* Scaling up to all 28 districts of the country will replicate the Malawi Parliament membership
* To amplify and equalize children’s voices and committing to support the National Children’s Parliament
* Save the Children’s committed to assist in setting up platforms for meaningful child participation
* That include setting up Children’s Parliament in Neno, Mwanza, Mzimba South and Ntcheu districts
* With Ntchisi and Salima targeted in 2023
By Duncan Mlanjira
While assuring its commitment in efforts that should complement various interventions for the full realization of child rights, Save the Children implores on the government to fund and operationalise scaling up district Children’s Parliament sessions.
This was said by Save the Children’s Director of Operations, Frank Mwafurirwa in Neno last week during the district’s successful 6th Children’s Parliament Session that was graced by Member of Parliament for Nkhotakota North East, Overstone Kondowe as guest of honour.
Mwafurirwa emphasized that scaling up to all 28 districts of the country will replicate the Malawi Parliament membership “to amplify and equalize children’s voices and committing to support the National Children’s Parliament — which was relaunched in November 2021”.
“Much more important, we are requesting the Government, through the respective district councils, to start funding Child Parliament sessions,” he said, adding that support from development partners such as Save the Children have a lifespan — thus can be expired at any stage.
He also emphasized Save the Children’s commitment to assist in setting up platforms for meaningful child participation that include setting up Children’s Parliament in Neno, Mwanza, Mzimba South and Ntcheu districts — with Ntchisi and Salima targeted in 2023.
“Failure to invest in children triggers substantial economic, social and political costs — resulting from negative outcomes such as early school dropout, teenage pregnancies, child marriages and risky behaviors, to mention but a few,” he said.
“Save the Children, with its partners, therefore compels the government of Malawi through the Ministry responsible for children, Parliamentary Committee on Social Community Affairs and Neno Council to take children’s views and opinions that will be represented here seriously and consider progressively making strides in investing in children’s rights.”
He added that to make AU Agenda 2063 (paragraph 53) a reality; that ‘African children shall be empowered through full implementation of the African Charter on Rights of the Child, through the 2040 aspirations; by nurturing and nourishing its children, the present generation on Africans will promote the growth of the continent and secure its future’.
In his remarks, Kondowe — who is a member of Parliamentary Committee on Social Community Affairs — said as legislators, they are mandated in building a new Malawi and do so knowing that they have “undeniable obligations to the children of Malawi, who account for over half the population”.
“Although children do not cast a vote in elections, it is right to have them foremost in our considerations on nation-building,” he said. “This is no less because children are themselves the future of our nation.
“Even so, it must never be imagined that children do not have ideas of the kind of future they envision for themselves and their country. In fact, if anyone was in any doubt about their clarity on this, my discussion with them today should serve as a cure for that doubt.”
Kondowe went further to highlight what legislators and government are doing to serve children, that include:
* finalizing harmonization of all laws related to children;
* implementing the National Children’s Policy, which is helping to ensure that all services and resources for children are coordinated;
* Parliament has passed the National Children’s Commission law to oversee all issues relating to children and ensure accountability on the same at all levels;
* giving a lion’s share of the country’s resources to sectors that deal with issues of children, such as education, health, nutrition and early childhood development— with support from development partners and the World Bank;
* increasing children’s engagement with decision making processes and offices at various levels, including the Children’s Parliament, for which we have set aside resources to roll out at district level;
* lobbying for increased number of Child Protection workers across the country; and
* preparing for mass birth/child registration exercise so that the gap is closed in registration of children below age 16, which stands at 8.4 million.
Kondowe added that the registration database will ensure that children are protected from child labour, even in tough economic times, saying: “We cannot do this alone. All parents, guardians, teachers and communities have to do their part to ensure that our children grow up in an environment that allows and supports them to become great citizens.”
He concluded by challenging and impressing on the young Parliamentarians to be at their best and strive to do best at all times — “whether in school, at home and out there playing with friends”.
“The country will be better for it, I promise you, because one day not too far from now, one of you children will need to lead us forward as I am doing now. The best way to prepare for that day is to be at your best today.”
In his speech, Mwafulirwa had said since the Child Parliament was launched in 2016 in Mwanza District, it has provided yet another platform for children “to voice out their views and opinions on critical issues affecting their lives — in order for the government and other concerned stakeholders to take appropriate measures to address them”.
“The platform has accorded children an opportunity to grow into great public speakers with vibrancy to face duty bearers from national to international platforms.
“Just last month, a Member of Mzimba Child Parliamentary was accorded a life opportunity to represent her fellow children in crowning the First Lady, Madame Monica Chakwera as Ambassador tor Abwenzi a Ana program.
“Again, some of the children travelled to Zambia for the Pan African Children’s Parliament where they deliberated on the concerns that affect them as children,” Mwafulirwa said, adding that this was “a great opportunity for influencing children’s agenda at regional level.”
He emphasized that over the years, Save the Children has lived the vision to ensure that every child attains the right to survival, protection, development and participation as well as enabling children to realise their rights by giving them a voice as best framers of their own lives.
He highlighted that as the organization continues to invest in child participation initiatives for children in Malawi and the world over, their initiatives include:
* supporting children of Malawi in coming up with child-friendly report in United Nations and African Union complementary citizen’s report on the status of child rights;
* supported Government of Malawi, through Ministry of Gender, Community Development & Social Welfare to develop National Child Participation guidelines and its corresponding strategic plan — which was launched in December 2021;
* supported Government to establish upcoming National Children Commission through the Act of Parliament of Malawi; and
* In 2021, Save the Children operationalised first of its kind — Children Advisory Committee — a mouthpiece of children for children and by children to influence Save the Children’s work and direction in changing children’s lives;
Mwafulirwa also applauded Neno District Council for the successive hosting of the Children’s Parliament for the past six years and stressed that the organization appreciates Government’s commitment “in fulfilling, respecting and protecting children’s rights through national laws, policy guidance, strategies and programmes”.
“However, Save the Children bemoans the limited investment made in fulfillment of children’s rights. David Vitter, former US Senator said: ‘I continue to believe that if children are given necessary tools to succeed, they will succeed beyond their wildest dreams’.”