CHILDREN from countries under the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have petitioned their Heads of State and Government, pressing them to urgently remove barriers to the attainment of their aspirations.
Reading the children’s communique during the 41st SADC Ordinary Summit for Heads of State and government, the children’s representative, 16-year-old Victoria Ganamba, challenged that SADC 2050 Vision cannot be realized unless the Heads of State and Government uphold children’s rights.
The children prepared the communique under the banner of Joining Forces, which is an alliance of the six largest child-focused international non-governmental organizations.
The organizations include Save the Children International, Plan International, SOS Children’s Village, Child Fund Alliance, World Vision International and Tere des Homes.
Victoria, who is also the Speaker of Children’s Parliament in Mwanza, further demanded that SADC should find a lasting solution to child trafficking, child abuse and violation of children’s rights including the right to education.
“SADC should put strong measures in place to put to an end these child rights violations. Child trafficking and all forms of child rights violations deny children opportunities for appropriate education and development. SADC should reaffirm its commitment and put in place strong measures towards ending child marriage. Child marriage undermines the contribution of girls to the overall national development and economic growth of their countries and the realisation of the SADC 2050 agenda,” she said.
Victoria further tasked SADC to demonstrate leadership by recognising climate change risks and take appropriate policy responses, stressing that millions of children are living in flood and high drought zones.
She said evidence is abundant to suggest that unless action is taken, such occurrences will continue to increase in the future posing threats to a generation of children, including risks to school disruption.
Victoria called upon SADC, among others, to ensure trees are replaced and to put in place legislation to reduce use of charcoal in order to make the environment clean and safe for the people to use.
“Poisonous chemicals must also be avoided when fishing. Governments must also put laws by showing their political will to ensure there is promotion of cheaper gas and solar products to reduce poisonous gas emissions. SADC should embrace policy that maximised inclusion. Children with disabilities face multiple deprivations and are most disadvantaged. They face increased exposure to abuse and have minimal access to social services, affecting their ability to reach their full potential,” she emphasized.
The Stella Maris Catholic Secondary School student further asked SADC leadership to envision and take positive steps towards creating a region where all children, boys and girls can hold diverse hopes and dreams for their future and have equal opportunity to make these come true.
She said there is overwhelming evidence that girls drop out of school more than boys as sexual and gender based violence disproportionately affects girls.
She called on governments to put in place strong measures that promote gender equality and to the meet commitment of allocating at least 15% of their national budget towards eradication of imbalances by creating more space for civic education on gender equality in all places.
“SADC should embrace policy that address the plight of child refugees. Child refugees in the region have poor access to education and other social services, are at a greater risk of malnutrition, face greater risks to their safety and well-being,” concluded Victoria.
Save the Children International Senior Technical Advisor on Policy and Advocacy and Government Relations, John Chipeta, said the role of the alliance was to amplify the voices of the children so that their voices are heard.
Chipeta expressed hope that the SADC Heads of State and Government would pay a listening ear to the lamentations of the children in the region.