OPEN LETTER TO DR SYLVIA OLAYINKA BLYDEN: DESIGNATED MINISTER OF SOCIAL WELFARE GENDER AND CHILDREN’S AFFAIRS
I want to first of all congratulate you on your appointment as Minister of Social Welfare , Gender and Children’s Affairs , I must say President Koroma made no mistake to entrust you with such responsibility to man the affairs of children and women of Sierra Leone. Your appointment is a blessing to the women and children of this country. On behalf of the children of Sierra Leone I want to thank you for your relentless effort towards the development of young people.
As you await parliamentary approval I want to draw your attention to few things that are affecting and hindering the development of children of this great nation of ours,and for which I strongly believe as a young people’s advocate, you will use your new office to tackle them as you are now in the right capacity to do more for the children of this country. Some of these issues are as follows:
Firstly Dr Bylden, if you take a walk in the streets of Freetown around 10pm – 6am you will see countless number of children helplessly sleeping in market stalls, unprotected places , slum; areas with no good clothes on them; no food and no hope for the future.
These are the kids we see during the day scavenging in gutters and dustbins looking for scrap metals to feed themselves; these are the innocent kids we see during day stealing and begging for food. Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, one of the rights of children in the Child Right Act ‘all children have the right to live with their parents and family to grow up within a peaceful and caring environment’ and its also the responsibly of the government through the ministry to protect the kids from having to do any kind of work that is dangerous,or might harm their health or serve as a stumbling block to their education.
Over the years, the Ministry of Social Welfare , Gender and Children’s Affairs has failed to address children’s issues, but i strongly believe in your leadership and that you will use your capacity to look into the issue of street children and work toward taking them off the streets and give their life a meaning.
Secondly, Dr. S.O. Blyden, I want to draw your attention to the area of guardianship-what we refer to in krio as :for Menpekin”. This is an issue that has not been getting the serious attention it deserves even among Child Rights Advocates. Guardianship is when an elderly person takes responsibility of a child in the absence of the biological parents. Many Sierra Leoneans are misusing guardianship responsibilities and it’s affecting the well being of children especially young girls. People leave the city to take children from the provinces with the aim of taking care of them but when they return they turn these children into domestic slaves making them do all the hard work at home and some do sales in the market/streets for the rest of the day with no good food and clothing and they deprive them from going to school.
Dr, Blyden the number 4 right of kids in the Child Right Act says “all children have the right to be treated with respect and dignity. They also have the right to relax and play, grow up in liberty and to receive education, shelter and the things they need to stay healthy,including immunization against diseases”
Dr, using deceit in order to exploit these children is a very serious crime and a blatant violation of children’s right as stated in the Child Right Act and it is the responsibility of the government through the ministry to support guardians to look after the welfare of children and make sure there are service providers to work for the children and to give advice on health and development of children. The Child Rights Act fairly says that service providers must treat children with respect and do what is best for them.
Lastly Dr, Teenage pregnancy is not a hidden thing in our country now and its increasingly increasing and getting worse day by day, destroying the future potentials of the country. Teenage girls deserve better. And education should be a priority for them; the ministry has been paying less attention to the issue of teenage pregnancy and protection of young girls and its the role of the government to protect us by enforcing and implementing the Child Rights Act and punish the violators of children rights.
Like I said earlier on, the Ministry of Social Welfare , Gender and Children’s Affairs over the years has failed to address these issues affecting and hindering the development of children. I know you have limited time but on behalf of children of sierra Leone I am appealing to you to look into the issues stated above and tackle them. I personally trust in your leadership and i strongly believe you will not let us down.
God bless Sierra Leone
God bless Children Of Sierra Leone
Chernor J. Bah
Youth and Child Advocate
Founder and Former Director Children For Democracy
Information and Communications Manager
Kids Advocacy Network