UN experts meet child protection representatives


  Dr Zermatten addressing delegates during the gathering on Thursday

The gathering at the Seychelles Trading Company (STC) conference hall was organised by the National Council for Children (NCC) and brought together education, health, community development and youth organisations as well as orphanages and the Attorney General’s Office. 

The Convention on the Rights of the Child was drawn up in 1989 and was ratified by Seychelles in 1991.
Seychelles submitted a report to the CRC general assembly in Geneva, in September, 2011. This was done by the then Minister for Social Affairs, Bernard Shamlaye, and the NCC attended as an observer.

Dr Zermatten, who is a lawyer by profession and has sat as a judge for over 30 years, said a review is regularly carried out to ascertain whether a member state is in compliance with the convention.

Being from Switzerland himself, Dr Zermatten said he understands both the advantages and drawbacks of living in a small country. He said that while small states can decide upon and implement decisions much faster than a larger country normally would be able to, the fact that communities are much smaller can also hinder help to children who are victims of rights violations such as sex abuse.

Dr Aidoo, a specialist on child obesity and has been the Unicef (United Nations International Children’s Educational Fund) representative to Seychelles and Tanzania prior to 1998, noted that the committee meets three time yearly in Geneva and issues guidelines for national reports.

“Seychelles has achieved a lot, but we still have some way to go to make it better,” she said, further noting that the CRC is presently concerned with addressing some emerging children’s issues, such as adolescent health, juvenile justice, corporal punishment, child labour, sex abuse and pornography.

Dr Aidoo stressed it is essential that the Convention on the Rights of the Child, when ratified by any government, be well-publicised so that all decision-makers and the general population may familiarise themselves with its obligations.

She said one of the major tasks ahead would be to hold further dialogue with government before deciding on follow-up activities.
In this regard, the UNCRC delegation has already met the Minister for Education Macsuzy Mondon, who is also the chairperson of the NCC.

Discussions have also been held with the Minister for Social Affairs, Community Development and Sports Vincent Meriton and the Minister of Health Mitcy Larue. Other meetings have also been scheduled with the Ambassador for Women and Children, Dr Erna Athanasius, and Attorney-General Ronny Govinden before calling on Vice-President Danny Faure today.

Among the recommendations contained in the report presented to the CRC in September 2011 was the call for the local business community, especially the tourism and fishing industries, to enforce regulations that respect the rights of children and protect them from abuse.

Another recommendation calls for children, adolescents and families to be further educated on HIV/Aids, sexually transmitted diseases, early pregnancy and abortion.
It was also recommended that mental health and counseling services are improved and made readily available and sensitive to the needs of young people.