Mr Moustapha Diop, Senegalese Social Worker, Researcher and Child Rights Expert
Moustapha Diop is a Senegalese Social Worker, a Researcher and a Child Rights Expert.
This interview with Moustapha Diop was conducted on March 18, 2016 by the African Child Information Hub.
InfoHub: Thank you Mr Moustapha Diop for doing this interview with us. Could you briefly introduce yourself and your experience working on child rights?
Moustapha Diop: I am a social worker – as a special education teacher; I provide training in social intervention, as well as engineering and management of training schemes. I am also an expert-trainer-researcher on child rights. I manage training modules on child rights, child rights based programming, strategic planning and advocacy.
InfoHub:The Government of Senegal has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child; how does the country fare in complying with the requirements of the Convention and the Charter?
Moustapha Diop: Indeed, Senegal has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child through the Law No. 90-21 of June 26, 1990 and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child through the Law No. 98-41 of September 8, 1998.
Senegal has reiterated in the preamble to its Constitution, its accession to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. From 1990 to this day, many laws have been passed and various sectoral policies initiated, according to the mandates and areas of competence of the actors (education, health, justice, participation, protection...). In 2013, the country adopted a national strategy for child protection. This new framework completes a process started since 2009, by mapping and analysing the child protection systems in Senegal.
As part of the overall monitoring, in addition to the noted delays, the initial reports on the CRC (1994) and the CABDE (2011), two periodic reports were also filed with the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2004 and 2014. The review of all of these reports resulted in the formulation of final recommendations.
Since January 2014, Senegal has established a national coordinating mechanism for child rights implementation, with branches at regional and departmental level; i.e. the National Intersectoral Committee for Child Protection (CINPE) whose composition is fixed by Article three (3) of Decree No. 01333 of January 24, 2014.
InfoHub: Based on the recent research you have conducted in collaboration with ACPF, can you give us your evaluation of the situation of children in Senegal? What do you think are the major problems?
Moustapha Diop: 48.25% of Senegal's population is under 18 years of age according to the latest report from the National Agency of Statistics and Demography (2013). 17.29% are under 05 years old, with an average population growth rate of 2.7%. Senegal is thus faced with the persistent challenge of equating the absorption of wealth creation with the rapid population and economic growth rates.
The continued economic insecurity faced by many households hinders their ability to meet all the family needs, especially those related to the health and education of children, despite the growth in the country’s development.
Moreover, the determination of the State in fighting social inequality through the launch of a family safety scholarship program which will benefit 250,000 families by 2017, through a program for universal health coverage, through the adoption of a new child protection strategy, etc. all generate real optimism.
Moreover, the institutional and social stakeholders in the sector remain concerned by:
- the lack of specialised personnel, logistics, insufficient specialised public services and budgets for dedicated structures;
- weak technical capacities of stakeholders, including those working in community-based organisations;
- the weakness of internal and external communication, partnership and motivation of the actors;
- the persistence of socio-cultural inertia and negative social practices;
- the weakness of health systems (limitations of the health card and the quality of paediatric services offered...) and education systems (multigrade classes, double shifts, temporary shelters, qualifications of teachers);
- the quality of the promotion of consultation frameworks and the lack of an efficient information system.
InfoHub: How do you rate the commitment of the Government of Senegal in addressing these problems?
Moustapha Diop: The State's commitment can be appreciated in different ways. Overall, the efforts noted in relation to the legal reforms undertaken (revision of the criminal code and code of criminal procedure, adoption process of the Children's Act and the law establishing the Children's Ombudsman...), the adoption of a National Strategy for Child Protection, the innovative sectoral policies initiated in the areas of health (free care for children aged under 5, reduction of child mortality...), education (Quality, Equity and Transparency Improvement Programme / PAQUET-EF) and juvenile justice all reflect a real political will.
It should however be noted that there is a need to improve the governance system and the resources allocated to the sector, especially those dedicated to specialised services for the care of vulnerable children, children at risk, child victims or in conflict with the law. In practice, tackling certain social problems such as begging by children, sexual abuse and exploitation of children, child exploitation in gold areas and early marriages remain major issues of concern.
InfoHub: Who are all the actors working on children’s rights in Senegal? And what do you think should be done to strengthen the implementation of children’s rights?
