Child Rights Coalition (CRC-SL), a Non Governmental Organization with focus on child advocacy over the weekend drew the attention of stakeholders to the many inconsistencies in the drafted 2007 Child Rights’ Act laid before Parliament for enactment by the Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, Dr. Soccoh Kabbia. In drafting the said bill, the ministry is said to have left out several integral aspects and recommendations made by both the international community and local Civil Society Organizations which in the view of the coalition needed to be part of the Act before approval.
In a forum organized by the coalition over the weekend at the Mamba Point, Wilberforce in Freetown, those inconsistencies were brought to the attention of the general public through representatives of stakeholders in attendance, including Members of Parliament, the Civil Society and members of the press.
In his presentation, the CRC representative to the last month’s UN session in Geneva, Mr. M. Kemokai noted that there were several important aspects left out by the ministry during the amendment process at the expense of both international and local recommendations previously made, and that in spite of several concerns raised through official correspondences to the ministry expressing the need for a dialogue forum on the amendment process, the ministry turned blind eyes to them. ‘The primary recommendations made to cushion the Act that were left out included the entire review of the Act to align itself with international legal standards, the establishment of a National Children’s Commission independent of the National Youth Commission, and the issue of traditional leaders to be decided by locals to avoid political interference among others,’ he observed.
Mr. Kemokai said if those recommendations are ignored and Parliament goes ahead to enact the Act, it risks tarnishing the reputation of Sierra Leone globally, an issues he said the minister himself is aware of since he was present at the recent UN session in Geneva. He therefore, reiterated that in as much as the amendment was timely, it was but expedient that the Ministry partnered with CSOs through vigorous consultations to ensure transparency and sustainability of the Act.
The chairperson of the Parliamentary Oversight Committee on Social Welfare, Hon. Marie Yansanneh also confirmed that indeed some lapses existed on the side of the ministry. She in that regard assured of her committee’s willingness to toe the line of the civil society to ensure that Sierra Leone continued to maintain international standards that enliven the plight of children. This assurance was endorsed by other MPs present who promised to give their best in support of the recommendations as stakeholders.
At the end of the forum, it was unanimously agreed that the recommendations left out needed to be incorporated into the Act and that thorough pre-amendment debate was required by parliamentarians before the enactment of the Child Rights Act.
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.