The Eleven Member AU Committee, Chaired by Professor Benyam Dawit Mezmur, lauded Ghana on the various interventions and plans the country has adopted all geared toward protecting the rights and promoting the welfare of children in the country at the ACERWC’s 28 Ordinary session and the 12 Pre-session of the Committee meeting at Banjul, The Gambia.
Ghana had submitted the country’s initial, first and second consolidated report on the implementation of ACERWC Charter on the rights and welfare of the child to the Committee and appeared before the experts to defend issues raised.
The Country report covered ten thematic areas which include: General measures taken to realize the rights and welfare of the child in the policies and law of the State party or in any other international convention or agreement in force in the state.
The others are the definition of the child under domestic law and regulations; civil rights and freedom; family environment and alternative care; health and welfare; education, leisure and cultural activities; special protection measures; and responsibilities of the child.
Mrs Della Sowah, Deputy Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection who led Ghana’s delegation, said Government has taken measures to promote positive cultural values and traditions and to discourage those that are inconsistent with the rights, duties and obligations contained in the Children’s Charter.
In addition, the legal framework has also been strengthened with the amendment of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29), to criminalise female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C).
She said to emphasise the seriousness of the offence, the punishment is a term of imprisonment of not less than 5 years and not more than ten years.
“A new section 101A also makes sexual exploitation an offence and punishable in the case of a child to a term of imprisonment of not less than 7 years and not more than 25 years”.
She said the Ghanaian Government under President John Dramani Mahama has also instituted institutional framework with the restructuring of the Gender Ministry with an expanded mandate to coordinate and ensure gender equality and equity.
The Gender Ministry is also to promote and protect the welfare and rights of children, the vulnerable and excluded and persons with disability, and empower them to fully participate in national development.
Mrs Sowah said the Gender Ministry is responsible for the overall coordination of all child-related matters in the country.
She said the Department of Children (DOC) serves as a technical department under the Ministry and plays a lead role in carrying out this function of the Ministry.
The DOC is the main coordinating agency with the mandate to coordinate child rights implementation in Ghana. “It plays a significant leading role in the effective formulation and implementation of child-related policies, as well as the enforcement of child-related legislation.
“For child rights promotion, DOC undertakes activities aimed at fostering behaviour change of all actors in charge of child welfare and protection at the national, regional and district levels. Information management and documentation of relevant child-related issues is key to DOC’s work.
“Consequently, the DOC carries out research, coordinates the collation and compilation of all relevant child-related information which allows periodic evaluation of the status of child rights promotion in the country”.
The Deputy Gender Minister noted that the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), has established a unit on children, which addresses cases involving children and monitors the implementation of children’s rights.
“The Commission conducts annual monitoring of various sector policies and their implementation. Its findings are published in an annual report on the state of human rights in Ghana,” she noted.
Mrs Sowah also highlighted challenges which included financial, human and material resource constraints as well as structural limitations to the full implementation of the charter.
“In spite of these challenges, a lot of significant achievements have been made to improve the rights and welfare of children through democracy and good governance which enabled strong government commitment and support for the implementation of child-focused programmes, immense support,” noted.
She said Government also in collaboration with UNICEF has been an instrumental point in ensuring some level of progress for children, strong and consistent support from stakeholders in the Child Protection arena who partner to carry out child-related programmes and projects.
She said government machinery to improve service delivery on behalf of children, increase in number of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) and Community-Based Organisations (CBO) that work in areas concerning children’s protection and development.
She touted the media for being proactive in the coverage and public awareness of issues concerning children and the development of new legislation and strengthening of existing laws and policies which put the government and its partners on their toes in issues relating to children.
The delegation included Mr Kwesi Armo-Himbson, Chief Director, Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection; Mrs Gifty Kusi, Representative of Parliament; Mrs Eunice Sackey, Ghana Health Services; Mrs Helena Obeng-Asamoah, Department of Children; Mr Sylvester Kyei-Gyamfi, Head, Information Research and Advocacy (IRAD) Department of Children; and Mr Edmund Foley, Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration.
The AU Committee of Experts seeks to promote and protect the rights enshrined in the Charter particularly; collect and document information, commission inter disciplinary assessment of situations on African problems in the fields of the rights and welfare of the child, organize meetings, encourage national and local institutions concerned with the rights and welfare of the child and where necessary give its views and make recommendations to Government.
It also formulate and lay down principles and rules aimed at protecting the rights and welfare of children in Africa; cooperate with other African, International and Regional Institutions and organizations concerned with the promotion and protection of the rights and welfare of the child; and monitor’s the implementation and ensure protection of the rights enshrined in the Charter.
The Committee also interprets the provisions of the Charter at the request of a state party, an institution of the OAU/AU or any other person or institution recognized by OAU/AU and to perform such other tasks as may be entrusted to it by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government.