The Child Protection Alliance has been keenly monitoring political events in the country, especially the involvement of children in political campaign activities and the use of videos and images of children on social media platforms wearing T-shirts of political parties and candidates at rallies, caravans and other political events.
The use of children in political campaigns can be prevented. Any party, or politician who campaigns with children is in violation of children’s rights and could equally expose them to other forms of abuse and exploitation.
The Child Protection Alliance (CPA) is cognizant of the importance of children’s right to participation in decision-making processes that may be relevant in their lives as enshrined in Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and Article 17 of the Children’s Act 2005, which encourages children’s rights to expression. These articles must not be construed to promote children’s participation through engaging them in political campaigns or events.
Participation of children cannot be genuine if children have no opportunity to understand the consequences and the impact of their opinion, such non-genuine participation often merely disguises what is actually the manipulation of children, or tokenism. Again, the key to genuine participation of children is to ensure respect of their views and protection from any forms of abuse and exploitation.
To this end, CPA wishes to call on all political parties, candidates and individuals within the political spectrum to desist from mobilizing children for political activities and equally those engage in the activities of posting children’s image on social media platforms as means of political propaganda,
Political parties and candidates have a moral obligation to protect children. They must be conscious of this important obligation and must not fall short in its fulfillment. Similarly, every adult in the country has a moral obligation towards children and must protect them in any given circumstance.
The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) must closely monitor political activities and take appropriate actions against the violation of the electoral laws, especially on issues concerning children.
Security agents must be on alert during the campaign period. The Mobile Traffic Unit of the Gambia Police Force must ensure children are not put in overloaded vehicles or vehicle tops, the safety of children must be prioritized during this crucial period.
Meanwhile, we urge parents to fulfill their duties and ensure the safety of their children during political campaigns. They must understand that children are vulnerable during such periods and their safety must be the primary consideration.
Finally, we want to remind the government of its duty as enshrined in Article 66 (a/b)of the Children’s Act 2005; towards the safeguarding, protection and promoting the welfare of children and to ensure that Local Authorities and other government agencies liaise with one another in matters concerning children.