By Judith Mulenga
Zambia Civic Education Association
Publicising videos of children singing praises of presidential candidates is not child participation but pure exploitation of children through manipulation and mere tokenism of the children’s rights to be heard in matters that concern them.
Contrary to some Patriotic Front self-styled think tanks who claim that the girl child singing asking God to guide and bless President Lungu, in a video that has purportedly gone viral, is exercising her right to be heard as provided for in articles 12 to 15 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention provides for respect for the child’s views giving due weight to the child’s age and maturity. This principle in the child rights framework requires that before adults in children’s lives and government officials make any decision that effect children, the children ought to be given an opportunity to give their opinion on the issue and their views be taken into consideration as the final decision is made.
Provisions 12 to 15 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child quoted as supporting the child’s right to sing praises to God beseeching the Almighty God to bless President Chagwa Lungu are a mischievous spin or total ignorance of their normative content.
At the pain of sounding didactic the cited provisions obligates the government in imperative terms to (article 12) provide the child the opportunity to be heard in any judicial and administrative proceedings affecting the child; (article 13) provides the child the right to freedom of expression which include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of the child’s choice; (article 14) the government to respect the child’s rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and (article 15) the rights of the child to freedom of association and to freedom of peaceful assembly.
These are the same freedoms that are guaranteed to all of us human beings but the difference with the children is that children’s agency evolves with age and maturity therefore for someone to claim that the child was exercising her civil rights and freedoms, agency has to be proved.
For example, did the child compose and sing the song on her own?
Who took the video? Who uploaded the video? If not the child, then the child was exploited by the adults who participated in these machinations.
Child participation is about talking, listening to, encouraging and supporting children to contribute, and following up on their thoughts and ideas but at the same time being open, honest and realistic with them on the degree of involvement they can have.
Exploiting children to appeal to voters’ emotions is not original nor creative.
It has been done several times with the most common form kissing babies or the gross PF acts in past Chilanga by election of campaigners bathing children exploiting their parents’ poverty of not having indoor bathrooms that would accord the children their right to privacy that the PF Cadre that eulogized the girl child’s video deliberately left out.
We want to remind all cadres and politicians that children’s rights are interdependent, interrelated and indivisible.
The children’s rights cannot be cherry picked.
It is incredulous that a government that has continuously failed the girl child in Zambia as empirically established by the African Child Policy Forum’s 2020 Girl-Friendliness Index with Zambia scoring very low being placed among the less girl friendly countries in Africa.
From the findings of the Index the Zambian girl has been failed by the PF government in reducing hunger with malnutrition high among 31% of under five girls stunted.
Additionally, one in every four girls aged 12 to 24 months not having received basic vaccinations.
Public social protection expenditure at a miserly 0.7% of the Domestic Gross Product the lowest in Africa and low birth registration.
The report also cites high child marriage at 29% of girls married before their 18th birthday and teenage pregnancies abound.
With all these government failures robbing Zambian girls of their future, why would the child sing to God to bless the incumbent President of Zambia?