By Winifred H Kargbo
Vice President Alhaji Samuel Sam Sumana last Thursday (3 April) officially launched the Child Justice Strategy 2014-2018 at the Miatta conference hall, Brookfields, in Freetown. The strategy aims to improve access to justice, human rights and the rule of law for children.
In his key note address before launching the strategy, the vice president lauded the importance of the strategy and the impact it can have on children, as well as how it would benefit the country. He called on partners to develop a strategy that will be child friendly for the children in conflict with the law. He called on the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs to continue to perform their mandate and called for proper counseling system for children in conflict with the law.
Giving an overview of the strategy, Director of Children in the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children Affairs, Mrs. Mariatu Bangura, called for the review of existing laws affecting children, and revealed that several engagements had been undertaken, including technical workshops, consultative meeting, consultation with children and validation of various reports, to inform the strategy.
Mrs. Bangura went on to say that the goal of the strategy is to ensure children access justice, while the purpose is to develop monitoring justice system that is protective and responsive to, as well as rehabilitate and reintegrate child offenders.
Representing the Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children Affairs, Deputy Minister of the Ministry, Mustapa Bai Atila commended the Justice Sector Coordinating Unit for putting together the strategy. He said many children are deprived of Justice and detained unjustifiably. He called on the police and other partners to be professional in handling matters involving children in conflict with the law.
In his statement, UNICEF representative Roeland Monasch described the event as historic and significant, as justice is at the heart of equitable development. He said UNICEF sees child welfare and justice for children as two sides of the same coin. He said a good number of children are accused of committing crimes and the number increases on a daily basis.
Other speakers include a representative from the judiciary, Serra Leone Police, Council of Paramount Chiefs, while the event was climaxed by a Documentary film depicting the struggles of children living in the street.