The National Assembly was in session today; but instead of the duly elected Area Representatives occupying the 31 seats, children from around the country took over the seats in the House. Correspondent Jorge Aldana was in attendance and filed this report.
Today’s special sitting of the Children’s Parliament took months of preparation. The topics discussed were extracted from a children’s poll using UREPORT and technology. The 39 participants ranged from 12-16 years and they event was coordinated through the Ministry of Local Government. According to the Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Labor, Local Government and Rural Development ,Sharon Young, the second Children’s Parliament is an opportunity for children to share ideas. One of the agencies that assisted in the fruition of the Children’s Parliament is UNICEF. According to Dr.Susan Cassidy, UNICEF Belize Representative, the topics brought up are relevant to what is impacting the quality of life of the children. And while the debate brought policy makers under a microscope there was very poor attendance from the actual elected parliamentarians. In fact there were even more opposition parliamentarians as opposed to only two from the governments’ super majority. Area representative of Lake Independence Honorable Cordel Hyde said that the Children’s Parliament put elected officials to shame
Hon. Cordel Hyde, Area Representative, Lake Independence: “I’m seized of what exactly was going to take place today. I know sometimes the government can be kind of sensitive when it comes to this because they might not be too willing to hear a lot of criticism and the opposition well we’ll gladly be here because it’s not our policies that are under the microscope but I think in the future we have to make sure that all parliamentarians attend.”
When asked if the very poor attendance from the members of the ruling government is indicative of Government’s view of the entire children’s participation process Minister of State in the Ministry of Labor, Local Government and Rural Development Honorable Senator Dr.Carla Barnett said that such characterization is not so.
Hon. Dr. Carla Barnett, Ministry of State, Ministry of Labor, Local Government and Rural Development: “I think we all understand what the problems are. It was live streamed from the press office and several of the tv stations live streamed it as well to me that is very good because we’re giving the children the ear, we’ve not traditionally done that and so giving them the ear, giving them the voice, understanding that they have an opinion that is valuable I think is a big step. Of course we are constantly looking at the things that need to be addressed. I for one am very appreciative of the young people having the courage to stand up and say their piece today. They said their piece and we have to listen, we absolutely have to listen and it is not only criticisms of the government of the day, it’s criticism of the system- this system hasn’t changed for a long time and so when we’re talking about the things that need to be addressed yes they need to be addressed by everybody and it is not only government.”
This is the second time in Belize’s history that a Children’s Parliament has been conducted.
We will have much more on today’s Children’s Parliament which was done in observance of International Children’s Day.