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Activists move to amend children rights policy

By Betty Amamukirori

Added 10th November 2016 02:31 PM

"We are looking for a policy that will cover all issues affecting children and will stand the test of time."

Children rights activists have kick-started the process of reviewing and amending the 2004 National Orphans and other Vulnerable Children's Policy (OVC) which they say does not holistically address children's issues.

"We are looking for a policy that will cover all issues affecting children and will stand the test of time without giving room for queries. The OVC has been in place for over ten years and it has not been able to address all the issues," said Fred Onduri Machulu, the commissioner for youth and children's affairs at the Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development (MGLSD).

He said that the OVC policy needs to be amended to include provisions that support the operationalization of the recently amended children's Act, and guide the newly established National Children's Authority.

Machulu was speaking at a dialogue organized by the National Child Protection Working Group (NCPWG) at Imperial Royale Hotel to discuss the OVC policy and come up with suggestions on areas of improvement.

Machulu pointed out that though there are several children's policies in place, they have failed to totally curb the upsurge of child abuse, trafficking and sacrifice and have failed to bring compliance to the law against corporal punishment.

"We currently have several children's policies in place which need to be combined to form one that will be able to tackle children's issues," machulu said.

A Uganda Child helpline report 2015 indicates that 3008 cases were recorded that year, out of which 393 are defilement cases. The police crime report 2013 also indicated that over 9000 cases defilement were reported and only five were convicted.

Using the statistics as a backdrop to her presentation, Margaret Atimango, a child specialist at Save the Children said that the despite having a children's policy in place, violence against children has shot up.

She said that there is need for a new policy that will aim at meeting the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) mandate of elimination of violence, abuse and exploitation against children, to be put in place.

Richard Wamimbi, a child protection consultant said that the old policy has several glaring gaps that need to be filled through an amendment.

He said that it does not have a national score card to monitor the implementation of children's rights  compliance, minimally addresses social norms and regressive cultural practices, has weak and uncoordinated child protection system and a limited child focused accountability mechanism.

"We need a multi-sectoral policy that will address violence against children and adopt ecological understanding of a child's wellbeing. We need a rights based approach to ensure that children enjoy their full rights," he stated in his presentation, 'Rethinking the national children's policy'.

The dialogue was attended by several child rights advocacy organizations such as Plan Uganda, Save the Children, Warchild Canada, Parios Eastern Africa, Africhild centre and Repssi Uganda.

A representative from the Justice Law and Order Sector, called for an inclusive policy that will make it mandatory for aspiring legislators and presidential candidates to include children's issues in their campaigns and manifestos.

"What we need is a policy that emphasizes prevention of rights violation," Agnes Wasike, the national coordinator of NCPWG, said.

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