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Nov 20, 2019

The Rights of a Child Take Center Stage at Children’s Parliament

Parliament today had a much different feel and tone. The special sitting was called to mark International Children’s Day so young students from all over the country were standing in as parliamentarians. They took their seats in the Speaker’s chair as well as on both sides of the aisle. There was no posturing to the cameras or the usual mudslinging, instead there was real debate coming from the young parliamentarians who argued, discussed and decided issues on their well being, urging government to do more for health, education and security.  News Five’s Hipolito Novelo reports.


Hipolito Novel, Reporting

The chambers of the National Assembly would normally be filled with elected officials from both major political parties, but today in commemoration of International Children’s Day and the thirtieth anniversary of the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, these seats were filled by youths.

The Children’s Parliament saw the committed participation of thirty-one well spoken and researched students from across the country, representing all thirty-one constituencies. Like a regular sitting of the House of Representatives, the house orders were followed accordingly. But unlike the regular sitting, these youths demonstrated maturity, kept to the issues, avoided petty insults and maintained decorum and self respect.

Sitting in the Prime Minister’s seat was Alexandria Fermin who represented Queen Square and introduced the day’s motion.


Alexandria Fermin

Prime Minister Alexandria Fermin

“I introduce the motion on the implementation on the rights of a child in education, health, protection and safety motion 2019.”


With the leadership of House Speaker Porfilio Cal, participants engaged in meaningful debate related to the motion. Opposition Leader Nadir Mendoza criticized the government’s apparent decision to put education second to infrastructure development.


Nadir Mendoza

Nadir Mendoza, Leader of the Opposition

“I believe Mr. Speaker if thirty-six point six million U.S. dollars and a grant of twenty-five million Euros can be used to fix a road where an already established highway leads to, why can’t six million US dollars and a grant of twenty-five million Euros can be used to paved a road for the future of Belize literally.”


Ashanti Rubio

Ashanti Rubio, Member for Belize Rural North

“Why can’t we foster the dreams of our young children by providing them with the necessary tools and training to go beyond what is expected.”


Adrianna Medina

Adrianna Medina, Member for Cayo North East

“Mr. Speaker it is fair to say that if we don’t have high schools in our rural areas automatically disenfranchises children who can be in the school system. So my question in relation to all this would be: are we ready to provide the equal education opportunity that we speak about? Well, in accordance to article twenty-eight and the big education budget that exists we are.  The policies for access needs to be revisited and implemented properly. Rural children deserve an equal shot at success. So police makers most remember the plight of rural children when developing policy solutions.”


Ashany Flowers

Ashany Flowers, Member for Cayo South

“Today I come to you not only as a parliamentarian but also as an emissary for all the Cayo South and Belizean students who are being detained by and forced into poverty as a consequence of our sad excuse of our educational system. This government has built an economy build on I.O.U.s and corruption which has forced our children into a stalemate.”


And her fellow parliamentarians then zoomed in on the issue of health, or lack thereof. Member for Toledo East and a determined Angelle Arnold pointed out the need to better healthcare in rural areas.


Angelle Arnold

Angelle Arnold, Member for Toledo East

“I find it absolutely appalling that in 2019 people are still trekking through mud and high water just to access basic needs such as education and healthcare in rural areas. As in trekking in mud and high water isn’t enough they must bare their symptoms for hours in pending treatment only to receive pain killers or a shot at a mediocre polyclinic. Mr. Speaker it seems that the government universal solutions to issues presented by the public is to build roads. Oh and I almost forget, bridges and roundabouts too.”


Geneel Parham

Geneel Parham, Member for Corozal North

“The government should also aimed to strengthen the community health workers to support the preventative response at a community level as well as host more educational sessions about health diets and make children’s and women’s right well known. The bottom line is that there is much more that could be done, should be done and will be done to help the children with nutrition and health.”


The third focus related to the motion was a child’s right to safety and protection.  When it comes to road safety, Belize appeared in a recent list of countries that pose the greatest risk due to traffic accidents. It’s the leading cause of death says Member for Stann Creek West Diamond Martinez.


Diamond Martinez

Diamond Martinez, Member Stann Creek West

“Do we feel safe? Road traffic accidents is a fast growing epidemic killing one point two million people under the age of twenty five each year around the world. This leaves me with the question Mr. Speaker is the government also focus and protecting us from these traffic collision and accidents?  I’m completely appalled that something so fatal continues to be overlooked without prioritization RTAs will continue to claim the lives of so many young people. Not to mention that it is considered the number one cause of death for children ages fifteen to nineteen.”


Member of the House

Mr. Speaker why aren’t the children of our nation cherished, sustained and protected? Why was our justice system deaf to injustice? What reason could have been more significant that this the treatment of innocent? I asked the government to be so humble and remain committed to Children’s agenda.”


While it might be viewed as a mock Sitting of the House of Representatives, the issues facing children today were brought out to the forefront more so than ever. This problem continues to exist and today’s session called on the government to enhance measures to protect the rights of a child in all aspects.

The gallery was filled spectators, supporters and a handful of parliamentarians including the P.U.P.’s Cordel Hyde and the U.D.P. Senator, Dr. Carla Barnet.


Cordel Hyde

Cordel Hyde, P.U.P. Area Representative

“They put us to shame. They are well researched, well prepared, and better prepared, rather articulate and really in touch with the issues. I think it is a wake call for us parliamentarians that we really need to listen to these kids because we are legislating for them, we are providing for them but we don’t ever speak to them.”


Carla Barnett

Dr. Carla Barnett, U.D.P. Senator

“We all understand what the problems are. For me, it is good to know that the young people are thinking these things through for themselves and having that conversation and in fact, today, they were leading the conversation. And we need that; we need to listen to our young people. We need to understand what we need to address properly.”


Susan Kasedde

Dr. Susan Kasedde, Country Rep, UNICEF

“Today we’ve been treated to a really special opportunity to hear the rights holder from the children in whose names we work, in whose names we advocate everyday just how far they feel we’ve have come and what more they feel we could do to fulfill the commitment, to fulfill the promise.”


Sharon Young

Sharon Young, C.E.O., Ministry of Labour

“What we wanted to get from them is their perspective on the issues that are affecting our Belizeans children. We are particularly delighted that their insights into the depth and breadth into the issues that they share are well articulated and well researched.”


The parliament was a culmination of two training sessions held over the last two months. And while today’s session ended, the work continues.


Nadir Mendoza

“I don’t believe it’s over. This is just the beginning. All great things never come to an end and all good things start from a small point so this is just the beginning.  This is not also a beginning for me because I was a Central American youth ambassador so it is just me continuing the work in youth development that I have a passion for.”


Prime Minister Alexandria Fermin

“These are just thirty one of the tens of thousands of children that live here who these decisions impact and I think we should be able to listen to and acknowledge as many of those opinions as possible.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Hipolito Novelo.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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