Press release

Office of the Ambassador for Women & Children’s Affairs Seychelles. Message on the Occasion of Universal Children’s Day

November 21, 2016

Universal Children’s Day is usually observed as a day of “worldwide fraternity and understanding between children”, as well as a day to promote the welfare of children worldwide. The United Nations General Assembly recommended to Governments on the 14th December 1954, that the Day be observed on the date and in the way which each considers appropriate.

Here in our sunny, island home of the Seychelles, we too celebrate childhood annually, but we observe Children’s Day on the 1st June, rather than the 20th November.

Nonetheless, it is imperative that we recognise this 20th day of November every year because it is a date on which the world came together and identified the need for countries and governments to consider, not only the needs of children worldwide, but also their human rights as individuals in communities and society at large, as well as their aspirations for a future where they can grow and develop in living-friendly environments, without the fear of abuse, child labour and persecution.

On the 20th November this year, we shall commemorate (as is done every year since 1959) the adoption of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child (1959) and the signing of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), which our government ratified without hesitation in 1990.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child, happens to be the most widely ratified international human rights treaty, and it sets out a number of children’s rights including the right to life, to health, to education and to play, as well as the right to family life, to be protected from violence, to not be discriminated, and to have their views heard.

It is most unfortunate that many adults in society today feel that Seychelles ratification of the Convention, infringes on parental rights in that it does not sanction disciplining of their children as they see fit, or as was done to discipline them when they were children. It is also unfortunate to note that some children and teenagers talk about their ‘rights’ in a manner in which they believe means they must get their own way and do as they will without consequence. This is certainly not what the Convention advocates and this is not what is meant by Rights.

Children’s rights as already mentioned, include the right to be safe, to be educated, to have medical care and to be protected against cruelty and abuse. We cannot and should not confuse our children ‘wanting their own way’ or ‘testing the limits’ with their ‘Rights’. Young people hear a lot about their ‘rights’ through the media, in class discussions about human rights and the law, from their friends, NCC etc. and sometimes when they are upset and not getting what they want, they will test parents with these words about rights, and really wear down their parents’ patience.

It is during these trying times that parents may get really upset and angry that the Convention was ever ratified or that there was even a discussion regarding children’s rights, feeling their authority threatened, feeling like agencies or organisations are only here to defend the child and that we are not interested in their opinion. Sometimes parents feel that they are standing on shaky ground because they themselves aren’t sure if what their child is saying is right or wrong, and with the daily stresses of real life, feelings are amplified or exaggerated – usually negatively.

As such:

  • Children demanding to have their way or testing limits is not about rights.
  • Parents should not get thrown by such behaviour and stay confident in their    authority to set limits in the family for their children’s wellbeing.
  • Always remember that most young people will challenge their parents as they grow up. Most of us did it in one way or another and it is a normal part of development and preparing for ‘breaking away’ and moving into adulthood.

When your children challenge you, it is important to know why they are doing so, what your responsibilities are as a parent, and how you can deal with the situation. Children should be brought up to understand that you have responsibilities as parents and it is up to the parent to set boundaries for their safety because this is what caring is, as well as what being responsible is all about.

What is absolutely clear under the law is that as parents you have the responsibility to care for and protect your children and a child in Seychelles is any person under the age of 18 years. It is also of paramount importance that parents bring up their children according to their own values and beliefs, hence, parents have the right to make decisions about how to bring up their children without interference unless there are strong reasons and the child’s safety and wellbeing are at risk. No parental decision should be interfered with unless a child is badly treated, is not being sent to school nor receiving any form of education, is being denied medical treatment required or where there is a court order.

For this reason, let us promote and celebrate children’s right on this Universal Children’s Day, and let us celebrate this Sunday with them doing something fun yet educational. Let us constantly strive for the development and success of children throughout the world. Let the children enjoy their carefree years while they last as we support and prepare them for the responsibilities that await them. We need to be reminded that it is the children of today that will be tasked with protection of the weak and vulnerable of this world tomorrow! It is up to us to teach them how.

I shall end with recognising that the 19th November, International Men’s Day precedes Universal Children’s day this weekend and we take the opportunity to salute all the  men who promote gender equality and who are positive role models to our children.