The over 90 learners that were sworn in as Members of the fifth session of the Children’s Parliament in the National Assembly chamber pose for a group photo
|Story by George Sanzila
Windhoek - The Children’s Parliament, a platform that facilitates the participation of children and young people in the democratic process, was officially opened today (19/08/2019) by the Speaker of the National Assembly, Hon. Prof. Peter Katjavivi.
Over 90 learners from Namibia’s 14 regions are gathered for the one-week event that seeks to both familiarise young people with the legislative process and adopt legislation and policies pertaining to the rights of children. The Fifth Children’s Parliament is an initiative of the Namibian Parliament in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
According to Hon. Katjavivi, the Children’s Parliament is further premised on the Namibian Constitution that calls for freedom of expression and fundamental human rights. “The purpose of the Children Parliament is to inculcate or cultivate a democratic culture amongst our youth as they prepare to become leaders of tomorrow. It calls for the need to provide space for different views to be heard, including those views that you may not necessarily agree with as articulated in Articles 17 and 21 of the constitution of Namibia”, said Hon. Katjavivi.
This year’s session is the fifth since the inception of the Children’s Parliament. According to the Speaker, the previous session was a resounding success that culminated into progressive legislation. “The fourth session of the Children’s Parliament was held from 06th to 10th May 2013. Altogether we had 98 motions that were tabled and debated. Input from the fourth session were incorporated in the Child Care and Protection Act and Policy on the need to give a second chance to young pregnant girls to go back to school after delivery as well as those who fail Grade 10”, noted Katjavivi.
Hon. Speaker noted that Namibia attaches great importance to the rights of children as it has enacted and ratified a myriad of both domestic and international conventions aimed at protecting the rights of children. “The National Assembly has over the years passed and adopted national laws and international instruments to protect the children and promote their rights such as UN Convention on the rights of the child, ILO Convention on prohibition of worsts forms of Child Labour, the Combating of Rape Act, Child Protection Act and National Orphans and Vulnerable Children Policy among others”, stated Hon. Katjavivi.
The learners that went through an intensive induction programme and were sworn in today for a two-year period as member of the fifth Children’s Parliament with a Speaker and a Deputy Speaker, are expected to break into Standing Committees during the course of this week to look at pertinent issues on education, ICT, rights of children, climate change, health and other social matters.
Speaking at the same event, UNICEF Country Representative, Rachell Odede echoed similar sentiments adding that the Children’s Parliament was an opportunity for young people to make their voices heard and address societal issues that continue to affect their welfare. “This is an opportunity for children to engage lawmakers and show them their aspirations, hopes and fears and make sure that every right is realized for every child now and generations to come. Decisions we take should be in the best interest of children because we would like them to inherit a better planet. This is an opportunity for young people to be listened to. Too many young lives are cut short today because children are subjected to issues of discrimination, climate change, violence and conflict among others”, said Odede.
The session under the theme “Engaging young people in the legislative process” will further be addressed by Edward Ndopu, internationally acclaimed activist and humanitarian who is physically disabled and wheel chair bound. Ndopu has worked for many leading organisations including, RTW Investments, World Economic Forum, UN Women and Amnesty International. He is soon expected to make history by being the first physically disabled person to deliver a televised address to the UN from Space to create great awareness surrounding SDGs.