Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Speaker Jacob Oulanyah has tasked Members of Parliament on the Uganda Parliamentary Forum for Children to develop and present the legislative agenda for children for the next five years.
Oulanyah was on Friday speaking at the orientation workshop for MPs on the forum at Lake Victoria Serena Hotel, Kigo.
The forum which was started in the 7th Parliament is an avenue through which the status of Ugandan children, especially those in difficult circumstances could be addressed. It is a platform where MPs from different political parties lobby for the rights of children in situations of competing needs and priorities where children’s rights are often neglected.
Oulanyah accused the members of failing to come up with a legislative agenda for children after a speech delivered by the Forum chairperson Margaret Makokha, the Namayingo Woman MP made no mention of it.
He said that instead of lamenting about the abuses against children in the country, the MPs should draft petitions, motions and Bills which parliament can act upon.
Oulanyah added that the MPs workshop will be valid when they come up with a legislative agenda.
“If you don’t come up with a legislative agenda please don’t come back to parliament because you have no business there as a member of the Children’s Forum. So, restructure your agenda…these presentations are important but they are not unless you as members of parliament can extract what we have and arrange an agenda through which we can help children,” said Oulanyah.
He said that there is a need for MPs to shift from rhetoric into action resonating with ordinary people.
Sarah Opendi, the Tororo Woman MP said that they will come up with action points after the orientation.
The MPs also suggested that the increasing cases of teenage pregnancies and several other cases of child abuse need to be allotted a full day for discussion by parliament. However, Speaker Oulanyah said that a day would not be enough and proposed a week dedicated to children matters.
Adriana Mukendi, a primary six pupil at Nakivubo Primary School asked MPs to debate about the re-opening of schools. She said that the continued closure has posed a lot of challenges and risks for children like kidnaps, defilement, teenage pregnancies, early marriages, child labour and others.
Dr Mohamed Munir Safieldin, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) representative in Uganda said that despite several remarkable achievements, there are still many gaps that need to be addressed.
“And this is where we count on your support as parliamentarians who have oversight on the performance of the executive and also as legislators who make the laws, review and approve the budget,” said Munir.
He said that the support of the MPs is needed regarding the neonatal mortality rate which has not reduced for 15 years at 27 deaths per 1,000 births. Munir also said that 20 percent of children are in households living under the poverty line.
Munir also mentioned stunting and child labour as other challenges that Uganda is still faced with.
He recommended the earliest safe reopening of schools and immediate investigation into the teenage pregnancies during the Covid-19 pandemic. He said that UNICEF is ready to offer support in these and other areas.