Oluwatosin Akinloye is the Child and Youth Safeguarding Advisor for Plan International, a child and girl rights advocacy non-governmental organisation. In this interview, she says having the best interest of the child in policy and implementation across the country needs better and pragmatic approach.
Do you see government actions and decisions concerning children as based on what is best for the child?
There is no specific answer to this question. However, one can say the government has upped its game in recent years on issues regarding the best interest of children. The Child Rights Act is evidence of these efforts.
Yet, it is also important to say that the government often takes a decision about children just to tick the checklist and not necessarily based on the interest of the child. An example of this is the Child Rights Act that was instituted by the government with the support of international societies, however, domesticating it has not been a strong priority for the government. This is evident with only few states we have seen that have domesticated it.
How does government ensure that actions and decisions relating to children are the best and not what some individuals perceive to be in the interest of the child?
Every child is an individual and their rights are basic human rights. An active engagement platform instituted by policy makers would inform the thought and decision process about their needs and well-being.
Children need to be actively involved when decisions about them are taken as this ensures an evidence-based approach and not political or selfish motives but for the genuine interest of the children who without a doubt are the future of the country.
How do we ensure that children are protected in the formulation of laws?
A child is an individual and should be part of the process to instituting a safe system for them to thrive. This can be achieved by involving them in the deliberations, focus group and plenary discussions to understand what they go through and how best to make them safe.
So we should ensure they (children) are actively involved and are part of the policy development-reviews and monitoring.
Civil society, non-governmental organizations and faith based organizations should also implement advocacy activities aimed at promoting the rights of children and work to influence law formulation to include child protection and all relevant suggestions given by children to ensure their safety.
They should conduct advocacy to relevant stakeholders to ensure that suggestions are implemented and adequate monitoring and review with relevant feedbacks on the impact and challenges of the law/policy issues.
How do we ensure that laws that concern children are fully implemented; for instance the Child Rights Act?
International societies should work with the government to implement bi-annual influencing activities targeted at ensuring relevant stakeholders take ownership and adapt to contextualise the key objectives and aim of the law, especially the state and local governments.
Effective monitoring and feedback system also has to be put in place to ensure accountability.
What is your take on the call for a ministry or agency solely responsible for the interest of children?
The children certainly deserve better than they currently are getting. Having an agency dedicated to children issues wouldn’t be an over kill. It would be a voice to ensure accountability and effective mainstreaming of the laws and policies aimed at ensuring every child is protected and safe with a strong anchor to reference.