World’s Children’s Day: Sierra Leone puts spotlight on inclusion, equality

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To commemorate World Children’s Day (WCD), which also marks the anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Ministry of Gender and Children’s Affairs, the Sierra Leone Football Association, (SLFA), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have teamed up to promote the importance of inclusion, non-discrimination and equality of children and young people in all aspects of life including sports and play.
This year, World Children’s Day takes place the same day as the 2022 edition of the football World Cup kicks off which creates a unique opportunity to use the power of football to unite and remind the world that there can only be one team when it comes to children’s rights. 
In Sierra Leone, a sporting funfair was organised in Freetown, where children had the opportunity to play football alongside some football icons. The games were used to demonstrate how teamwork, following of rules, obedience, and giving everyone a fair chance can help a team win a match and how these same principles can also help the world to achieve great goals for children’s rights.

“The Government of Sierra Leone through the Ministry of Gender and Children’s Affairs is strengthening the Child Protection Landscape including the integration of meaningful Child Participation to ensure we create a brighter future for our Children.”
The right to equality and non-discrimination is at the core of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, (CRC), with Article 2 stating that “States Parties shall respect and ensure the rights set forth in the present Convention to each child within their jurisdiction without discrimination of any kind, irrespective of the child or his/her parents or legal guardian’s race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status.”
Recently, more than 407,000 young people participated in a global poll on discrimination through UNICEF’s U-Report, a messaging tool that empowers young people around the world to speak up about the issues that matter to them. The majority of respondents — 63% — said that discrimination is common in their schools or communities. Almost half feel discrimination has impacted their lives or that of someone they know in a significant way.
“World Children’s Day is a big global moment for UNICEF’s and provides an opportunity for the world to celebrate children’s rights.  The COVID-19 pandemic exposed deep inequities and discrimination in societies around the world, while climate change is further showing how the most marginalised children are the ones most affected by effects of climate change, including extreme heat and flooding,” said UNICEF Representative, Dr. Suleiman Braimoh.
Through the football funfair, Sierra Leone’s National Football players were able to share their commitment to be part of the “winning team for child rights,” through continuing to display elements of fair play, teamwork and inclusion in all their matches.  
Apart from the football funfair, other activities to commemorate World Children’s Day include the official launch of a strategy document on Children in Street Situations, which contains recommendations to reduce the number of children living and working on the streets and which also demonstrates the country’s commitment to equality of all children and provides guidelines to protect children living and working on the street from abuse and violence.
In addition, an advocacy engagement with the Parliament of Sierra Leone will be held to sensitise parliament on the need to accelerate the ratification of the revised Child Rights Act (CRA). The revised CRA among other things, recommends the abolition of harmful practices against children and puts the minimum age of marriage at 18 years.

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