Opinion: Zambian elections fail to focus on children’s issues

Zambia's children aren't a priority for political leaders, says Mwiza Zuli in this guest post for MISA Zambia.

By Mwiza Zulu

Due to the death of the 5th Zambian President, Mr Michael Sata, in October last year, Zambians on 20 January 2015 went to the polls to elect a new president. The period between November 2014 and January 2015 was the campaign period during which aspiring presidential candidates told citizens of the country what they have to offer. It is however sad to note that throughout this period, there was little or no mention of children’s issues, apart from education, forgetting that children have lives outside of school, and they need other things, for example special protection and recreation.

Members of the Children’s News Agency (CNA) in Zambia invited all eleven aspiring candidates to a discussion forum on 10 January 2015 at Radisson Blu hotel in Lusaka to enable the children to interact with them. Unfortunately, there were only two representatives of political parties present, and even then children’s issues seemed to be of little interest to them.

CNA members also attended a national presidential debate on 14 January 2015, where again there was little mention of children’s issues. The moderator asked one question concerning malnourished children and the presidential candidates’ answers were still not child focused. This shows me that children in the country are not a priority for the political leaders. Leaders always say they are working for the future of the country, but without children being prioritised, are they really working for the future of the country? If they were sincere about that statement, in my opinion our leaders would give more consideration to children. In the next few years, the country will belong to the children of today.

It is important to involve children in issues of governance from an early age and practice, protect and promote children’s rights and meaningfully engage children to participate in decisions that affect them, as enshrined in both the United Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC). Zambia ratified the UNCRC on 6 December 1999 and the ACRWC on 2 December 2012.

Children should be imparted with democratic principles starting at school to elect the class monitor and the student or learner representative councils. They will then grow up to understand democratic principles and be responsible citizens. It is therefore my humble appeal to governments all around the region to prioritise children’s issues and enable the children to have a voice in the governance of their country.

By Mwiza Zulu, the Zambian child ambassador and participant of MISA’s Children and the Media project. The 15-year-old is also a television and radio presenter in Zambia.

About MISA Zambia

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zambia was founded in 1996. Its work focuses on promoting, and advocating for, the unhindered enjoyment of freedom of expression, access to information and a free, independent, diverse and pluralistic media.