Why editors have vowed to tackle child rights

Deo Mushi

WE, editors from different Media Houses in Tanzania have recently pulled efforts to make sure that child’s rights issues get priority in their coverage, irrespective of where they are.

In conjunction with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), we, as men and women of the media have set ourselves to serve as a platform that advocates and engages with broader stakeholders on key child right issues in the country.

We have already formulated our plan of action and UNICEF has agreed to provide technical support and advice that shall make all children of this country get proper respect and treatment as per the law of the land directs.

UNICEF advocacy in this drive is aimed at driving change directed at social inclusion and equity by building an enabling environment for social change on the one hand, and on the other, generating pressure and demand for policy change and development.

When we gathered at our 6th Annual Retreat with UNICEF Tanzania in Kilimanjaro Region on 7th April, 2017 we, as editors acknowledged that every child should have the chance of fulfilling his/her full potential regardless of his/her geographical location, race, religion, tribe or gender.

That is what made us declare that as media leaders we shall commit ourselves to giving editorial attention to the scale and potential impact of the on-going demographic transition that is unfolding in Tanzania, including the plight on children, parents and communities as well as consequences on social services.

As editors we also vowed to bring the voices of the voiceless children to foster a public dialogue on child rights and also give specific attention to the impact and scale of inequities and the multiple dimensions of child poverty to ensure that every Tanzanian child has a fair start in life.

We also reaffirmed our responsibility to inform parents and caregivers about best practices that will ensure optimal development for every child in Tanzania.

The fourth estate members also decided to proclaim the establishment of Editors Champion Group for Child Rights (ECGCR) as a platform through which we will develop an annual plan of action that will guide our work to promote and advocate for key child rights issues.

Most people agree that when funds for children are in short supply, it makes sense to invest in interventions that have been proven to pay for themselves and even return change, literally and figuratively speaking.

As editors we have decided to undertake this task because we understand that financial investments in strong child protection services are entirely recouped by the social benefits they generate, since the benefits of investing now are better known than ever before.

Data shows that when funding is dedicated to strong child protection infrastructure it nurtures children’s ability to contribute in significant ways to their society for decades.

We understand that financial investments in strong child protection service not only support children, but also the communities in which these children live, especially in rural areas of the country.

We have discovered that the benefits and savings from intervening when children are young have the longest time to accrue and are cumulative over a child’s entire life. We are doing this child rights campaign because we understand that early intervention programmes for at-risk children usually benefit the participating children and also give taxpayers a good return on their contribution.

The consequences of dealing poorly with child maltreatment cases includes increased risk of the perpetration of violence, depression, smoking, obesity, high-risk sexual behaviors, unintended pregnancy, and alcohol and drug use, and this is evidently demonstrated in poor areas like Manzese and Tandale in Dar es Salaam. Inaction translates into missed opportunities to address the needs of at-risk children, which leads to social ills that are expensive and preventable.

This creates substantial long-term costs for society, and ultimately, the choice is to pay a little now or pay a lot later and it is in everyone’s best interest to invest in child protection services.

We know that investing in child protection improves employment rates and a government that does not invest in strong child protection infrastructure and whose children do not receive the care and protection they deserve are more likely to have higher unemployment rates – a costly yet often preventable social ill. Strong child protection services improves employment rates by increasing workforce readiness and participation rates.

Editors have decided to address child issues because strong child protection services contribute to children’s health and well-being, which is requisite for their workforce participation rates and productivity, which contribute to economic development and prosperity.

Recent research has shown that investments in child protection infrastructure are likely to produce children who are less likely to engage in criminal behavior and that is what editors want to achieve.

The good news is that proper child protection infrastructure can effectively intervene to reduce criminal behavior and contribute to a safer society. We believe that investments in child protection are a proven crime-prevention strategy because they decrease the incidence and prevalence of criminal activity. The more effective the child protection intervention, the greater and earlier the return on the investment.

Even under circumstances when an intervention is only 20 per cent effective, the initial investment is not only entirely recouped, but it also still generates valuable financial and social returns relatively quickly.

We believe that for every one US dollar is invested, more than ten others in social benefits are returned. For example, in Brazil and Mexico, these investments reduced the country’s poverty gap by 12 per cent and 19 per cent, respectively.

A study that estimated the outcome of scaling up child protection interventions in South Africa showed that doing so would reduce the poverty gap by nearly 30 per cent and as editors we want such a situation to happen in Tanzania.

If Tanzania hopes to adequately protect its children and enjoy decreased crime, cost-savings, reduced unemployment, a narrower poverty gap, increased productivity and an improved economy, then it should make sufficient investments in strengthening its child protection infrastructure and that is what editors are trying to do in this partnership with UNICEF.

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