in a broader perspective and we have seen government coming up with proactive decisions and of recent the wife of the president has launched Operation Save the Children Foundation and CPA is in contact with the foundation and we’ve been partnering and we did a lot of issues and one of the things we put on the table is the issue of child marriage and we are hope full and optimistic that someday our legislators and the general public will listen to us and will make a stop to the practice of child marriage and pegged 18 as the legal minimum age for marriage and will be able to control the prevalence and if we are not able to eradicate it we should be able to curtailed it to a lesser percentage up to the time that enforcement will get prominence. We need to engage people into education and when I went to that training my personal project has been that and I cannot do that in the absence of the institution that I represented in those trainings. When you look at the constitution of the Gambia that has subjected marriage to personal laws this has really made the campaign though for us and is difficult for one to be prosecuted for the act but the current trend is that we are optimistic that someday we will make a stop to child marriage and like I said it compromises all the other rights of children. In fact the African Union has selected child marriage at the just concluded day of the African child commemorated this year and for the second time it surfaced in the agenda of AU as a theme for day of the African Child commemoration and adults select the theme in consultation with the children and one of the problem of child protection they are confronted with is child marriage so I think as a country I want to call on every body, the media, the civil society organizations to increased our advocacy in the area of curtailing child marriage in our communities. One thing CPA as an institution has done is the establishment of child protection committees in respective communities together with the department of Social Welfare and UNICEF in Central River Region, Lower River Region and Kanifing Municipal Council what we call community child protection committees.
To be continued.