June 16, 2020 11:25 am

The Department of Children under the auspices of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection in collaboration with the Ministry of Information on Tuesday, 16th June, 2020 joined other African Union and Member States to observe the Day of the African Child (DAC) as a commemoration of the 16th June 1976 student uprising in Soweto, South Africa, where students who marched in protest against apartheid-inspired education, were brutally murdered.

The event which took place at the Ministry of Information’s Press Centre was themed ‘Access to a Child-Friendly Justice System in Ghana’

Madam Esi Oforiwaa Amarfo from the Family Head Division of the Ghana Health Service made a presentation on children’s perspective with respect to CIVID-19.

She said the COVID-19 pandemic had an indirect impact on children in the sense that, face to face child services in most health facilities have been partially suspended. This she said includes nutrition programmes to improve breast feeding and diet of children. Also, children do not have quality access to essential immunization services because parents do not regard the health facilities as a safe haven.

Madam Esi Oforiwaa Amarfo urged parents to spend quality time and freely talk about COVID-19 with their children and also teach them to wash their hands regularly.

Madam Sheila Minka Premo from the Apex Law Consult, who gave a presentation on accessing a child-friendly justice system said the theme cannot be overlooked if the child protection system in Ghana and Africa for that matter is not strengthened.

She said governments, civil society organizations and private institutions have a role to play in ensuring that children have access to a child-friendly justice system when they come into conflict with the law.

“In Ghana, we have two key policies which are the bedrock of child friendly justice system. One is the child and family welfare while the other is the justice for children policy. The overall aim of these policies seeks to ensure the promotion and well-being of children from harm”, she stressed.

Madam Sheila Minka Premo noted that children should be treated fairly and equally while she called on the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection and other relevant agencies to intensify education on the need for people to desist from perpetrating violence against children.

The Chief Inspector of the Accra Regional DOVVSU Office of the Ghana Police Service, Kofi Atimbire noted that majority of the abuse cases meted out to children are reported lately and this impedes the gathering of evidence to prosecute perpetrators of the act.

Inspector Kofi Atimbire also bemoaned the frequent transfer of judges in child and sexual abuse cases that negatively affects their investigation and prosecution.

He admonished parents and the general public to always report to the police early in order to aid them gather enough evidence to apprehend perpetrators.

The National Coordinator for the Ghana NGO Coalition on the Rights of the Child, Mr. Barima Akwasi Amankwaah in his statement said since the inception of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, it is only the African continent that has been able to come out with domesticated version of the African Charter On the Rights and Welfare of the Child which takes into consideration the characteristics of Africa.

He lamented at the rate at which some family heads, religious leaders, traditional leaders and parents continue to marry off girls below the age of eighteen years (18) which accounts for over eighteen percent (18%) of Ghana’s population.

According to Mr. Barima Amankwah 27.9 % of children between the ages of (5-17) are into child labour while 20.7 % of children are into other worse forms of child labour.

He tasked all and sundry to ensure the protection and development of all Ghanaian children

On her part, Madam Anne-Claire Dufay, UNICEF representative in Ghana commended the Government of Ghana for efforts made to contain the Corona virus and added that the celebration is a sharp reminder that every child has the right to access justice.

She appealed to the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection to do more to help support vulnerable children and persons living with disability during the COVID-19 era.

Madam Anne-Claire Dufay pledged UNICEF’s support to the Ministry to roll out policies and interventions aimed at protecting and promoting the rights of children.

In her keynote address, the Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Hon. Cynthia Mamle Morrison said the Day of the African Child presents a unique opportunity for Africa to focus on critical challenges facing children in the continent.

She said the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child encompasses various provisions aimed at promoting and protecting the welfare of children.

The Minister stressed that a child-friendly justice system must treat children with dignity, respect, care and fairness and that parents should be responsible for the upkeep of their children from all abuses.

“Under no circumstance should children be put in the same cells as adults, the detention of a child should constantly be used as a measure of last resort for the shortest possible period”, she said.

Hon. Cynthia Mamle Morrison said the introduction of justice for children policy in 2016 marks the landmark of the change in Ghana’s justice system with an overall goal to improve access to justice for children in line with the acceptable status, values and beliefs of formal justice system.

She urged all stakeholders, governments and non-governmental agencies mandated to implement child rights to ensure that the protection and development of children becomes their topmost priority.

Source: MoGCSP