By Fatoumatta K Jallow
Child Protection Alliance (CPA) in collaboration with ‘Save the Children International,’ on Wednesday 16 August 2017, held a days’ budget validation analysis at a local resort in Bijilo. This budget validation analysis, focused on the National budget as well as the budgets of the three Local Government Authorities of Kanifing, Brikama and Basse. The programme was funded by ‘Save the Children’.
Mr. Lamin Njie, Programme Officer CPA, said child protection and related issues involve finance and commitment, related to law and policies; that without these tools, we will always make empty promises without achieving any one of them.
He added that regardless of their income status, the state needs to fulfill its obligation through the provision of protection and participation, in the promotion of the right of the child; that this is why the state needs to mobilize sufficient domestic resources, to realize child rights.
Mr. Njie stated that budget planning, allocation, spending and monitoring, are crucial processes which should be given due consideration in compliance with the four golden principles of child right protection and this should be non-discriminatory as in article four; securing the best interest of the child as in article three; securing the right to life, survival and development of the child as in article six, and finally to respect the view of the child as in article twelve.
The director of the Social Welfare, Fanta Bai Secka, said Children in The Gambia, like in other countries, experience various forms of abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence, from which they should be protected.
“This occurs in private and public spheres, including homes, schools, and institutions of care, at work and in communities. Children are exposed to many risks such as sexual violence, child marriage, physical and humiliating punishment, harmful traditional practices, among others,” she said.
Mrs. Secka said children should be protected from all forms of violence; that this is a key objective of the Sustainable Development Goals specifically in target 5.2 of Goal 5 of the SDGs. Mrs. Secka said states should commit themselves to eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls in public and private spheres, including trafficking and other types of exploitation.
She held that in target 5.3 of the SDGs, states aim to eliminate all harmful practices, such as child early and forced marriages and female genital mutilation which is banned by government. Child protection she said is high on the international development agenda.
She concluded by saying that the Government of the day, is highly committed to the protection of her children from all forms of violence, abuse and exploitation. “We have laws such as the Children’s (Amendment) Act 2016, Tourism Offences Act 2003, the Women’s (Amendment) Act 2015 and the Domestic Violence Act 2013 amongst others, to protect children,’’ She said.
The Vice Chairperson at the CPA Board of directors, Mr. Nfamara Dabo, said ratifying legal instruments and development of national legal frameworks alone, does not make us realize our commitment as a country in fulfilling the rights and welfare of children.
“We must take a step further to ensure the required resources are mobilized for effective implementation and enforcement. There should be budgetary allocations to ensure the implementation of the economic, social and cultural rights of children to the maximum and this is mandatory on all state parties under Article 4 of the CRC,’’ Mr. Dabo said.
He said the available Child Protection services are preventive, protective and responsive; that preventive services include birth registration, scholarships and sponsorships, child drop-in centers and community empowerment including rehabilitation and family strengthening programs. For protective services, he said these include residential care, adoption, foster care, support to orphans and vulnerable children.
He however said the coverage of the available services is limited and that they hardly address the most prevalent child protection risks. He further explained that these services are inadequate to cater for the holistic needs of child victims of abuse and exploitation and children without primary care givers; that there are insufficient numbers of trained professionals in the area of child protection service delivery in the Gambia.
He stated that this consultancy, gives us the opportunity to examine the degree of openness of the Child Protection budgets of both the national and local governments, and how this affects the level of public participation, consultation, information access and transparency, which he said, are essential when monitoring and influencing budgets in the interest of children. In addition, he stated the recommendations will indicate ways in which the budgets of both the national and local Governments can be made more responsive to current child protection needs.
He urged government to deliberately consider the welfare and rights of children, especially in relation to survival, protection, development and participatory rights, during budgetary allocations.
He said children’s rights cannot be fully realized without effective, transparent and accountable governance mechanisms to contribute to improving service delivery mechanisms; that budget transparency, enables the examination of resources destined for child-sensitive policies and programs. Corruption, which results from a lack of transparency, accountability and the misuse or misappropriation of funds by those making decision at different levels, is widespread in social services as well as in public utilities.
In conclusion Dabo said the CPA which is the leading child rights coalition in the Gambia, will continue to promote the rights of children towards creating an enabling environment for them, by strengthening the capacities of members to effectively and efficiently coordinate, monitor and implement child-related programs, policies and laws.