The Sixth Convening for child protection within the Mano River Union (MRU) has been held in Liberia, with speakers suggesting the need for stakeholders to involve communities as partners in the intervention to stop violence of all forms against children.
At the start of the regional conference Tuesday, 10 December which assembles participants from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone in Congo Town, Defence for Children International Liberia Charter’s Executive Director Atty. Foday Kawah says they are making sure that communities take ownership of the campaign.
He notes that there is a report that violence against children in the three Mano River Union countries – Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea – is very high.
According to Atty. Kawah, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and youth – led organizations within the Mano River Union are trying to fight violence against children and making sure that communities take ownership of the campaign.
“Because of this, we have been meeting annually to design the strategies and make sure that communities take ownership, instead of Civil Society. They will be more sustainable as compared to only government or Civil Society advocating,” Atty. Kawah explains.
According to him, this year’s convening is aimed at finding ways on how CSOs in the MRU basin can fight against all forms of violence against children, adding that there is an expert from Uganda who will be deliberating and sharing ideas to the participants during the meeting in Monrovia.
Further, Atty. Kawah notes that Defence for Children is partnering with many institutions including Unicef, Plan International and the Liberia Child Rights Representative Forum.
For her part, UNICEF Child Protection Officer Madam Ina Christensen stresses the need for community involvement in the fight against violence against children, saying it is the communities that will tell that this intervention is meeting their needs in changing the lives of their children.
She says the gains are enormous when communities are made to understand the dividends when they invest in children and change the narratives by stopping child marriage and harmful practices that affect the growth and development of children.
She recognizes the contribution of community members who volunteer their services in this intervention, encouraging stakeholders to see community members as partners to the work.Children Parliament National Speaker for Liberia Prince Y. Saydee says the purpose of convening in Monrovia is to respond to calls from different CSOs within the MRU sub – region.
“If we are to protect children, it is not about one institution. It’s about everyone of us working together collaboratively so that the children of Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and the entire Africa can be protected as long as we intend to see them,” he says.
Saydee calls for serious action to be taken in the interest of children, adding that the involvement of children in decision making is key.“There can be no way that we plan programs in the absence of children. Children need to be there to make that decision,” Saydee adds.
He underscores that it is important that the children of the world celebrate a year of violence free, further calling for more serious actions to be taken.By Winston W. Parley