The Government of Uganda, in partnership with Save the Children and UNICEF, on 15th November launched the five-year National Child Participation Strategy that aims to pave the way for child participation in decisions that affect children at national and local levels, including in families. Launching the strategy at Kitante Primary School in Kampala, State Minister for Youth and Children Affairs Hon. Florence Nakiwala Kiyingi said the strategy recognises the need to promote the best interests of the child and enhance the personal development of each child.

The strategy was developed under the leadership of the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, under which children and youth fall. It is expected to set Uganda on a transformative journey to break the silence and amplify the voices of children across all spheres of decision making that have an impact on their lives.

Through child representatives selected by children themselves, children spoke out and said they want to be valued, to be visible and to have a voice. They presented issues that they feel impact their ability to participate, such as the failure of adults to act upon their (children's) views.

"Save the Children strongly believes that the children in Uganda will have greater opportunity to have their voices heard, to be visible and valued through the National Child Participation Strategy," said Country Director Brechtje van Lith. She pledged Save the Children's support in the implementation of the strategy and called upon Government, development partners, civil society organisations and all parents to make children their first priority.

Quick takeaway from the strategy

The strategy, which cohesively draws from other child-focussed policies and legislation, has the following three main messages to help reinforce implementation: children should be valued, visible and their voice heard. Value refers to children's voices being recognised as stakeholders in homes, communities and the country. The second message is that children's views should be visible in plans, service designs, programmes and policies as well as in the data that informs decisions and actions. Lastly, the children's voice should be heard and amplified across all spheres affecting their lives and wellbeing.

Child participation – from rhetoric to action

Geoffrey Oyat, Save the Children's Africa region representative for child protection, said the strategy provides all stakeholders with a clear framework for action.

"It helps to clearly state the roles and responsibilities of different duty bearers. Our duty as Save the Children is therefore two-way; to amplify the voices of the thousands of children we work with as well as provide the required assistance to the government to enable them fulfil their mandate," he said.

Meanwhile, Margaret Atimango, Save the Children Uganda Child Rights Governance and Protection Specialist, said the strategy means that the children of Uganda are better positioned to influence decisions and the government's agenda.

"Children have the mandate to hold government and all duty bearers, including civil society organisations, accountable on their role of taking children's views and using them in planning and budgeting," she said. Atimango added that since the strategy is a costed document, the government, civil society and other development actors need to include it in their consequent budgets to facilitate its implementation.

Developed through a participatory and consultative procedure with the technical expertise of Bharti Mepani, Save the Children UK Global Child Participation Advisor, the process involved children, government ministries, agencies and departments, local authorities, the private sector, civil society and community organisations. More than 250 children who included refugee children, street children, orphans, children out of school, children from rural communities, children in remand centres and children with disabilities were involved in consultative focus group sessions that informed the strategy.