Country Director for Save the Children in Malawi, Tina Yu has said there is need to change the cultural and social perceptions and norms around how children are seen in Malawi and start appreciating the fact that children have opinions too.
Yu said it is important that platforms are raised with a consideration of raising the voices of children so that they are heard by decision makers unlike in the prevailing traditional environment where children are rather seen than heard.
She was speaking in Lilongwe on Tuesday on the sidelines of the capacity building workshop on child participation and child rights monitoring which was organised by the National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs).
“The vulnerability of children at a young age shrinks them, limits their capacity and opportunities; in the process we also limit the potential of our future.
“Once we change that norm there are possibilities in terms of raising platforms with the human rights commission, NGOs, the UN to make sure that their voices are being heard by the decision and policy makers in this country,” said Yu.
She said in Malawi just like many other countries, children are seen more in the media and therefore it is key that the opinions that they give out should be through their own voices not what they heard from their parents or any adult.
“We need to try and encourage confidence in children, create opportunities for them and we need to build their capacity at a young age so that they can be confident leaders in the future,” she said.
Strengthening the capacity of human rights commission and civil society on meaningful child participation was one of the objectives of the gathering which attracted the participation of representatives of human rights commissions from Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique and child representatives from Norway.
Director for Child Development and Child Affairs in the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare, McKnight Kalanda, said improvements have to be made in the enjoyment of child rights and participation.
“The way we have been engaging our children shows that there is low to medium participation so we need to improve on that. This is why we are currently developing the national children’s policy and one of the priority areas of that policy is about encouraging child participation.
“The child policy is at an advanced stage and very soon a national validation meeting will be convened which will be followed by a presentation of the policy to the committee of principal secretaries then it will be presented to parliament,” said Kalanda.
Commissioner for Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) Dalitso Kubalasa in his keynote address said child rights monitoring is a very important function which gives a clear insight of the situation of children on the ground.
“Through monitoring, areas requiring improvement such as failures by the state in the implementation of children’s rights can be easily recognized. These are the findings that the civil society organisations and others can use for advocacy and demands for appropriate measures from the government,” said Kubalasa.
Meanwhile, Yu has emphasized the need for the press to uncover critical issues affecting young girls’ education, particularly in primary schools where school drop out rates, remain high.
“In Malawi, dropout rates for girls in standard 7, are nearly double to that of boys; that 8 out of 10 girls that are lucky to attend secondary school, dropout. That’s why I want to talk about a program that Save the Children is doing with the generous funds by Department for International Development (DfID) from the UK. This program is about keeping girls in school. It’s about looking at the barriers & challenges that girls have in completing their primary education, to move onto secondary education.
“The media has the role to play in raising awareness on gender equality, where girls and boys feel they are the same, with limited resources, while changing cultural or social limitations for higher expectations.
“This is the reason we sponsored a category on girls’ education. We thank you, the media for raising the awareness that investing in girls education, is investing in Malawi’s future,” Tina Yu said over the weekend during this year’s MISA Malawi Gala Awards, in the capital Lilongwe, to mark the commemoration of World Press Freedom Day, which falls on May 3 yearly. The day was commemorated in Malawi on May 6, 2017.
Tina Yu, whose organization sponsored the Media Awards’ “the Girl Child Education” category said they wanted to raise the awareness to the fact that investing in girls education, is investing in Malawi’s future.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :