Save the children, CFN, SLAJ concerned over use of children in politics 

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Representatives from SLAJ, CRC, SCI and CFN

By Alhaji Haruna Sani

Save the Children, in collaboration with the Children’s Forum Network and the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists, has expressed deep concern over reports of children being exploited, abused and involved in political activities during the 2023 General Election Campaigns in Sierra Leone.

In a joint press release  issued on June 15 during a press briefing organized at the head office of Save the Children, Aberdeen in Freetown, the three organisations strongly condemned such actions and urged all political parties and candidates to immediately cease using children in political campaigns or for conveying political messages.

According to the release, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Sierra Leone is a signatory, provides a clear framework for the protection and well-being of children and Article 3 of the Convention emphasizes that the best interest of the child shall be a primary consideration in all actions concerning them.

Article 32 highlights the right of children to be protected from economic exploitation and any work that may interfere with their education, harm their health, or hinder their development.

According to the release, the exploitation of children for political purposes not only violates their fundamental rights but also jeopardizes their well-being and future prospects. Children should never be used as pawns or instruments in political campaigns or activities.

Ahmed Sahid Nasralla, President, Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) called  on all and sundry to ensure that children do not participate in election.

“We also encourage journalists to do the needful when they see children participate in political activities by reporting those crimes on their various medium and interview politicians on such issues any time they have the opportunity,” he urged. 

On behalf of the Children’s Forum Network (CFN), Mahmoud Barrie, President, CFN, endorsed the press statement on behalf of the over three million children in Sierra Leone. He said laws in Sierra strongly prohibit the use of children to participate in political campaign.

He said CFN strongly condemns the use of children in political activities and reiterates the endorsement of the press statement.

Boi Jenneh Jalloh, National Chairperson Child Rights Coalition and Executive Director FoRUT said when children are not allowed to vote, they should also not be allowed to participate in politics.

She admonished parents to look over their children and not allow them participate in politics.

Reading from the press statement, Ramatu Jalloh, Director of Advocacy Section, Save the Children, said such actions undermine children’s rights, expose them to potential harm, manipulation, and psychological distress.

“In addition, we are deeply disappointed by recent developments that disrupted children’s education. It has come to our attention that majority of over 220,000 pupils taking the West African Senior Secondary Education Examination (WASSCE), Primary and Secondary School children were either too scared to attend their exams or did not go to school on Monday 12th and Tuesday 13th June 2023. This disruption to their education do not only impacts their academic progress but also compromises their safety and mental well-being,” she reads.

She noted that Eglantyne Jebb, the founder of Save the Children, initiated the movement to advocate for and protect children who suffer the consequences of political instability. In situations where children are exploited for political gains, it is imperative to remind everyone of the urgent need to protect and prioritize the well-being of children.

Save the Children, Children’s Forum Network, and Sierra Leone Association of Journalists called upon all political parties, candidates, and their supporters to uphold the principles enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

They urged political parties to immediately cease the use of children in political campaigns, protests, events, or activities, ensure the protection of children from any form of exploitation, manipulation, or harm during the electoral process, raise awareness within respective party structures and among supporters about the importance of safeguarding children’s rights.  

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