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Thursday 17 January 2019
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Children’s Parliament laments power absence

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-1-03-46-pmBy Rakkel Andreas

Lawmakers from the Children’s Parliament in Namibia are calling for legislative powers that will ensure due process of checks and balances on issues affecting young people in Namibia.
Such powers would enable lawmakers from the Children’s Parliament to enact binding laws, they say. Currently, motions adopted by the Children’s Parliament are not binding – not even on the youth ministry.
In an interview with this publication this week, Deputy Speaker of the junior house, Emma Teofelus, pointed to the absence of governing legislative provisions that hinders the work of the Children’s Parliament.
This, she said, is because the guidelines of the parliament are not legally binding and legislative discretion on recommendations from the young parliamentarians lies with the National Assembly alone. A further challenge, according to Teofelus, is the absence of a budget, which is also the reason why the Children’s Parliament has only convened three times since its inception in 2007, with the last session held in 2013.
“The role of the Children’s Parliament is significant and remains relevant because we advocate for issues affecting children under the age of 18 only because anyone else over that age bracket falls under the jurisdiction of the National Youth Council. It is very important to us that a distinction be made, however thin, between children and youth per se because the issues that children face are somewhat special from what a generic definition of youth issues include,” stressed Teofelus.
According to parliament’s secretariat, the aim of the Namibian Children’s Parliament is to create a developing society with a high sense of responsibility, of which children and the youth are part, with adults as partners.
“The primary goal of the Children’s Parliament is to lobby or advise government and its agencies responsible for law-making and their implementing machinery to fast-track policies that would improve the rights and welfare of children and young persons in accordance with national legal instruments and the international convention’s provisions. The Children’s Parliament is the mouthpiece of children and young persons. It should serve as an introduction to the work being done regarding children and young persons in Namibia,” information on parliament’s website states.
The Junior Parliament has recorded national advisory triumphs ranging from increasing the allowance of orphans and vulnerable children from N$200 to N$250 in 2013 to making key recommendations and changes to the then Child Care and Protection Bill, as well as the vigorous advocacy for the Bill to be enacted – which happened in 2015.
At regional level, the children’s parliament has compelled a few municipal councils around the country to establish junior town councils to give children a voice and a platform to engage leaders in towns across the country.
The Speaker of the National Assembly, Peter Katjavivi says the National Assembly is aware of the concerns from the junior parliamentarians and because of the significance of children and youth alike in the country, a collective solution to appease challenges faced by the Junior Parliament is a priority.
“Any identified shortcomings within our legal system that is cause for concern enjoys the attention of the National Assembly in consultation with all stakeholders including the youth. This includes the absence of the said Act. We are collectively looking into, it among other priorities identified by the children and the youth of Namibia,” says Katjavivi.
The speaker also refers to the selection criteria of the Children’s Parliament that he stressed needs to include all Namibian children in the 14 regions. “We are proud to have a Children’s Parliament as an advisory body on children’s issues, however, we are aware that it also does not include all Namibian children in its selection criteria because not all the children meet the criteria nor have access to them and as such efforts are in place to rectify this gross error.”
The Namibian children’s parliament is the brainchild of the former speaker of parliament, Theo-Ben Gurirab, with the singular mandate to give children a voice on issues affecting them through a national entity of sorts.
The Namibian Children’s Parliament was a brainchild of the former speaker of parliament, Theo-Ben Gurirab with the singular mandate to give children a voice on issues affecting them through a national entity of sorts.




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