Child issues need government attention:Shoura Council [Archives:2007/1017/Front Page]

January 18 2007

By: Yasser Al-Mayasi
SANA'A, Jan. 17 ) The Shoura Council held its first meeting of 2007 this past Tuesday, discussing numerous children's issues in Yemen. Shoura Council Chairman Abdulaziz Abdulghani stressed that the council must give top priority to Yemeni children's issues, which are contained in its plan for the new year.

“Over the past time period, concerned government parties have paid closer attention to children's issues, which were highlighted at the First Childhood and Youth Conference held in the first half of 2006,” Abdulghani noted.

He confirmed that the conference came up with an important strategy to organize and direct national efforts toward better child care and protection, as the issue concerns the state and everyone in Yemeni society.

Abdulghani added that all concerned government parties began dealing with the issue seriously by drafting a legislation package to organize such parties' duties toward a better state for children. Such legislation involves the Yemeni Constitution and the Child Rights Law, as well as other effective laws.

He pointed out that Yemen has demonstrated greater interaction with regional and international conventions, protocols and documents concerning children. “The Yemeni government approved 12 child conventions, protocols and documents, which many executive programs in real-life situations support in order to improve children's situations,” Abdulghani noted.

Shoura Council discussions called for doubling both official and non-official efforts to ensure a high level of care and protection for children, as well as provide all of the components for a safer environment for such a group in Yemeni society.

Council members discussed a report by Mohammed Al-Tayyeb, head of the Rights, Freedoms and Civil Community Organizations Committee, on the state of Yemen's children. The report concentrated on children's basic rights, including their rights to access health care and education.

The report covered several other issues and phenomena, such as child labor and trafficking and juvenile delinquency, as well as discussed government efforts in these areas. It also emphasized the necessity of reviewing the policies and plans of child-related legislation, recommending concerned parties diagnose all of the barriers posed to implementing such laws.

Children's issues have become a top priority and concern for both the government and NGOs, thus necessitating mutual cooperation between the two to suggest possible solutions to these issues, which are hindering Yemen's development. Such issues include child trafficking, girls' education and school dropouts – particularly among girls – and poverty, which exposes children to exploitation and abuse.

Research and studies on children's issues have revealed terrible stories and inhumane crimes practiced against them. Those interested in children's issues indicate that child trafficking in Yemen is done by traffickers, who only seek to exploit children as beggars to bring in money.

According to the studies, such traffickers reach financial agreements with the children's parents, whereby the children are taken from their homes to work as beggars. Smuggled across land borders into neighboring countries, Yemeni children are exposed to various risks, including murder during such trafficking operations.

Other studies on children's issues disclosed several reasons for the increasing number of street children, such as extreme poverty and lack of child care. For example, parents and relatives don't watch over children when they travel from the countryside to cities, thereby exposing them to exploitation and various types of abuse. Family disintegration, divorce and poverty are other reasons for increases in child laborers.

A field study found that Yemen is one of a handful of countries where children's issues are on the rise, mentioning that concerned parties' indifference toward such issues, coupled with families' deteriorating economic conditions, only serve to exacerbate the phenomenon.

A third study conducted by a Ministry of Education team on the gap between boys' and girls' education listed numerous reasons for Yemeni girls' illiteracy, particularly in rural and remote areas, stating that such factors either are social, cultural or economic in nature.

“Despite strenuous government efforts to expand the scope of girls' enrolment in primary and secondary education, large numbers of girls are deprived of education or simply drop out of school,” the study argued, “The school dropout phenomenon persists, even among boys, specifically in rural areas where dropouts account for 71 percent of Yemen's female school-aged population.”

Observers interested in children's issues recommend the Yemeni government continue fighting child trafficking, child labor and school dropouts without highlighting such issues merely as propaganda to receive support from donor nations. They also urge civil community organizations and rights groups to play an important role in improving the state of Yemen's children.