The National Commission for Human Rights of Rwanda and a number of civil society organisations working to promote children’s welfare in Rwanda have urged the Government to step up efforts to protect children’s rights.
The commission, along with non-profit organisations that include Save the Children, Children’s Voice Today, CLADHO, and Haguruka, made the call following an assessment of how the Government implemented previous recommendations from the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) which were issued in 2015.
On Tuesday, the stakeholders held a validation workshop to disseminate their findings on the assessment and receive comments from different actors in the area of children’s rights promotion and protection.
Of the 28 recommendations by ACERWC, Rwanda has fully implemented 17, while 11 of them are still pending implementation, officials say.
Recommendations that still need to be implemented include completion of the review for the country’s penal code and laws prohibiting human trafficking and human exploitation, increase in the budget meant to improve children’s welfare, increase in access to clean water, and online registration of children at birth.
The Government has also been urged to totally abolish corporal punishments for children at the family level and provide schools with sanitary materials in order to address causes of school drop-outs.
The chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission, Madeleine Nirere, said in an interview at the meeting said that providing schools with sanitary materials could prevent some children, especially girls, from dropping out of school.
“We still see children who are out of school and lack basic hygiene. This should be everyone’s concern so that children can stay in school,” she said.
Nirere also said the Government should move swiftly to implement a recommendation to establish juvenile chambers at High Court and Supreme Court levels, and set up rehabilitation centres for children who are in trouble with the law.
“There is need for special chambers for children in courts, and these children should receive legal assistance because they are often unable to speak for themselves,” she said.
Nirere delivers her remarks during the meeting. (Sam Ngendahimana)
Based on the ACERWC recommendations, local activists for children’s rights have also called for the criminalisation of the worst forms of child labour and setting up of a programme for rehabilitation and reintegration of victims of human trafficking.
Marcel Sibomana, a child rights governance manager at Save the Children in Rwanda, told The New Times that Rwanda has policies that protect children’s welfare, but underscored the need to make them more known among the population and strengthening the capacity of institutions that implement them.
“I think the Government should implement policies and legal frameworks related to children through budget allocation and strengthening capacities of child protection institutions. There is also need to create awareness about child rights, starting with the right to a life without abuse,” he said.
At the conclusion of their assessment report, the National Commission for Human Rights and the civil society organisations urged the Office of the Prime Minister to follow up and provide support to different ministries so they can fast-track the implementation of the remaining recommendations from the ACERWC. The next periodic report by ACERWC is scheduled for May.
With a secretariat at the African Union Commission, the ACERWC works to promote the protection of children’s rights on the continent.