Public Communications Unit
The East African Community is set to have issues concerning children across the region addressed in a collaborative and harmonized manner. The 2009 Census indicates that children constitute more than 50% of the EAC population and yet they face numerous challenges some of which are beyond the scope of national laws. There are so many child related emerging issues hence the need for a regional policy framework due to issues that affect children occasioned by forced separation of children from families and or displacement from their country homes (children are the biggest age group among refugee populations in the EAC); children trafficked across borders in EAC and timely access to justice for child offenders in conflict with the law across borders.
This scenario will be mitigated through the recent adopted and launched comprehensive EAC Child Policy which clearly demonstrates harmonisation of standards and approaches to the implementation of child rights in the EAC region.
The development of this policy is a clear demonstration of commitment and the will to adhere to the objectives of the Community which advocates for development of policies and programmes aimed at widening and deepening co-operation among the Partner States in the political, economic, social and cultural fields among other areas. Article 120(c) of the Treaty advocates for cooperation in social welfare, with particularly keenness to the development and adoption of a common approach towards the disadvantaged and marginalized groups, including children, the youth, the elderly and persons with disabilities through rehabilitation and provision of among others, foster houses, health care, education and training among others. Article 39 of the Common Market Protocol to the EAC Treaty calls for the harmonization of social policies of Partner States with a view to address the situation of vulnerable groups including children.
Speaking while officiating the opening of the two day 2nd EAC Child Rights Conference and launch of the EAC Children policy in a Nairobi Hotel, the EAC Productive and Services Deputy Secretary General Ms. Jessica Eriyo urged partner states to align their laws to suit the just adopted policy. She observed that children faced great challenges occasioned by political unrest, family conflicts and natural calamities and therefore a harmonised policy for the region was a head start towards ensuring their rights are addressed in a more coordinated manner. She lauded the stakeholders for working tirelessly in ensuring the realisation of the Bujumbura Declaration on Child Rights in the EAC of 2012 which culminated to this policy. Eriyo indicated that it had taken concerted efforts by different parties and deliberations involving Council of Ministers, the EAC Secretariat, Inter-Agency Working Group and relevant Ministries to come up with such an all inclusive plan.
The Deputy Secretary General raised concern that all Partner States had in the past ratified various international treaties including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC) hence putting in place laws, policies and other measures for the implementation of the rights of children at the national level. Despite this, she was concerned that there still exist gaps in protection of child rights in EAC partner states. She, against this backdrop urged the concerned parties to ensure full implementation of the policy for the benefit of these key constituents.
The EAC Integration Director in charge of Social Affairs DR. Alice Yalla representing the principal Secretary urged that the region stood to benefit from a coherent EAC Child Policy that would be responsive to emerging child related issues of regional stature. Yalla said that the newly launched policy provided a clear guidance to EAC Partner states on focused implementation of the core principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC). This will enable the impact of the EAC policy on children to be assessed systematically, at sub-regional level; improve coordination and encourage greater exchange of good practice between EAC Partner States; promote investment of more resources in support for child rights observance; improve data-collection and analysis of the impact of economic and social change on children within the EAC; as well as ensuring that the voices of children are heard in policy-making processes.
The children who had a representation from all partner States urged the policy implementers to engage them in ensuring their full participation in the process. Speaking on behalf of the representatives, the Kenya Children Association (KCA) Speaker, Brian Musyoki appreciated great steps by some partner states towards the well being of the children. The Nairobi School Form Two student noted the Kenyan First Lady’s led Beyond Zero Campaign, Free Primary Education, and the Free Maternity Services as some of the milestones that the region should emulate.