The Ministry of Gender and Children’s Affairs (MoGCA) on Friday 25th August 2023 organized a day’s National Child Welfare Coordinating Meeting at the Council of Churches Sierra Leone Hall on King Harman Road in Freetown.
Some of the objectives of the meeting are to strengthen coordination of child welfare interventions in Ward, District and National levels. The meeting attracted the participation of MoGCA staff and partners at national and district levels.
Highlights of the meeting included update of the Child Rights Amendment Bill and the combined sixth and seventh periodic report of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Importantly, the MoGCA District Officers highlighted the child protection concerns in their respective districts including delay in prosecution of sexual offences cases, the absence of juvenile holding centers such as remand homes and placement of child offenders with adult criminals drug abuse (intake of Kush) among children, child mining, child trafficking and initiation of children into secret societies.
Speaking on behalf of the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education, Mrs. Ann Konneh lamented the high compromise of child abuse cases by community stakeholders, a situation she attributed to the high prevalence of poverty.
Mr. Foday Conteh of the Police Family Support Unit underscored that they are key partners in child protection, that sexual penetration and domestic violence are on the increase and that it takes a minimum of three weeks for the Rainbow Center to release their reports.
He also disclosed plans by the wife of the Inspector General of Police to construct a holding center in Kissy.
Goodie Sowonie of MGCA and Focal Person for FGM observed that FGM is still on the increase in spite of the effects of partners including UNICEF, stressed that the practice is affecting the lives of innocent girls and appealed to all to continue to protect girls.
Mr. Joseph Sunday Sinnah, Chief Director MGCA, observed that one of their major challenges is the absence of data to justify budgetary allocation for child welfare interventions. He called for close collaboration between the Ministries Gender and Children’s Affairs and Social Welfare and lamented the limited presence of Social Workers especially at village and community levels.
In presenting an update on the passage of the Child Rights Amendment Bill the Chief Director mentioned that the Bill has a number of gray areas that would require extensive consultations as advised by Parliament but however assured that the Bill would be reintroduced in Parliament following consultations with key stakeholders.
The UNICEF representative assured of UNICEF’s continued support to MGCA but however noted the need to focus on results and evidence based reporting.