Children from Lusaka, Zambia took on parliamentarians in debating aspects of the national budget, particularly those concerning children, as part of launching the Every Last Child Campaign and the UNCRC General Comment no.19 on public budgeting for the realisation of children’s rights in Zambia.

Taking on the parliamentarians at their home ground, the children aged between 14 and 17 have claimed their right to participation in national issues following the pronouncement by republican president, Edgar Chagwa Lungu on meaningful child participation, challenging elected bodies in the country, parliament included to meaningfully engage children in matters of national development that require public consultation.

“To make meaningful child participation a reality, we need to promote, expand and formalise child participation at the community, district, provincial and national level structures – and I believe this parliament can and should be a role model in this regard to all institutions and elected bodies in Zambia,” said His Excellency, Edgar Chagwa Lungu, President of Zambia in his speech delivered at the First Session of the Twelfth National Assembly on 30 September 2016.

Children from various parts of Lusaka were invited to participate in analysing the national budget, with a view of building their capacity to meaningfully engage in issues of national interest such as the budget.

Using interactive sessions such as role playing the children were taken through various stages of the national budget cycle, likening it to domestic/home budgets. This experiential learning helped children analyse the national budget, coming up with asks that will contribute to the realisation of children’s rights. The asks, targeted at the country’s highest decision making body, Parliament, include:

  1. Double investments in Children over the next three years to help us realise the rights of Every Last Child; by:
    1. Ensuring sufficient public resource mobilization such as revenue collection to support adequate budgeting
    2. Budget allocations must be equitable so that Every Last Child can be given a fair chance to realise their potential
    3. Ensure effective and efficient spending to realise the rights of all children
  2. Include nutrition in the current national budget as a clear budget line so that effects of malnutrition do not hamper Every Last Child’s chance of mental and physical development
  3. Government must publicly publish records of how the money is spent so that children and citizens can understand how public money is spent

Responding to the children’s asks, Parliament’s Budget and Estimates Committee Chairperson, Honourable Mwalimu Simfukwe MP, said the onus is on parliamentarians to ensure the realisation of children’s rights.

“The task is upon us as members of the highest decision making body in the country to ensure that Every Last Child Survives, Thrives, Learns and is protected from harm; regardless of their gender, ethnicity, race or location.” Said honourable Mwalimu Simfukwe MP for Mbala Constituency.

Lauding the launch of the Every Last Child campaign, Save the Children country Director, Tamer Kirolos said this is a start to creating a national children’s movement that can formally engage in national development.

“We hope that this important step in meaningfully engaging children will help to create a sustainable children’s movement that will go beyond the Every Last Child campaign so that diverse children’s voices in national development can become the norm and not the exception.” Said Tamer Kirolos.

And speaking of the experience as a child participant, Stellah Kawali, 16, said, “I got involved in the whole process because I wanted to know more about the 2017 National Budget and to be able to give my views on the Budget because Article 12 of the UNCRC guarantees my right to participation. I learnt that citizens have the right to demand justifications and explanations from the Government when it fails to do its work and that children should be consulted in decisions elders make for them.

Stellah further elaborates on her engagement with parliamentarians, “My hope from the Zambian Parliament is that they should take Children's basic needs in consideration, in every plan/step they take.”

Meanwhile, Stewart Luunga, 16, also a child participant was keen on ensuring that there was children’s input into the national budget process.

“I wanted to represent my fellow young people who do not have an opportunity to meet and speak to the people who lead them. I wanted to act as the mouth piece for the many children living in poverty who are unable to access education and other basic necessities.” says Stewart.

Speaking of his experience in analysing the national budget and engaging with parliamentarians, Stewart says, “I would describe my experience using one word, it was "Educative". Despite us having a goal of preparing for the trip to Parliament, we learnt some things which will be helpful when we come across other national issues.”

As part of our work in promoting child participation and child rights, Save the Children, working with partners: Media Network on Child Rights and Development and Civil Society for Poverty Reduction; mobilised and facilitated children’s engagement in the national budget as well their fruitful engagement with parliamentarians.