RATIONALE FOR THE FORMATION OF ‘VOICE OF THE YOUNG’
Children form about half the population of The Gambia. In spite of their numerical strength, they are rarely involved in the making of decisions that affect their lives. Socio-cultural and traditional factors inhibit such participation. Children, in short, are expected to be seen and not heard. At family, local or national levels children are rarely involved in decision-making. Many NGOs that deal with children’s issues or have programmes for children do not involve children in the design, implementation and evaluation of such programmes. Often time these developmental projects treat children as passive targets or beneficiaries rather than as active participants in their development process. Since children ‘hold half the sky of The Gambia”, there was, therefore, an urgent felt need to ensure they are adequately empowered to be able to meaningfully and actively participate in national development efforts.
Voice of the Young, which serves as the mouth-piece of children in all operation of the Child protection Alliance (CPA), is a children’s non-profit making group which was formed under the auspices of the CPA on 3rd October 2002. It is grounded on the values of Article 12 of the UN CRC which enjoins all duty bearers to encourage the participation of children, having due regards to their age and maturity, in decision making.
Voice of the Young believes that children are special, unique and valuable, have the capacity to actively participate in decision–making and are very important agents of change.
Voice of the Young is an effective channel to enhance participation of children in the creation of a child-friendly Gambia and in the making of decisions that affect their lives and well-being.
GENERAL OBJECTIVES OF VOICE OF THE YOUNG
- To raise awareness and increase knowledge of children and the general public on issues of child rights promotion and protection in The Gambia.
- To empower children with the necessary skills to be able to participate meaningfully and actively in the making of decisions that affect their lives and welfare.
- To empower children to be able to participate in the identification of child rights and protection issues that affect their lives, and in finding solutions to these issues.
- To develop in children a sense of responsibility towards their parents, community and country and respect for adults and those in positions of authority.
MEMBERSHIP OF VOICE OF THE YOUNG
Voice of the Young comprises children below the ages of 18 years and its membership is opened to all, without discrimination.
It now has branches or clubs in all the Divisions (Lower River Division, Central River Division, North Bank Division, Upper River Division and Greater Banjul Area (Banjul and Kanifing Municipalities and Western Division) in The Gambia.
The membership of Voice of the Young in the Greater Banjul Area currently stands at 90 children nearly half of who are girls. The total membership of Voice of the Young in the other Divisions is at present one thousand and two hundred (1200).
DECENTRALISATION OF VOICE OF THE YOUNG
The decentralisation of Voice of the Young was absolutely necessary to ensure that children in the rural areas are also empowered and are able to participate in decision-making at the school, community and family levels.
Voice of the Young Clubs have been formed in 24 schools across the country. These clubs are run by school children themselves and supported by teacher co-ordinators. Training activities have been conducted for the executive members of these clubs and their co-ordinators to enable them adequately understand child rights and how to disseminate the information to other students and members of the community. In this respect Voice of the Young has established a very good working relation with the Directorates of Education in the Divisions as well as with principals and heads of schools.
Greater Banjul serves as the headquarters for Voice of the Young. It maintains closer collaboration with the Voice of the Young Clubs in the schools.