International Day of the Child: ECOWAS Parliament inaugurates Street Children parliament
By Adoba Echono
An initiative to curb the rise in the number of children on the streets as well as taking them off the streets has been launched in Abuja, Nigeria with the inauguration of a Parliament for Street Children to serve as the voice for the deprived and abandoned kids.
The programme is an initiative of ECOWAS Parliament Amazons, in collaboration with UNICEF and Radio Nigeria on the occasion of the International Day of the Child with the theme ‘ECOWAS Parliament’s date with the Street Child’.
The Second Deputy Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament, Sani Malam Chaibou Boucary, who represented the Speaker Sidie Mohamed Tunis, commenced the inauguration with the induction of the Bureau of the Street Parliament.
According to Boucary, Children’s rights are to be protected as stipulated by the United Nations.
He said that it was in a bid to protect children all over the world that the UN set aside a day to celebrate children, adding that unfortunately the number of children on the street was now on the rise.
“We observe an increase in the number of children that are attracted to the street for various reasons, particularly the death of their parents or instability created by violence and wars.
“Street children are deprived of all of their rights and it is up to the government to ensure that these children reach their full potential.
“Curbing the wave of violence and other factors that contribute to the number of street children is our collective responsibility.
“I am happy to identify with ECOFEPA and other partners in recognizing in their role and to give a fresh life to these children by establishing this parliament for street children.”
“We should support the children. Street children without homes and families, represent the greatest challenge for us to tackle because they need long term intervention,” he said.
The Speaker added that this was a very important stage in the efforts of rehabilitation for the children to participate in governance and democratic life without resulting to violence.
Special care for Children
Also speaking, the Vice President of Liberia Mrs. Jewel Taylor stressed that no child should be left on the street.
Mrs. Taylor who spoke through video conference stressed that no child should ever be deserted or harmed by those who have the duty to protect them.
“I applaud the Speakers and Members of ECOWAS Parliament, especially female members for using the ECOWAS parliament to advance the cause of children living on the streets.”
She stressed that such street children must be taken out of the streets and prepared against the future.
For Mrs. Tanko Almakura, Special Adviser to the President on African First Ladies Peace Mission said that the street only offers the children gangsterism, cheap labour, sex abuse, low self-esteem among others.
“These children are easily taken advantage of and become prey to child trafficking, drug peddlers and ritual killers.
“Indeed the street children syndrome is an ill wind that blows no one any good, it is a dangerous phenomenon and we must take every drastic step to reverse the trend.
“This we must do for the love of the street child and the love of ourself, lest we forget, the kidnapers, bandits and robbers of today were mostly street children of yesterday.
“Also the criminals of many years to come are the children of today who are not rescued from the street. So the vicious cycle will not stop except we take conscious steps to do so.
“At the African First Ladies Peace Mission, we believe that the most potent step to stop the street children is to attack the conditions that breed them in the first place,” she said.
A high point of the event was when one of the street children displayed his soccer and ball control skills on the floor of Parliament.
Other speakers who delivered good will messages also cautioned that the menace of street children was like a time bomb that would hunt the society if not urgently addressed.
They stressed that the good life which many were building for their kids may not come to be if the challenges of street children was allowed to fester.