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Focus on children as SADC PF Committee meets

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Tofa said the agenda is pivotal as it resonates with the overarching desire of an Africa fit for children, where every child has an equal opportunity to pursue and explore their talents. 

The SADC PF Standing Committee on Human and Social Development and Special Programmes (HSDSP) will today and tomorrow meet in Johannesburg, South Africa, to find ways of strengthening parliamentary engagement for child-centred legislation and policies.

The committee is chaired by Kelly Samynadi, a Member of the National Assembly of Seychelles, while Parliament of Zimbabwe staffer Munashe Tofa serves as secretary. The meeting is in preparation for the 55th Plenary Assembly Session of the SADC Parliamentary Forum scheduled to take place from 1 to 7 July 2024 in Angola. 

The meeting takes place when there is growing concern over child rights violations, poverty and inequality and a dearth of child-centred policies within the SADC region and beyond 

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Tofa said the agenda is pivotal as it resonates with the overarching desire of an Africa fit for children, where every child has an equal opportunity to pursue and explore their talents. 

“At its core, the theme acknowledges and recognizes the remarkable strides made by Africa through the formulation of the AU Agenda 2040 for Children anchored on ten key pillars. Beyond that, the Standing Committee and indeed the Forum, recognize that Parliaments are the sine qua non, for the efficacious implementation of this landmark document,” Tofa said.

Expectations are running high. 

Zimbabwean academic and author Ignatius Mabasa, in some in some of his books that include Ziso Rezongororo and Nhasi Ndini Superman graphically feature the plight of children. In an interview, he said society needs to take better care of children and argued that Members of Parliament all over the world are uniquely positioned to create a world fit for children.

 “Children thrive in a stable and loving family. Focusing on children without focusing on the family is a lost cause. There are so many issues that are attacking and affecting the family, resulting in estranged, confused and vulnerable children. Estranged, confused and vulnerable children are an estranged, confused and vulnerable society,” Dr Mabasa said.

On what needs to be done, Dr Mabasa said: “There's need for a holistic approach to deal with absent parents, gender-based violence in the family, unsafe social media use, and the need to formally involve and support teachers who are now spending more time with children and bearing the burden of educating, counselling and teaching values which are absent in the home and community. There's need for a return to the basics.”

Multiple award-winning Zimbabwean writer Memory Chirere also said far too many children were living under desperate conditions. He too, challenged the SADC Members of Parliament meeting in Johannesburg to inspire decisive action.

“I think child poverty is critically rife in the SADC region. You find hordes of children fishing, hunting and selling wares along highways when they should be in school. There is need for legislation that cushion children against poverty,”  he said.

Expectations are that through this meeting, Members of Parliament, civil society organizations and the wider public will build greater awareness of the contents of Agenda 2040 as an instrument for the protection and promotion of the rights of Children in the SADC region. 

It is hoped that through this capacity strengthening and sensitization endeavour spearheaded by the HSDSP Committee of the SADC PF, national Parliaments and the wider stakeholder fraternity will be able to positively contribute towards the formulation of robust child-centred laws and policies to create a SADC and an Africa that is truly inclusive and supportive of its youngest citizens. 

To facilitate in-depth deliberations, the committee has engaged Sally Ncube from Equality Now and Anne Musiiwa from the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of Children (ACERWC), among resource persons.


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