In Rwanda, child rights have been increasingly promoted. This is reflected in policy formulation, legal and institutional frameworks, establishment of programs and strategies among others. More importantly, the child right to participation has been recognized by enhancing child involvement and participation in the national development. The child right to express views and be heard is specifically emphasized in national, regional and international child rights instruments. As stipulated in the Constitution of the Republic of Rwanda as amended to date, the freedom of thought, opinion and conscience to all Rwandans, children inclusive are guaranteed (Article. 33).
Explicit provisions for children’s right to express their ideas or simply to participate in matters affecting their lives are found in Law N° 54/2011 of 14/12/2011 which recognizes the right of children to express their opinions freely and participate in issues concerning their lives. The principle of child participation is also given due weight in the Integrated Child Rights Policy (ICRP) in its thematic area on child participation which outlines the main components of child right to participation. This implies that child participation must be considered in each and every matter concerning children, their family and country.
It is against this backdrop that home grown initiatives including Annual National Children’s Summits and Children’s Forum have been established at different levels to boost and advance child participation. As stipulated in the Ministerial Guidelines regulating this Children’s Forum, its committees are set up for three years term through children’s fair and free elections. The outgoing committees of Children’s Forum were put in place through election that took place from 27th July to 28th August 2012 which recalls the need of establishing new committees as the term of these outgoing ended in August 2015.
The main objective of establishment of Children’s Forum is to continuously give every child a platform to express his/her opinion and be heard on matters concerning his/her life, family and country.
Structure of the children’s forum committees
Children’s Forum is platform that enables children to express their views and opinions which are then incorporated into government plans of action and also considered during the development of various policies and programs. They serve as the national voice for children and a channel where children can express their views on national issues and how these can be resolved by governments with children’s participation. These forums are also structures where children are familiarized with leadership and socialization skills since the early age.
As specified in the Ministerial guidelines establishing Children’s Forum, children to be elected should be between 6 and 15 years of age. Below is the composition of children’s forum committees from Village to District level:
At Village level:
-The General Assembly of Children’s Forum comprises all children in the Village aged between 6 and 17 years.
- The Executive committee comprises of the President, the Vice President, Secretary, 2 Advisors and a representative of childen with disabilities if any.
At Cell level:
-The General Assembly of Children’s Forum comprises members of the Executive Committees of all Villages of the Cell, and
- The Executive Committee comprises the President, the Vice President, Secretary, 2 Advisors and a representative of children with disabilities.
At the Sector level:
- The General Assembly of children’s forum comprises members of executive committees of all Cells constituting the Sector, and
-The executive Committee composed by the President, the Vice President, Secretary, 2 Advisors and the representative of childen with disabilities.
At the District level:
- The general Assembly of children’s forum comprises members of Executive Committees of all the Sectors constituting the District, and
- The Executive Committee comprises the President, the Vice President, Secretary, 2 Advisors and the representative of childen with disabilities.
Key responsibilities of Children’s Forum committees
The committees do carry out such responsibilities as; leading the meetings of Children’s Forum on a regular basis and providing views on the welfare and rights of children. Other functions include taking part in the decisions meant for children, denouncing problems affecting children in the community and disseminate the resolutions of Annual National Children Summits as well as participate in the monitoring of their implementation among others.
Organisation of election of new Children’s Forum committees
Who are the organisers?
The Election of Children’s Forum Committees is organised by the National Commission for Children in collaboration with its partners including Government institutions namely the Ministry of Local Government and the National Electoral Commission, Local and International Organisations, Faith based organisations among others and with guidance by the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion.
How will the election be conducted?
At Village, Cell and Sector levels, voters will be standing behind a favourite candidate while at District Level, they will resort to secret ballot. It is worth mentioning here that equity agenda will be given due weight as at least 30% of the elected children at each level will be female. Also, a representative of children with disabilities will be elected.
Elections at Village and Cell levels: 01/12/2015
Elections at Sector level: 02/12/2015
Elections at District level: 04/12/2015
The National Commission for Children is therefore inviting the public to own this activity by sensitizing children to participate to the election which is a milestone for the promotion of the children’s right to participation.