On the 10th anniversary of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1612 establishing a mechanism for monitoring and reporting serious violations of Child Rights during armed conflict, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) government, in partnership with UNICEF, organised a national workshop in Kinshasa from 23 to 27 July 2015. This workshop also brought together 20 children: ten from Kinshasa, five from Goma and five more from Lubumbashi.
I’m going to tell you in detail, but as briefly as possible, what these five days of the national workshop were like. We, the 20 children attending, had all taken part in a workshop on the same issue in our provinces in early July, and this is where we were selected for the national workshop. You can read the article written by Carmel, a Young Reporter from Kinshasa, describing this provincial workshop: The children of Kinshasa united for Child Rights during armed conflict. We all arrived at our accommodation in a district of Kinshasa on 22 July. This was also where we were going to work for the duration of the workshop.
The first working day began with some welcoming words, then we treated a number of points: Child Rights, advocacy techniques, the six serious violations of Child Rights during armed conflict and, finally, the mechanism for monitoring and reporting serious violations of Child Rights during armed conflict in the DRC.
After the break, two of us read the advocacy message that had been drawn up at the provincial workshop. Hearing this helped us to work together to produce a plan and an advocacy message, but at the national level this time.Later in the evening, the children from each represented province performed the songs and sketches that had been created at the provincial workshops, also on the subject of Child Rights violations during armed conflict.
The second morning we worked on combining the songs and sketches that were made up in the provinces to make one of each, at a national level. After lunch, UNICEF introduced us to social networks including Facebook, Twitter and their own blog PO NA BANA, and told us how they could be useful to us in our advocacy work. Finally, we prepared for the television programme that we were going to host the next day, about the monitoring mechanism.
The third day was very busy because we went to the national television studios to record our song, “Children not Soldiers”, and the video to go with it, in a recording studio. Then, in another studio, we recorded our television programme, “Children’s Voices”. We had all been given a sky blue t-shirt for this occasion, like the blue of the Congolese flag, with a special message printed on it.
Our guests for this programme were UNICEF, MONUSCO, the GTTC (Joint Technical Working Group), and REEJER (the Network of Educators of Street Children and Youth).During the recording of the programme, the guest representing the GTTC confirmed that there are no longer any children in the Congolese armed forces, which is a great achievement in respect of the Action Plan signed by the DRC on 4 October 2012. This Action Plan consists of four parts, which range from separating and identifying children in the armed forces, to the fight against impunity, in order to achieve the target of “ZERO CHILD SOLDIERS”.
The fourth day, we filmed our production on Child Rights violations during armed conflict, then we visited some sites in Kinshasa including the Kinshasa UNICEF DRC offices, the government building, and the first major building in central Africa. We took souvenir photos in all these places.
All good things must come to an end, so we went back to the centre to get ready for the 5th day, which was to be the most important as it would not only bring the national workshop to a close, but it would also see the official celebration of the 10th year of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1612.
This was also the day when we were to address the decision-makers who have the power to end the serious violations of Child Rights in the DRC during armed conflict. Those present included: Martin Kobler leader of MONUSCO and representative of the United Nations Secretary-General in the DRC; Mrs Bijou Cat the Minister for Gender, Family and Children’s Affairs (GFAE); Mrs Jeanine Mabunda, the personal representative of the Head of State, as well as a UNICEF protection officer.
The ceremony was jointly led by Young Reporters Laetitia (from Goma) and Carmel (from Kinshasa), and during this ceremony we performed our song and our sketch to the authorities present and the community.
Then Bora, a Young Reporter from Lubumbashi, presented the Children’s National Action Plan. This plan included the following actions:
•We will be kept informed via the GTTC (Joint Technical Working Group);
•We will meet with the Minister for GFAE every three months.
Once the UNICEF representative had made his speech, Jules-Alphonse, a Young Reporter from Goma, and I presented the children’s national advocacy message. We made the following requests to the Minister:
•That Child Right’s during times of armed conflict are respected.
•That no child be recruited or serve under our armed forces.
•That a special course on Child Rights be included in the training of our Armed Forces and National Police.
And to the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in the DRC we asked to support all government efforts in ensuring Child Rights during conflict, and ensuring that other actors respected them too.
Martin Kobler congratulated us and encouraged us to go even further. Mrs Jeanine Mabunda said in her speech that a roadmap would be drawn up in August 2015 to speed up the process of removing the FARDC from the United Nations Secretary-General’s blacklist. Last of all, the Minister for GFAE brought the ceremony and the workshop to a close, expressing her commitment to support children in this fight against serious violations of their rights. During the reception, the Minister came over to tell us that our message had not fallen on deaf ears, and that she had been deeply touched by it.
I will end by saying we dare to hope that from today, year by year, we will start to celebrate the end of Child Rights violations, and not of the commitments that were signed to bring them to an end.
Read all our other articles about this special workshop!
Kindly translated from French by Sally Axon.
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