By Buba Gagigo
The Child Protection Alliance has called on all political parties and candidates not to use children during their political campaigns ahead of the local government election.
“The Child Protection Alliance (CPA) wishes to remind all candidates and political parties against the mobilisation of children for campaign activities in the upcoming Local Government Elections. Candidates and political parties must respect the rights of children and desist from any form of violation of those rights during the campaign activities. It is evident that candidates and political parties in The Gambia have been mobilizing children for campaigns and other political activities during elections.
“In recent times, we have seen photos of children in political gears, especially on the social media platforms, notably, during the 2021 presidential elections. It is important to note that the election campaigns affect children both directly and indirectly. Elections provide an opportunity to shape their civic education, to learn about democratic values, these must not be used as basis of using children for political purposes. A child is not a tool, not a decoration, but a citizen with rights. Their rights are violated if they are exploited or used otherwise for political gain,” CPA said.
They said Children’s rights to participation in expressing their views concerning their rights and welfare as enshrined in Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child (UNCRC) and Article 17 of the Children’s Act 2005, must not in any way be misconstrued to promote children’s participation in political campaigns.
“Even if it is unintentionally done or due to the lack of awareness. A child is not a tool or a decoration, and most importantly, not someone’s property. The child is an independent citizen entitled to rights. The child is an individual whose dignity must be respected, and as a particularly sensitive and vulnerable target group, it is the responsibility of adults to respect and protect them in their daily lives and also during political campaigns,” they said.
CPA said Children participation must be genuine, and they must understand the consequences and impact of their opinions.
“Candidates and political parties must understand that they have an obligation to respect the rights of children and protect them from any form of abuse and exploitation. Therefore, mobilising children for campaign activities is in violation of their rights and could expose them to other forms of abuse and exploitation,” they continued.
CPA equally calls on the Independent Electoral Commission to rise to the bait and take appropriate actions against the violation of electoral laws, especially on issues concerning children.
“We also call on the Civil Society Coalition on elections and the Elections Watch Committee (EWC) to closely monitor campaign activities and flag irregularities, especially with issues of children as appropriate. Security agents must also be on alert to provide protection for children during campaign activities. The Mobile Traffic Unit of The Gambia Police Force must ensure the safety and security of children during this period, especially having children onboard overloaded vehicles, sometimes on vehicle tops, and must not fall short of their duties and responsibilities in this regard,” CPA said.
Meanwhile, the Child Protection Alliance (CPA) urges parents, guidance and caregivers to desist in any form of engaging their children in political campaigns and its related activities.
“Finally, we want to remind the government through the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare of its duty as enshrined in Article 66(a/b) of the Children’s Act 2005; towards the safeguarding, protection and promotion of the welfare of children and to ensure that Local Government Authorities and other government agencies liaise with one another in matters concerning children. The government has no excuse in fulfilling its commitment to children, especially this campaign period. To report suspected cases of child abuse, please call the Child Helpline on 199,” the statement ends.