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Gender Minister Debunks Claims Of Neglect By Children's Forum Network
Juliana Vandy
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Gender Minister Debunks Claims Of Neglect By Children's Forum Network

Gender Minister Debunks Claims Of Neglect By Children's Forum Network

By: Juliana Vandy

Strategic Communications Unit,

Ministry of Information and Communications

 

The Minister of Gender and Children’s Affairs, Madam Manty Tarawally, on Tuesday, 15th March 2021, met with a cross section of the interim executive of the Children’s Forum Network (CFN) and some staff of the Children’s Directorate at her Aberdeen office in Freetown. 

The purpose of the meeting was to address claims of neglect of the Network in an unauthored article being circulated on the social media.

Explaining the background to the problem with the Children’s Forum Network, the Children’s Facilitator in the Ministry of Gender and Children's Affairs, Bashiru Thullah,  said the organization has been doing well since its establishment in 2000, engaged in intense advocacy.

"The problem started in 2015 under the former Minister of Social Welfare Gender and Children’s Affairs Sylvia Olayinka Blyden when it was alleged by the Network that the former minister tortured some of its members with counter allegations by some other members backing the former minister. So the organization became divided and this brought some mistrust between the Network and its partners," Mr Thullah explained.

 He furthered that when the former minister left office the ministry tried to bring members of the Network together to resolve the issue. "We finally succeeded and later conducted elections. The new executive run the affairs of the Network until July 2020, when its term expired and since then there has not been an appropriate team to lead them. This was due to the separation of the ministry by government compounded by the COVID crisis in the world, among other things."

 He said they have on regular basis been updating the children about the situation on the ground especially the COVID pandemic which does not allow large gatherings as their elections are normally crowdy.

"Frustrations over the situation might have been one of the reasons behind the said unauthored article," Mr. Thullah lamented.

The Deputy Commissioner, National Commission for Children, Fabundeh Ansumana, expressed dismay at the behavior of the children. He said children needed to be responsible, saying the Commission acknowledges the rights of the children but stressed that these rights go with responsibilities.

 

He added that if the children had wanted to see the Minister of Gender in person to discuss issues affecting their Network they should have done so in a more appropriate way than writing an article questioning the existence of the Minister and the Commission which he described as disturbing.

He urged them to use the appropriate approach next time if they feel concerned about issues affecting them, saying that after reading the article repeatedly he was tempted to ask if these children were really the authors of the article as there has never been a time when they have requested for a meeting with the minister and been denied.

He however underlined that the concern raised is genuine but the method used to put it across is disturbing.

Commissioner Ansumana said that this government under the leadership of President Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio is very responsible and values children.

"This government relies on children for the success of the human capital development it seeks to achieve. This government does not want a repeat of the unfortunate incidences that have been happening before with the Children’s Forum Network that is why the Ministry and the Commission are very mindful of the issues of children," Mr Ansumana concluded.

Joe Abass Conteh, a member of CFN, acknowledged the admonishment given by all the authorities to the Network although denying any knowledge of the author of the article in question, adding that they only brought it to the attention of the minister for them to save their heads. 

He said that recently they had a peaceful dialogue regarding their elections with no hidden intention of doing anything contrary to their plans.

Conteh maintained that CFN has since its establishment created positive impact in the lives of young Sierra Leoneans and pleaded with the Minister of Gender to help give the Forum the life it has had since its inception.

Addressing the group, the Minister of Gender and Children’s Affairs, Madam Manty Tarawally, said there was need to move from the incident forward.

As a minister who is approachable, she said she expected every unit under her ministry to approach her with any concern related to the Network or Directorate.

She urged them to use the appropriate means and channels to reach out next time there is any concern, pointing out that using the social media platform to address issues affecting them that have not been discussed with the minister at any quarter is considered disrespectful and therefore should not happen again.

She said that previous leaders of the Network were not disrespectful in putting their concerns across to authorities and urged the present body to emulate their example.

Minister Tarawally went on to state that her office is always open and that people or organizations wanting to engage with her only need to go through her Personal Assistant and Secretary or better still the professional directorates.

She encouraged them to always approach her when they have an issue to address. "I am here as the children’s minister to make sure the landscape is right for you as children," she said, adding that she is like a mother to all Sierra Leonean children and therefore can relate with  their frustrations as young and vibrant people who want things to move as soon as possible.

She explained that as a government they have the responsibility to ensure the protection of every child, therefore the elections for the new executive will go ahead using technology and not the usual way of doing things because of the COVID pandemic

 

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