|Fanta Bai Secka|
Fanta Bai Secka, Director Social Welfare, has called on religion leaders to do more in their words and deeds to protect children as The Gambia joined the world in commemorating World Day of Prayer and Action for Children on 20th November.
“The involvement of Religious and Faith-based organizations is essential in promoting and improving children’s issues because all religions have texts about children’s well-being, their upbringing as well as protection, among others,” Mrs Secka said on Tuesday 20th November during a press briefing at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in Banjul as part line-up of activities scheduled to mark the Day in The Gambia.
The three-year (2010 – 2012) global theme for the commemoration of the World Day of Prayers and Action for Children: “Stop Violence Against Children” has been localised in The Gambia as “Let Stop Violence and Sexual Abuse Against Children Now.”
The director of Social Welfare said because many religion organizations work in communities and with the people, they have easier access to vulnerable children in the most deprived communities where other stakeholders often do not reach.
“Their philanthropic work towards children within communities also provides them the opportunity to create awareness and demand for essential services that governments and other duty bearers provide for children,” she said.
Data from the Department of Social Welfare at the Ministry of Health has indicated 127 cases of violence against mothers; 87 cases of violence against mothers and children at in a ten-month period – from January to October 2012.
The data revealed about 500 cases on domestic violence including violence against children and mothers as well as paternity and custody cases.
In view of this, Mrs Secka noted that children are confronted with several problems arising from the homes and communities where there are expected to be protected.
“Let us start with prayers and action for the welfare of our dear children,” she remarked.
Also speaking on the occasion, the UNICEF Country Representative to The Gambia, Ms. Aichatou Diawara Flambert, said children around the world need prayers and support from all and sundry particularly religion leaders.
“A world day of prayer and action for children is an opportunity for religious communities, the government, civil society orginations and other stakeholders in child protection to find the necessary will and courage to talk about the different kinds of violence against children that are taking place in communities, schools and households,” she said.
A world day of prayer and action for children, an initiative set in motion by the faith-based organisation, Arigatou International, was adopted by UNICEF in 2009, during the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
The commemoration of the day seeks to bring together people of religion and goodwill from various religions to pray for and safeguard the integrity, rights and dignity of children. It also seeks to promote their survival, development, protection and wellbeing.
The UNICEF Representative in The Gambia noted that violence against children takes many forms – from sexual abuse and exploitation, sex tourism, corporal punishment, to female genital mutilation.