Day 2 of the Child Initiative Forum built upon the success of the first day. After singing the national anthem and participating in morning activities and games with the Child Rights Club patrons, the day began with an animated talk by Christopher Lartey from the Department of Children.
Christopher Lartey works in the Department of Children. He is participating in the Child Initiative Forum because the Department of Children believes that bringing partners like Child Rights International on board is important in coordinating and implementing child protection and ensuring the welfare of children in Ghana.
Christopher came into the Child Initiative Forum hoping to expose the children to the two major policies of the Department of Children – the Justice for Children Policy and the Child and Welfare Policy – and to make them aware of their rights and responsibilities.
Throughout his talk, Christopher made sure his audience was active, encouraging them to speak up with their questions, comments and opinions. He emphasized that every child should have access to the laws and protections in place for them, but lamented that many children do not know how to access these services. He furthered that we need institutions to ensure that they are upheld, and that children understand what their rights are, how they can protect themselves, and how they can be protected.
While discussing the Child and Welfare Policy Mr. Lartey explained that the goal of this policy is to ensure that not only is the child as an individual being supported, but there are supports in place for the family and community that care for them. While policies and legislation such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and Ghana’s Children’s Act are vital to the fight for the realization of child rights, supporting the family to support the child is an integral part of ensuring these efforts are effective.
In addition to the Child and Welfare Policy, Christopher Lartey also explained the Justice for Children Policy. This policy looks at three primary groups: victims, witnesses and perpetrators.
In the case of perpetrators, the justice system must treat them differently than adult offenders. Perpetrators, as well as victims and witnesses, must always be treated well, properly, with respect and in a safe environment. Children are still growing and developing, so it is important to recognize that rehabilitation is a priority.
Victims must be treated with respect and gently, so that they are comfortable coming forward and don’t feel they will be judged, mistreated or that the adult will not believe them. Witnesses must also be treated carefully. Children cannot simply be called upon to take the stand at a trial, as they are not yet as resilient as adults, and may find the experience emotionally traumatic.
Furthermore, privacy is a key aspect of the Justice for Children Policy. Children should never be exposed for coming forward as victims or witnesses, as this may expose them to stigma, judgement or harassment in their communities. In addition, the fear children sometimes feel when coming forward to report a crime by someone in power, such as a parent, teacher or community leader, is a strong deterrent to doing so. By protecting their identities, the children’s increases the number of children who will feel comfortable coming forward.
Privacy is not only important for victims and witnesses. Child perpetrators of crimes must also be protected. As previously mentioned, children are still developing, and may not fully understand the ramifications of their actions when committing a crime, or may feel it is their only option for survival. The Justice System is not only about punishment, it is also about rehabilitation and reintegration of children into society. To do this effectively, children should not be forced to face more stigma from their communities, and should not be bullied or abused for their actions when they have already been punished by the law. This is particularly important for those children who have expressed remorse, and are not trying to re-enter society as a positive and productive community member.
In addition to learning about these two policies, children presented what they learned in the interactive sessions, showing the deeper understanding of the issues they gained, and the knowledge they would use to develop the Child-Friendly Monitoring Tool.
Developing the Child-Friendly Monitoring Tool
During the final session of the second day of the Child Initiative Forum, children developed the Child-Friendly Child Protection Monitoring Tool. Through brainstorming in groups led by inspiring ambassadors and Child Rights Club patrons, the children wrote many ideas and drew pictures that showed their newly developed and improved upon knowledge of child protection issues – in the process putting together a comprehensive document that will be distributed to children across the country.