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Stakeholders forum on Juvenile Justice wraps up

Oct 17, 2011, 1:09 PM | Article By: Abdoulie Nyockeh

The department of Social Welfare and the children court, with funding from UNICEF, last Thursday ended a two-day stakeholder’s forum on Juvenile Justice at the Atlantic Hotel in Banjul.

The objective of the forum was to bring together stakeholders in the Juvenile Justice system to discuss issues of concern that affect the effective and smooth administration of juvenile justice in The Gambia.

It also seeks to identify the challenges, constraints and gaps, and make recommendations for consideration by policymakers to address the challenges and gaps in the best interest of the children.

In a statement delivered at the forum, the deputy permanent secretary at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Abdou Karim Sonko, registered profound gratitude and appreciation to UNICEF for their support in the country’s child protection programme and for sponsoring the programme.

According to him, the meeting is a clear manifestation of the Gambia government’s resolve to create a child friendly environment for its children.

It is crucial that every child be registered immediately after birth, he said: “A child without a provable date of birth is extremely vulnerable and might be at risk of abuse, exploitation and injustice regarding paid labour work.”

Deputy PS Sonko added that there is need to ensure all necessary measures are taken to make sure that all children in conflict with the law are treated despite their status, condition, circumstance and nationality.

He also used the occasion to call for active and positive involvement of the media in support of efforts at improving the understanding of a right-based approach to children who have been or are in conflict with the penal law.

It is important for children, in particular those who have experience with the juvenile justice system, to be involved in these awareness-raising efforts.

Deputizing the Interior Minister, permanent secretary Momodou Jarra said the government under the leadership of the president always promotes the rights and welfare of children.

It is obvious that non-governmental and civil society organization can play an important role not only in the prevention of juvenile delinquency but also in the administration of juvenile justice, he said.

He therefore called for partnership with these organizations in the development and implementation of a comprehensive juvenile justice system that is focused on respect for the human rights and freedom of others.

Also speaking at the forum, Judith Sarr, chairperson of the Children Court, said all hands must be on deck to safeguard the future of the fragile’ people in the society who are innocent of their parents’ laxity.

Also speaking on behalf of the UNICEF country representative, Mentxell Relano hailed the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare for organizing the forum.

The UNICEF official said the platform would allow all interested stakeholders to examine key issues affecting young people, and explore ways of surmounting the challenges that are currently being faced in the administration of child justice in the country.

She added that advocating for child justice is part of UNICEF’s overall commitment to the UNDP convention on the rights of the child, and to the area of child protection which addresses prevention and responses to violence, abuse, and exploitation of children.