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Day of African Child: Gambia Urged to Implement Children’s Act

The Gambia government has been called upon by activists and UNICEF to implement the Children Act to ensure protection of children through the creation of a child-friendly justice system.

In a statement released by UNICEF country representative Sandra Lattouf, on Tuesday as part of the events marking the ‘Day of African Child,’ the government is urged to enforce all the laws that protect children in The Gambia, including from violence, abuse discrimination, FGM/C, child marriage, and child labor.

The government is also tasked to “ensure that every child, everywhere in The Gambia has access to child-friendly justice by expanding the children’s court to cover the entire country.”

Sandra Lattouf

“Fully implement the Children’s Act to provide children with alternatives to detention and diversion such as community rehabilitation, community service, and counseling.

“Proper coordinate all efforts, including at the community level, to protect children, anywhere in the country, from violence, harm, and abuse,”  Lattouf stated in a statement.

UNICEF also reminded the authorities and stakeholders of their duty to empower children to participate in the national discourse, and have their concerns listened to and addressed.

“The Day of the African Child is a special occasion to celebrate our children, our work for children, and renew our commitment to protect the rights and welfare of our children. It’s also important to reflect on the state of children in The Gambia and on the African continent.”

This year’s celebration has coincided with the 30th anniversary of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.

The Speaker of the Children’s National Assembly, Sarata Ceesay has called for more concerted efforts to make sure children’s rights and welfare are protected and given equal and fair justice.

The Speaker of the Children’s National Assembly, Sarata Ceesay with UNICEF country representative Sandra Lattouf

She said the formulation of the Children’s Act 2005, the establishment of the juvenile wing of the prison as correction centers for children in conflict with the law and establishment of the Children National Assembly are processes in ensuring children’s plights are heard but more need to be done.

“Despite this progress, there is still more room for improvement. We must not forget the several risks and violations children are exposed to on a daily basis in our homes, streets, and in our communities.

“From poor children selling in the streets, vulnerable children in ‘madarassas’ out of school, children who are denied their childhood due to child marriage amongst others need urgent attention especially during this Covid 19 pandemic,” she said.

“We also call for prisons and justice delivery systems by expanding and supporting the children’s court to address the needs of children especially those in rural communities.”

The Gambia ratified the 2005 Children’s Act which seeks to protect the rights and welfare of every child.

Lamin Fatty

But Lamin Fatty, National Coordinator of Child Protection Alliance (CPA) calls for a deeper reflection of the policy and laws existing in the country but remained unenforced

“The laws are just mere intention if they’re not enforced.”

Omar Faye is a reporter with Choice FM Radio and Freelancing for the Chronicle. He’s currently studying Journalism and Communication at the Media Academy for Journalism and Communication (MAJaC)

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