By Aisha Tamba
The first Children’s National Assembly of The Gambia, CNAG was launched last Saturday at the National Assembly building in Banjul.
The platform is for children to engage in discussions and dialogue with policy makers and authorities on issues underpinning their growth and development.
The initiative came through the National Youth Council, NYC and supported by the National Assembly, Unicef, Department of Social-Welfare, ministries of justice and basic and secondary education, ChildFund The Gambia and the Child Protection Alliance, CPA.
The young assembly is made up of 105 members, including 58 girls and 47 boys selected from all the regions of The Gambia.
Bulli Dibba, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Children and Social Welfare, said more than 40 percent of the population are children and as such must not be left out of the country’s development process.
“Children should be given opportunities to meaningfully participate in our development process. Evidence has shown that when children are supported, given safe spaces in accordance to their capacity, they can contribute positively in issues affecting them as change agents.
“As a ministry, we will continue to engage the government under the leadership of His Excellency the president of the Republic of The Gambia Mr Adama Barrow to increase public financing for children and young people, enforce legislations particularly the Children’s Amendment Act 2016 and Sexual Offences Act 2013.”
A Unicef representative said the young assembly is intended to create opportunities for children to engage one another, stimulate discussions and dialogue on issues affecting their rights, well-being and potentials to grow to the fullest.
“The platform is also expected to nurture and promote basic democratic values and principles within the children of The Gambia,” Shahid Mahbub Awan said.
Musu Kuta Komma, country director of ChildFund, said parliaments of children help create leadership qualities and self-confidence among children the world over.
“Self-confidence and leadership are essential for life, especially when hunting for a job,” Ms Komma equipped. “The rise and progress in social life is directly proportionate to the self-confidence and leadership qualities of a child. These do not come about miraculously overnight, nor are they achieved by academic qualifications alone.”
She said ChildFund The Gambia is “fully committed” to supporting the children’s national assembly.
Meanwhile, the CNAG unlike the national assembly, would not have any legal powers or authority. It would mainly engage in awareness raising, capacity building, advocacy and lobbying, public engagement and dialogue, networking and research, and by communicating the views and experiences of children to policy makers and legislators.