Moustapha Diop: Several institutional and social actors are involved in the field of child rights. The main institutional actors are: the Child Protection Support Unit of the President’s Office and the technical directorates of the Justice and Interior Ministries (special protection, especially of minors in danger and/or in conflict with the law); the Women, Family and Children Ministry (promotion of children's rights); the Health and Social Work Ministry (care for vulnerable groups, including children with disabilities); the Education Ministry (preschool, elementary, middle and secondary schools); the Labour, Social Dialogue, Professional Organisations and Relations with Institutions Ministry (combating the worst forms of child labour)...
Senegal is also supported in carrying out its obligations for the effective implementation of children's rights by United Nations system agencies (UNICEF, WHO, ILO, UNFPA...), international organisations (Save the Children, Plan International, World Vision, Child Fund, Terre des hommes, Tostan...), coalitions and networks (CONAFE Senegal, platform of non-state actors, Education for All, COSYDEP...) and many non-governmental or community based organisations...
However, to curb the persistent challenge of working within networks and coordinating interventions, we must:
- Build a consensus on the basis of shared criteria and taking into account the specificities of each level of intervention;
- Conduct cross-sectional activities related to capacity building, capitalisation and sharing of best practices, in-depth studies on emerging issues that are little-known;
- Improve communication devices for better sharing of information and outputs;
- Strengthen synergies and complementarity of actors in consultation frameworks such as CDPEs (Departmental Committees of Child Protection)*;
- Systematically capitalise on and share best practices.
InfoHub: What are the accountability systems in Senegal? How effective are they? What is the impact on children?
Moustapha Diop: Several governmental actors participate in the implementation of child rights according to their level of intervention and their areas of expertise:
- The Presidency of the Republic:
- Child Protection Support Unit (Cellule d’Appui à la Protection de l’Enfance (CAPE));
- Ministry for Women, Family and Childhood:
- Directorate for the Rights of the Child and Child Protection and Protection of Vulnerable Groups;
- Community and Social Development Directorate (DDSC);
- Ministry of Justice:
- Supervised Education and Social Protection Directorate (DESPS);
- Direction of Human Rights;
- National Task Force for the Struggle Against Human Trafficking, especially of women and children;
- Ministry of Health and Social Welfare:
- General Directorate of Social Action;
- Ministry of Education:
- Preschool Education Directorate;
- Elementary Education Directorate;
- Intermediate and Secondary Education Directorate;
- Ministry of the Interior:
- The Minors Brigade
- Ministry of Labour, Social Dialogue, Professional Organisations and Relations with Institutions:
- Task Force to Combat Child Labour
The synergy enhanced through the adoption of an integrated intervention scheme of actors reinforces the effectiveness of measures taken for the protection and welfare of children. Furthermore, glaring shortcomings are identified due to the limited resources of almost all structures, to cover the demand for services benefiting children across the country.
InfoHub: Are the various actors implementing children’s rights working in a coordinated manner? What improvements could be made?
Moustapha Diop: The institutionalisation of the Intersectoral National Committee for Child Protection (CINPE) through Section Three (3) of Decree No. 01333 of January 24, 2014, the implementation of departmental and local committees of child protection provide opportunities for increased synergy of stakeholders and networking.
To increase the effectiveness of these coordination mechanisms, we must:
- Optimise the capabilities of each sectoral department, in accordance with its prerogatives, objectively resized following a comprehensive approach to the implementation of child rights and the determination of transversal actions;
- Build a consensus on the basis of shared criteria and taking into account the specificities of each region, department or locality;
- Install Regional Committees for Child Protection for greater consistency and technical efficiency in supervision since, in the administrative organisation of Senegal, the departmental services are always under the control of regional services;
- Complete the installation process of Departmental Committees of Child Protection with priority being given to the enhancement of technical capacities of all services responsible for the realisation of children's rights at the local level;
- Provide independent budgets for coordination structures for the funding of cross-cutting actions included in the annual work plans that build up on the action plan of the SNPE;
- Establish an operational information system taking into account all the concerns of the actors in securing data in the best interests of the child;
- Improving the participation of children in the context of the implementation of the SNPE and other programs targeting them in the areas of education, health and leisure.
InfoHub: What can other African countries learn from the experience of Senegal in child rights implementation?
Moustapha Diop: The process of elaboration, adoption and the implementation system of the National Child Protection Strategy (SNPE) can be of good inspiration. Additionally, other ongoing initiatives in the areas of special education, inclusive education, access to health care services as well as mechanisms to deal with children at risk and those in conflict with the law can also be of good inspiration.
InfoHub: Thank you very much, Mr Moustapha Diop, for doing this interview with us.