Historically, child rights and advocacy initiatives have been predominantly overlooked in Zambia. Children have been silent witnesses to the realities of social exclusion. That is- until recently.
Since November 2014 our team in Zambia have been focused on promoting child rights and participation in parliamentary discussions and amongst key governmental stakeholders. Efforts which successfully culminated with Zambia’s president’s pledge to meaningfully engage in policy development at the opening of parliament on September 30th 2016.
An estimated 65% of Zambian children and adolescents live in poverty in Zambia. Despite significant economic developments over the part 10 years, children living in the most excluded localities of the country have seen little improvement to their communities. Child poverty in Zambia is predominantly rural, with 50% of the population unable to obtain their basic food requirements in Eastern Luapula, Northern and Western provinces and with similarly unsustainable figures in urban settings. Moreover, malnutrition poses a significant threat to child welfare, where 40% of children in Zambia under the age of 5 are stunted.
With such high levels of exclusion President Edgar Lungu’s commitment to the enactment of the Children’s Bill Code, as well as his pledge to meaningfully engage children in various governmental processes- including policy direction and any issues which affect their wellbeing- is an advocacy milestone for Save the Children’s campaign team. Moreover, due to being heavily involved in the drafting of the Code Bill, both the language and framework of the document were heavily influenced by our contributions, evidencing the substantial impact our involvement has resulted in. In his speech Lungu clearly stated that “for a long time we have assumed that children should only be seen and not heard’” reminding everyone that the value of securing the livelihood of Zambia’s youths lies in the fact that “we do not inherit our country from our forefathers, or ancestors, we borrow it form our children,” and pledged to involve children in meaningful development initiatives which place them at the forefront of social development initiatives.
Following this event and given our prominent role in advocating child-led initiatives and campaigning, our team in Zambia is now capitalising on this historic moment in order to ensure that promises are transformed into realities. In line with the president’s pledge we are working towards promoting, expanding and formalising child participation initiatives in community, district, provincial and national structures, equipping, training and mentoring children to be able to participate meaningfully and without fear in championing their rights.
September 30th is a day to be celebrated and commemorated. It paves the way for the children of Zambia to demand that their rights be recognised and their calls for change be acted upon. Our mission is to persist with our campaigning initiatives so that no child is left behind and so that Zambia can act as a model for change. A change which is both possible and necessary if we are to achieve a world in which young voices must be heard.