From ELEKWACHI CHINEDUM
The ECOWAS Commission has called on Member states to support the implementation of regional Policy and Plan of Action for Child Protection and Child Trafficking as entry point for addressing challenges related to the protection of the rights of women and children in the region.
In an address at the opening of a three-day training workshop recently in Abuja for Member States on the Implementation of the Policy and Action Plan, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Human Development and Gender, Dr. Adrienne Diop, said the Commission has adopted an approach that recognizes the linkages between child protection, trafficking in persons and child labour.
In the address delivered on her behalf by the Director of Humanitarian Affairs, Dr. Daniel Eklu, the Commissioner noted that the three elements were each anchored by the Child Policy and Action Plan, (now the Child Protection Monitoring and Evaluation Framework, which was validated a month ago), Trafficking in Persons Plan of Action and Policy on Protection and Assistance to victims of human trafficking, and the Child Labour Regional Action Plan.
These, she said, “constitute a tripod upon which the effort for the protection of children and other vulnerable groups rest.”
The Commissioner said the meeting was to serve a dual purpose of “Examining the Synthesis Report emanating from implementation of the ECOWAS Counter Trafficking Plan of Action in the past year, and developing the capacities of participants for both the implementation of the Trafficking in Persons Plan of Action and comparable measures to ensure the protection of children in the region.
This will enable member states to effectively address the causative factors of child trafficking, she said, adding that there is the possibility that the “very infrastructure established to combat trafficking, may in appropriate cases be targeted at a number of these causes as well, and the same may be said for employing mechanisms” established to deal with the issues related to human trafficking.
The Commissioner said the training will also afford the opportunity for familiarization with the frameworks within ECOWAS for counter-trafficking and child protection, and throw up strategies required to ensure an appropriate protective environment for children in the region.
A representative of the International Labour Organization, Mr. Krishnamoortht Kukkikatte highlighted factors hindering the welfare and development of children in West Africa, such as exploitation, including trafficking and various forms of child labour.
He called for support for ECOWAS’ initiatives and the implementation of the regional Policy and Action Plan by Member States.
Speaking in the same vein, Mr. Martin Ocaga of the International Organization for Migration, said the UN agency fully supported ECOWAS’ efforts “to achieve a Child Protection Framework System for Member States that will ensure an environment where girls and boys are free from violence, exploitation, and abuse, and where laws, services, behaviours and practices minimize children’s vulnerability, address known risk factors and strengthen children’s own resilience.”
The Chairman of the meeting, Mr. Kouadio Kra Herve, Director, Child Protection, in Cote d’Ivoire’s Ministry of Family, Women and Child Protection, called for the harmonization of various national efforts by Member States in support of the regional initiatives for effective protection of women, children and other vulnerable groups in the region.
He expressed the hope that the reflection by the experts would bring a new dynamism to the way the region addressed human exploitation.
From ELEKWACHI CHINEDUM