President Mnangagwa to open Junior Parliament on Saturday

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Harare (New Ziana) – Elections to choose the next Child President will be held on Wednesday ahead of the official opening of the 30th session of the Junior Parliament by President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Saturday, an official has said.

The Children’s Parliament sits every year as part of commemorations for the Day of the African Child, (also known as June 16), which has its origins in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.

On June 16, 1976, a group of South African students started the first of a series of demonstrations in Soweto (a black township) in protest against the Afrikaans Medium Decree of 1974, which sought to forcibly introduce Afrikaans as the medium of instruction in local schools.

Retaliating to the intensifying protests, the South African police used brutal force and killed several hundreds of these young black protestors in the process.

In 1990, the then Organisation of African Unity (OAU) declared 16 June to be a day for commemorating the massacre of those school children and in solidarity with this declaration, the Zimbabwe government in 1991 established the Children’s Parliament as a leadership development and advocacy arm on the rights and welfare of children.

The Junior Parliament operates as a mirror image of the real parliament which entails that each and every constituency in the country has a child parliamentarian representative.

Zimbabwe Youth Council assistant director press and public relations Tanzikwa Guranungo said this year’s session will run under the theme, “Eliminating Harmful Practices Affecting Children: Progress on Policy and Practice Since 2013.”

“All elected and selected Child Parliamentarians across the country arrived in Harare on Tuesday the 13th of June and underwent an orientation workshop that focused on Parliament procedures and how to debate in Parliament,” he said.

“On Wednesday the 15th of June, elections for Child President will take place. On Friday the 17th of June Child Parliamentarians and the Children Guard of Honour will undertake rehearsals as preparation for the official opening on Saturday the 18th.”

The current Child President is Hazel Mandaza from Mahusekwa High School in Marondera, Mashonaland East province, who made history last year after becoming the first person with a disability to land the post.

“Besides child Parliamentarians, more than ten thousand school children are expected to witness the official opening of the Parliament. Cabinet Ministers, Parliamentarians and diplomats are also expected to come and answer issues being raised by the child Parliamentarians during the debate,” he said.

Since its inception, the Junior Parliament has become a key platform for ensuring that children have a voice in the making of decisions that affect them, one of the basic rights guaranteed in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

The Junior Parliament has also become a forum for taking stock of whether the country is living up to its obligations under the Convention, as well as the Africa Youth Charter and the Africa Charter on the rights and welfare of the child.

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