By Ndey Sowe
The Government of the Gambia in collaboration with partners, Saturday March 9th 2019, held the Children’s National Assembly of the Gambia, at the National Assembly Chambers in Banjul.
The theme of the first session of the Children’s National Assembly was: “inclusion of children to improve participation in decision making.”
The Children’s National Assembly comprises 105 members, constituting 58 females and 47 males. During the first session of this Assembly, there was a nomination and election of the speaker in the person of Sarata Ceesay, by the young duputies.
According to stakeholders, this is a non-statutory platform for children and adolescences, and a safe space for children to meet and discuss issues affecting them; that it is a platform for children to engage, discuss and dialogue with policy makers and authorities, on issues affecting their growth and development. ‘‘The Assembly will be for children and by children, and will promote the participation of children in leadership, in order for their voices to be heard,’’ Bulli Dibba, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, said. He further indicated that the establishment of a National Children’s Platform is a milestone development and the first if its kind in the country; that the platform will engage children in discussions of critical issues affecting them; that the platform is non-statutory and will promote the participation of children in national discussions and debates, by providing opportunities for the amplification of their voices at the highest level of the political spectrum, and for consideration in national planning and execution.
“In the Gambia, children constitute more than 40% of the population and they must not be left out of the development process. Children should be given opportunities, capacity and motivation to meaningfully participate in our development process,” Dibba said. He further said as a Ministry, they will continue to engage Government under the leadership of President Adama Barrow, to increase public financing for children and young people, enforce legislation particularly the Children’s Amendment Act 2016, and the Sexual Offences Act 2013. “I will work closely with the Ministries of Youth and Sport, Basic and Secondary Education, Justice and all other relevant sectors, to ensure that every child living in the country, enjoys his or her basic human rights,” he said; that his Ministry in collaboration with other relevant Ministries, will closely monitor the activities of the Children’s Assembly to ensure that it remains a children’s platform without the manipulation of adults. “I encourage you to share and follow up your sitting outcomes for appropriate actions to be taken by Government,” he said.
Dibba concludes by advising children to remain strong and be a force that no adult can break for their selfish interest, participate effectively within democratic principles and accepted cultural values, and be disciplined leaders of tomorrow. He urged them to give respect where it is due, but also to speak out for their voices to be heard.
The Children’s National Assembly is an initiative of the Government of the Gambia, through the National Youth Council. The process for the establishment of the Children’s Assembly was supported by the National Assembly, UNICEF, the Department of Social Welfare, the Ministries of Justice, and that of the Basic and Secondary Education, ‘Childfund’ the Gambia, Child Protection Alliance, and the Local Government Authorities, among others.
Other speakers include Dr Shahid Mahbub Awan who spoke on behalf of the country representative Sandra Lattouf, UNICEF and the Country Director of ‘Childfund’ the Gambia, Musu Kuta Komma.