19 June 2011


Another Blog from The Gambia

Lauren Rickwood and Dan Langdon are currently in The Gambia doing a three-week teaching stint at three Gambian schools as part of their Education Degree Course. They are writing a daily blog, which you can see on this link

15 June 2011


West Africa’s ‘Children on the move’ is a growing challenge - Child Rights Activists

A High Level Meeting on ‘Children on the Move’ was held at the Kairaba Beach Hotel yesterday organized by the Department of Social Welfare in collaboration with the Child Protection Alliance. The meeting was convened in hopes to promote and gain support for displaced youth throughout the West Africa region.

Speaking at the occasion, the Minister of Health, Fatim Badjie, said the government has been mindful of its obligation to children and hoped to create a protective environment for displaced children in keeping with its commitment to stamp out the phenomenon of child abuse and exploitation, an area in which it has made major strides.

According to Hon. Badjie, the enactment of the Children’s Act 2005 is a clear manifestation of the continuation of political will of the leadership of the country in this direction.

“Children’s first line of defence and protection lies within their families. Families and communities are therefore powerful sources of support for children who have been through some of the most negative life experiences,” Badjie said.

Badjie also believes that given the patriarchal nature and orientation of the society, children are seen rather than heard, resulting in limited statuses. She goes on to say that a child is a person with his or her own rights as well as moral and emotional claims which brings on a realization in our society that is hard for many to accept.

“The idea of a child with prescribed rights of his or her own, and freedom to voice opinions, makes any adult jitter,” Badjie said. “To many adults, the concept of child's rights is a subversion, a ploy to undermine cherished and longstanding customs and traditions, an attempt to take away the authority of parents, and a desire to make children rebellious and indisciplined.”

Badjie feels the basic principles of the rights of the child is that society has an obligation to satisfy the fundamental need and to provide assistance for the development of the child’s rights, personality, talents and abilities. She also stated that displaced children need these conditions in order to reach their milestones in a loving, caring, protective and child-friendly atmosphere.

According to Badjie, most parents would prefer to bring up their children with the best quality education as well as understanding his or her religion and/or culture and being able to practice them without fear of persecution.

Badjie also stated the Holy Prophet of Islam was loving, caring, sympathetic and magnanimous towards children, who he regarded as the butterflies of paradise. She went on to further justify her opinion by quoting a biblical verse from the New Testament of the Bible, Matthew 18:6, which states that Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of God is like a little child, and whatever we do to the least of these we do it to him.

“These rights, which are not external to the society but inherent in it, generate obligations and responsibilities that every duty bearer should honour and fulfil,” Badjie urged.

Fanta Bai Secka, director of Social Welfare, felt that investing in the care and development of children will have an impact on the economic productivity of future adults. Bai Secka stated that child rights are giving children what they need in order to grow to be responsible citizens and to contribute to the development of their societies.

“Let us move ahead as time is against us and childhood is very precious and limited in years, and it is the right of every child to enjoy childhood and grow in a protective environment,” Bai Secka said.

With child rights being the main topic of discussion, it was appropriate for child representative Haddy Jonga, president of the Voice of the Young, to speak at the High Level Meeting.

“Children on the move are unfortunately the most vulnerable amongst children,” Jonga said. “Living on the streets, being trafficked or exploited, may result in a line-up of risks and dangers that these children are prone to encounter and battle with.”

Jonga believes that many children on the move end up being faced with malnutrition, child labour, commercial sexual exploitation and being groomed to become violent and ignorant.

“We need to bring back these children to proper homes, to be loved and cared for, because they will not just end up benefiting you as an individual, but their communities and nations as a whole,” Jonga said.

Jonga went on to end her speech by reminding that the issue of child protection is a collective responsibility in which everyone has a role to play.

She urged the attendees to take on the challenge to make sure we all serve as our children’s keepers and to ensure that all laws are enforced to the letter.

Alexis Scott-Perry contributed to this article.

Vulnerable Children and Young Migrants on the rise in West Africa - Child Rights Activist

It has been revealed that the number of children and young migrants, who leave their homes in search of jobs and better educational opportunities, only to find them in precarious and dangerous situations in West Africa, has been on the increase.

Making this disclosure at a press conference with journalists, the coordinator of West Africa Network for Swiss Foundation of the International Social Service (ISS) Olivier Geissler said that these children more often than not find themselves in difficult situations far from their families, without any means to continue their journey or return to their countries.

“West Africa sees a lot of movement of people across borders, especially those searching for a way out of poverty or seeking access to basic services such as education or health. From their journey’s start, many of these young people find themselves in precarious situations and fall under the sway of traffickers and other who seek to exploit them. The traffickers see the children as mere merchandise,” he lamented.

This trend of risky migration, he continued, has led to a plethora of other problems in West Africa, namely prostitution, sexual slavery, illegal migration to Europe as well as child labour with its corollaries such as begging and forced military recruitment.

He maintained that his organisation has developed a network of cooperation in West Africa with state partners and civil society to give the necessary support to displaced young individuals who are in difficult situations far from their home and families.

“The project includes identifying the child, his or her protection and psychosocial assessment. We also make a search and evaluation of the family in the country of origin for voluntary return and support for an educational or vocational project and follow-up monitoring over two years. In the past five years, over 1500 children have been reintegrated into their family environment with individualised guidance,” he stated.

This approach, he declared, provides a common procedure by adopting a trans-national South-South innovative project compared to the more traditional North South Dialogue, noting that integration and support of a child does not end at the border but is envisaged as a continuous trans-national guaranteed process.

“The programme is a direct application of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). According to its preamble, the child has the right to live and thrive in the midst of his/her people, its culture and its country of origin. The same Convention requires states to give foreigners on their soil the same treatment as their citizens”.

The approach, he elucidated, is based on synergy and strengthening of existing resources at national and international levels, noting that they shall endeavour to involve all partners in the different phases of the project.

“The dynamic cooperation started by this project is developing and growing across the whole sub-region of West Africa. The network currently has eight participating countries and should cover all the fifteen ECOWAS member countries by 2012."