Uganda has launched its first-ever National Child Participation Strategy, which provides direction for key stakeholders – families, communities, parents, leaders, teachers, policy makers to promote meaningful and quality child participation at all levels of society.
The Strategy aims to provide an enabling environment for children to voice their views on issues affecting their lives and for adults to listen and respect these views.
“If child participation is not meaningful, it is not genuine. Child participation is about children and young people having the opportunity to express their views, influence decision making and the world around them,” said Florence Nakiwala Kiyingi, the Youth and Children Affairs State Minister.
Adding that “The National Child Participation Strategy provides Uganda with an historic opportunity to transform the role of children in our society.” While the right for children to participate is clearly articulated in international Conventions such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), to which Uganda is a signatory, as well as in several national legal frameworks and policies, children in Uganda face many challenges in exercising this fundamental right.
During the development of the Strategy, which involved more than 250 children across the country – including out of school children, children from rural communities, children in remand centers, street children, orphans, children with disabilities, and refugees living in Kampala, among others – they stressed that they do not participate in local and national decision-making structures and systems that affect their lives.
They shared how it is often difficult to know when, where and how to raise their concerns or make recommendations to people in positions of influence, including when reporting abuse and other crimes and concerns within their family home. Children felt strongly that their voices are not respected, heard or valued in the family, community or government.
“Children are critical agents of change. They bring insights that can transform children’s lives today and for generations to come. All duty bearers, including the government, have a duty to allocate resources and implement the strategy,” said Brechtje van Lith, Save the Children Country Director.
The National Child Participation Strategy is based on the founding principle of non-discrimination and targets all children living in Uganda, with a particular focus on those who are poorest and most marginalized. The Strategy has three clear messages including value children – recognize them as key stakeholders in our homes, communities and country, make children visible in our plans, programmes, policies and service designs, as well as in the data that inform our decisions and actions and ensure the voice of children is heard and amplified across all spheres affecting their lives and wellbeing.
This year, on World Children’s Day on 20 November – the 28th anniversary of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child – UNICEF is supporting children around the world with an opportunity to take over key roles in media, politics, business, sports and entertainment. The initiative, dubbed #KidsTakeOver, will provide children with a platform to stand up, speak up and voice their issues and support for millions of other children whose voices remain unheard.
In Uganda, children will take over key roles in select media outlets as well as in Kitante Primary School.
The partnering media houses will also amplify the voices of children by producing and broadcasting stories from children across Uganda on what they want for the future.
“Children’s participation should be a process in which all children are able to express their opinions, and
contribute to the development of policies and decisions that affect their lives, said Doreen Mulenga,
UNICEF’s Representative in Uganda.
“This first-time global focus to have ‘a day for children, by children’ on World Children’s Day highlights the fundamental right of children to participate in decisions that affect their lives and aims to shine a spotlight on how children’s rights can and should be at the heart of decisions in all aspects of life.”
The National Child Participation Strategy was developed under the leadership of the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development and the National Children’s Authority, with support from UNICEF and Save the Children.