Tuesday 3 July 2018

To most children in Puntland, speaking directly to a leader is nothing but a dream. The norm is for them to be brought into a room, entertain the leaders and listen to endless speeches from one leader to another. However for Mahad Nur and his friends  this dream became a reality when they met with the Vice President of Puntland to present their key concerns, discuss their future and their role in the society.

Mahad led a delegation of his peers and spoke infront of the Vice President of Puntland who was accompanied by Minister of Women Development and Family Affairs, Minister of Justice in Puntland as well as other child rights advocates.

When we met Mahad, he was holding a letter that the children drafted the previous day. Mahad looks very nervous  but at the same time very excited about the event. I asked him what it means to him to be here, “it is an exciting moment for me and my friends. It is the moment I have been dreaming for— to tell our  leaders what we want,’’ says Mahad. 

In their letter, the children demanded for equal opportunities for both girls and boys,  free quality  education and their right to participate in decision making processes that affect their lives, among many other issues.

The audience was surprised by how articulate the children were.  As children read out the letter, everyone in the room was noding, maybe with admiration and maybe they agree with all the demands made by the children.

Responding to their letter, the Vice President of Puntland, Abdihakin Amey, acknowledged their demands  and the need to ensure children are protected. “ Children are the leaders of tomorrow. They should be protected from any harm and their rights must be fulfilled,” he said. ‘’But today, they have shown us why they’re the leaders of tomorrow and why their participation is important,’’ the Vice President added.


The event were organized as part of  Day of African Child 2018 commemoration whose theme this year is “Leave No Child Behind for Africa’s Development.’’  To mark this day, Save the Children hosted a Children's conference Garowe, Puntland, to discuss the Africa’s agenda and the Sustainable Developmetn Goals (SDGs).  The aim of the conference was to facilitate child led discussions on agenda 2030.  At least 25 childlren who are part of the Save the Chidlren’s child-led researchers from different schools in Garowe participated in the conference. The children highlighted the importance of investing in and implementing the SDGs as well as the need to implement the different commiments including the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC). Effective implementation of both agenda 2030 and the ACRWC allows children to enjoy their childhood including access to education, being protected from harmful traditional practices and to be listened to. The children selected four SDGs that represent the issues that need to be prioritized urgently to ensure the children in Puntland survive and thrive. These are:

  • Goal 3: Good Health and Well- being
  • Goal 4: Quality Education
  • Goal 5: Gender Equality
  • Goal 6: Water and Sanitation

I grew up and have worked in Somalia for many years,  but I have not seen child participation at this level.  I was  fascinated by how  open the children were and boldy articulating their issues infront of the decision makers. In Somalia, like many parts of Africa, adults ( mostly older men) are given the right to speak on behalf of their community and children are often seen as not capable of voicing the issues that affect them.

Amran Abdirisak, 11 year old, student from one of the settelement for the Internally Displaced People in Garowe, says it was a once in a lifetime opportunity for her to meet the Vice President and voice her demands. Many people agree with Amran’s  words. I believe this conference was a step forward towards the promotion of child participation on development issues in Puntland  and in Somalia as a whole. It will create a platform to develop the children’s future and create a Somalia where every child enjoys the right to be protected. I hope that my son, who is just  two months old now will have the opportunity to participate in the  development of his country and the world in order to realise their potential. 

   By: Ayan Mohamoud Ahmed & Said Isse Mohamoud