During the last two years 2010- 2011, fifty members participated in the Yemen Children’s Parliament (CP). They were involved in many activities and campaigns, especially relating to the emergency and the unstable political situation. These experiences brought about changes in their lives and proved to be a stepping stone for them to plan for their own projects in the future. Here is how they share their ideas …
Ahmad Al-thawar, 15 years old, represents the children in Sana’a capital city:
I was like any other child till the time idea of Children’s Parliament made the impossible come true in my life. In the beginning I thought it to be impossible to become a member of the Children Parliament. I remember the morning when I won the election with 348 votes from my school in 2010. It was a strong competition. It proved to be the best day of my life. I will never forget this great experience that made me a new person who has a better understanding for the future. Now I know how to plan for my future and advocate for issues I believe in. We are working on the second alternative Report that the Children Parliament will submit to the International Committee for Human Rights in Geneva.
Azaah Abdullah Yaslam, 15 years old, represents the children of Marab:
The first issue that I have advocated for was the violence against children in school. I started with the Student Council in my school. We decided to do regular meetings to discuss the main issues students face and they ways to solve them through reporting. We faced many challenges while the students refused to talk about their problems, especially with respect to teachers. They were afraid of being punished by teachers if they came to know about these discussions. It seemed to be something impossible to be achieved, but now it has become a reality. This was the start and I know I will challenge many things to reach my goal ,but I am ready for that. I have plans to to implement a project in my community in Marab governorate. I will work with a multipronged approach and am sure will ultimately bring about a change.
Ebtihal Fadel Al-Shamiri, 15 years, represents the children in Taiz:
Early marriage is one of the issues I am interested to work on. It all started from my school. I was very excited and motivated. Initially I thought that awareness sessions for students would solve the problem however that did not prove to be enough. I realized that it will take a long term approach and everyone will have to play a role to achieve the goal of stopping early marriages in Yemen.
Raheel Al-marzoqi, 15 years old, represents the children from the marginalized group:
I am from a marginalized group in Yemen called Alakhdam. Alakhdam are considered to be at the very bottom of the social ladder in Yemen and face discrimination in most aspects of their lives. I represent the Alakhdams .My message is to advocate for equal rights for them in Yemen. I try to reflect the beauty of life in the marginalized children’s eyes. I have campaigned in particular for the marginalized children as they face many challenges - violence, sexual harassment, early marriages, lack of education, and the spread of diseases. I will keep advocating for their rights and will plan small projects to do for them.
Children’s Parliament Role during the Civil Unrest
In April 2011, members of the Children’s Parliament launched an awareness campaign calling for protecting children and not involving them in conflicts. They made field visits to the conflict affected areas in Haradh, Amran, and Sa'ada,. Their aim was to listen to children, making children aware of their rights and to prevent them from becoming a part of the armed conflicts.
In the fifth session of the Children’s Parliament from 18 to 20 December 2011, the situation for children during the unrest in Yemen was discussed. Hadeel Al-Mofak, a fifteen-year-old girl, is a member of the Children’s Parliament and believes in Children Rights in all situations. Hadeel, like many other members of the Children’s Parliament has advocated for stopping the involvement of children in the demonstrations. She has personally gone to the demonstrators’ square in Sana'a. She tried to make families and children alike, aware of the dangers of allowing children to be a part of the demonstrations. “All children have the right to be protected from any violence they might face during the marches and demonstrations,” Hadeel strongly believes.
Basher Al-Shalilai is a fifteen-year-old boy and a member of the Children’s Parliament in Sana’a. He felt the responsibility and wanted to know more about on the situation. He observed the impact of the disruption in schooling activities on children. While doing so , he went to the demonstrations in both Change Square and to pro-government demonstration on Fridays. He discussed this with the other Parliament members and concluded that “Our message was clear and addressed to all parties involved in the unrest. Children have the right to participate but they have to be protected from any violence they might face during the demonstrations”. Basher was also the appointed media spokesperson for the Children’s Parliament and was therefore involved in the development of a press release on behalf of the Children’s Parliament. Save the Children supported the Children’s Parliament in developing this press release and sharing it with the media. The press release resulted in a lot of media attention, including participation in a live discussion program on TV.
Refugee Children are Observers in the Children’s Parliament
Since 2000, the Children’s Parliament, with the support from the Democracy School (one of the core partners of Save the Children), has held five elections. Every two years, the Children’s Parliament holds an election which follows democratic processes in accordance with Yemeni election laws. . In 2010 elections, the number of members of Children’s Parliament was increased from 38 to 50. This was done in an effort to make it a body representative of all the children in Yemenbe it boys, girls, working children, orphans, children with disabilities and children from minorities.
Save the Children has advocateed for inclusion of refugee children in the coming election for Children’s Parliament in 2012, as all Children in Yemen have equal rights. For the first time ever, refugee children will be represented in the Children’s Parliament election. The new parliament will be inaugurated in 16 April 2012.Around 5 members will be acting as observers and will be able to address issues regarding refugees in Yemen. Jerry Farrell, the Country Director of Save the Children in Yemen, stated that all Children in Yemen have the Right to Participation and be empowered. Refugees and IDPs are among the most vulnerable groups in Yemen and find themselves on the front-line of the current humanitarian crisis. “I believe strongly in the Children’s Parliament as a forum for Children and young people to make their voices heard at all levels.They will play a role in improving the children’s situation as future leaders in their community” Farrell ensured.
According to a UNHCR report in December 2011, the number of refugees recognized by the Government of Yemen has reached 204,685.Most of these are Somalis. Whereas the refugees recognized by UNHCR in accordance with the UN agency’s mandate, reached 215,707. These include 4,933 Ethiopia, 918 Eritrea, 4,259 Iraqis and 912 others. In addition to that, there have been 103,154 new arrivals at the shores of Yemen during 2011. Yemen is the only country in the Arabian Peninsula to be a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol.
Children develop the Alternative Report to UN Committee
From 26 to 28 March 2012, the Children’s Parliament in Yemen held its concluding session for the period of 2010-2011. . The aim was to follow up the implementation of Child Rights Convention in Yemen, especially during the unstable situation of 2011, with a focus on children’s right to education and protection in all situations. The outcome is to prepare for the second Alternative Report that the Children’s Parliament will be submitting to the International Committee for Human Rights in Geneva.
The Yemeni Children’s Parliament has issued the first alternative Report in 2009 concerning the state of children in Yemen. The report shed light on several important issues, including child trafficking and labor, juvenile prisoners, birth registration, and the situation of the children of Somali refugees in Yemen.
In 2010, the Parliament was supported in carrying out a national campaign on the dangers of early marriage to the life and health of girls. Similarly the parliamentarians visited the camp for internally displaced people (IDP) in Sa’ada, Amran and Haradh to learn about the issues that IDP children are facing in the northern governorates of Yemen and the report of their visits will be including within the Alternative report.