The Child Justice Forum (CJF), a consortium of stakeholders in the child justice system comprising both government, quasi-government and Civil Society Organisations and chaired by the Judiciary; did for the first time last year, hold the One Week Activism on Child Justice in November 2021. Following the Launch of the Activism Week, the event has now become a yearly event to commemorate the child justice sector and is dubbed the Child Justice Week. This year, the event is scheduled to be commemorated during the course of a five-day period in from 14th November to 18th November, 2022 and there will be a launch on 14th November, 2022 at the Supreme Court premises, Independence Avenue at 08:30 hours to be officiated by the Honourable Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security as well as His Lordship Chief Justice of the Republic of Zambia.
This year’s Child Justice week is themed ‘Introducing the Children’s Code Act No. 12 of 2022: A revolutionary rights-based and restorative child justice system’. Notably, the enactment of the Children’s Code Act number 12 of 2022, has presented an opportunity for the transformation of the child justice system in line with the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16 and the international and regional human rights standards. It is therefore envisaged that this year’s Child Justice Week will send a prospective message to inspire and actualise the child justice reforms brought about by the new Children’s Code and its adequate implementation.
The Children’s Code has domesticated the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and other relevant international and human rights instruments; recognises and promotes a child rights approach to programming and advocates for a juvenile justice system which is not based on retribution but one that promotes prevention, diversion, re-integration, and innovative and effective community-based rehabilitation. It promotes the use of alternatives to institutional care to ensure that children whether as offender or victim are dealt with in a manner appropriate to their well-being and in their best interests. As such programmes such as diversion which advocates for detention as a measure of last resort and the use of community-based rehabilitation to adequately address juvenile delinquency, as well the Minimum Standards of Child Victims and Witnesses (CVW) Guidelines for adequately handling child victims and witnesses; will among others be highlighted during the Child Justice Week.
It is thus, prudent that all stakeholders involved in the administration of child justice be knowledgeable about child rights and what is appropriate to their well-being. It also implies legal empowerment of children and access to justice mechanisms and remedies that are child sensitive. Access to justice is one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS), Target 16.3 of the SDGS provides that ‘the rule of law’ should be promoted at the national and international levels and that ‘equal access to justice for all’ (i.e. adults and children alike) should be ensured.
Zambia’s child justice system is charged with providing programs for child crime prevention, diversion, adjudication, supervision, care and psychosocial support, and rehabilitation. This is done with a view to providing a balanced attention to the protection of the children both in contact and in conflict with the law, keeping the communities safe, holding the juveniles accountable for offence committed, offering support to child victims and witnesses when exposed to the justice system, and promoting rehabilitation and community reintegration to enable children become responsible citizens and productive members of their communities. The CJF also supports the development of competencies of all professionals involved in child justice. Therefore, information sharing is crucial to the programming and an event such as this provides an opportunity for networking and display of services provided by the different institutions participating.
The child justice system is based on the principles of restorative justice, which give priority to repairing the harm done to victims and communities, and define offender accountability in terms of assuming responsibility and taking action to repair harm; ensuring community protection (the fundamental right of all persons in the community to both be and feel safe from crime). Victim restoration emphasizes that crime can forever change its victims and that the goal of victim restoration programs and services should be to restore victims of crime, to the greatest extent possible while believing in the capability of transformation of offenders who are in their years of development.
There are several activities scheduled for the week focused on Advocacy and Sensitisation to enhance public understanding of the new Children’s Code and Child Rights and Justice generally. Furthermore, the CJF will highlight existing child justice programming and increase community awareness as well as sensitize the public of existing child justice services.
Additionally, the Child Justice Week will provide an opportunity for stakeholders to actively participate in child justice programming in Zambia as the CJF will be calling on citizens, government agencies, public and private institutions, businesses, families, communities, and schools to recommit to contributing towards creating a child friendly justice system.
It is further hoped that this child week will lay a foundation for the alignment of the National Juvenile Justice Strategy and Action Plan (2022-20226) and other relevant policy such as the National Diversion Framework, the Miminum Standards on Child Victims and Witnesses Guidelines to the Children’s Code Act for its adequate implementation by stakeholders.
The following are some of activities have been scheduled for this year.
- Production and distribution of Child Justice and Rights IEC Materials
- Official Launch of the Child Justice Week
- TV and Radio shows/ads on child justice and rights
- Community Sensitization Road Shows- Matero and Kanyama
- Social Media campaign
- Information Desks-