Mika Hotel, 25th August 2017, Lusaka, Zambia
We, the children from the 6 rural districts of Zambia, representing all children in Africa, especially the poor and marginalised children living in rural and far flung areas of Zambia, having been introduced to the fundamental human rights and rights-based approach to community development, do here by make the following observations:
I. Interaction with School
Despite schools and the education system being meant to benefit children, we the children are more often than not consulted on the very issues meant for us. We note that at no time do school administrators work with children in finding out the best way of running school classes and the children’s preferred way of lining up classes in the class room rota.
We also note that even activities such as sport and play are planned without the involvement of us as the children. This makes us to be mere spectators in matters meant for us, instead of us participating in deciding what is right for us. Regardless of how good an activity is, if it is planned without us, we have seen that in most cases some of the interventions are misplaced or inadequate.
We note that children in rural areas suffer the most when it comes to the negative aspect of culture and customs as children are often treated in the same way of house hold animals and pets. According to most customs, ‘children are meant to be seen and not heard’ and as such we are never consulted on family issues that affect us. We are the last persons to know anything and the last group of individuals to have resources meant for the enjoyment of our health, education and protection allocated to us.
Most parents do not know that we too have the human rights and that we too deserves to be included in the decision-making processes of the family and community. Participating in decision making processes enables us to also set and drive our agenda as children, not being passive recipients of decisions made for us without us.
III. Local Government
We the children note with sadness that our local councils and local government, despite being the nearest government arm of development to us responsible of service delivery, has no relationship with us the children.
There are no structures created for us to interface with local government policy makers and there are no routine consultative processes created for us to feed into the planning or service delivery processes of our local government.
We also note with sadness that there has not been any deliberate processes created for children to express their views in matters such as the budgeting process, service delivery process and for children to feedback into the many programmes meant for children in the local government areas. As a result, we are left out of important processes and developments, including those which are all about children.
Construction of schools, play parks and health centres all happen with no active input of we the children. This results in some of the facilities not being child friendly or exposing children to a vast array of risks.
IV. Community Media
Outside our homes and the school system, children get their information and entertainment from the media, especially our local community radio. Through the radio we learn about our culture, songs and what is happening in other places to children and their communities.
The media too, has no active involvement of children in its planning and programming. Children’s radio programmes where they exist are produced without the involvement of children and are executed without the voices of children.
We too want to produce our own radio shows and anchor our own radio programmes. But most importantly we, the children want to have our voices heard on matters affecting us the children. We want to have our opinions sought on matters such as early marriages, child sexual abuse and child neglect. A lot of us are suffering today because of these issues, and we believe that when our opinion is heard, we will contribute to making decisions that can contribute to eliminating these vices. We too want to have our opinions sought on matters affecting the children and their communities. We want to be part of decision-making on any matter that is about us or affects us. Nothing about us without us.
But most importantly, we want to have friendly media corners that would allow us children to have access to the media platforms in order to engage with our parents, communities and leaders on issues that affect us.
V. Future Engagements
We the children propose that schools and communities create an enabling environment for children to be children and for us children to enjoy our rights as children. We further propose that structures such as school clubs, school child councils be created were children can have an avenue to voice out and be heard.
We propose that the media develop radio listening clubs and other child led groups that can work with the media to add the child voice to the media’s programmes and news.
We as children are appreciative of the efforts and training provided by child rights defenders and supporters like Panos Institute Southern Africa, Save the Children and partners for bringing us children together in a consultative process and supporting our quest to mobilise and demand for the fulfilment of children’s rights.
This communique is on behalf of the millions of children in Southern Africa whose rights are trampled upon everyday, who are left out of decision making processes, and have no platforms for voicing out. As children, we are the future, and we need to be part of decisions that will define us tomorrow. We as children look up to you to help us to be part of decision making processes.
Signed: 25 August 2017, by 10 children from Kabwe, Kaoma, Petauke, Mkusho, Mpongwe and Kasama districts.