Bhutan renewed its commitment to the wellbeing of children on the World Children’s Day in the capital yesterday.
Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering signed the voluntary global pledge coinciding the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The convention, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly on November 20, 1989, protects the rights of the children, and ensures that all of them are treated with respect and dignity.
Bhutan was among the first countries to sign the Convention on June 4, 1990 and ratify it on August 1 the same year.
Lyonchhen said that Bhutan had signed the convention without any reservations then and on the way forward, ensures all the support that the convention needs.
For Bhutanese children, Lyonchhen said that there are many reasons to be excited for and to look forward to growing up into a productive citizen as the government is coming up with an accelerated mother and child health care policy, digitalising school policy and revising national youth policy.
UNICEF calls on world leaders, every year on this day to commit to overcoming some of the new obstacles facing children and young people worldwide.
UNICEF Bhutan Representative Dr Will Parks said that children today encounter multiple challenges to childhood that were not envisaged 30 years ago.
“In 1989, there was no world wide web shaping young lives, issues of children’s privacy were seldom discussed, forced migration did not affect children and young people on the massive scale now seen, and the impact of a changing climate was not yet clear,” he said.
But today, he said that it is children and young people themselves who are speaking out for their right to a meaningful education, demanding end to discrimination, striking for action on climate change and calling on leaders to protect their future.
Immunisation and introduction of vaccines, improvement of sanitation facilities, empowering women through non-formal education, initiation of early childhood care and development programmes, development of sign language and the enactment of the Childcare and Protection Act were some of the major achievements the country has made in the past 30 years.
National Commission for Women and Children’s (NCWC) director Kunzang Lhamu said promoting and protecting the rights of children has always been and continues to remain a high priority for Bhutan.
In an effort to make legislation more responsive to the needs of women and children, NCWC developed the National Plan of Action on Child Wellbeing and Protection (2019-2023) alongside the development of the National Child Policy and the National Gender Equality Policy earlier this year.
Recognising that one of the chronic problems in efforts to implement the convention in an effective manner is the lack of data on the nature and magnitude of the problems children are facing, Kunzang Lhamu said that the government developed the Central Management Information System.
“The system works as an online case management system and a central repository of information on women and children needing care and support,” she added.
The Woman and Child Helpline 1098 set up by the NCWC last year has so far received 2,213 cases, out of which women in difficult circumstances constituted 39.6 percent and children in difficult circumstances about 29.3 percent.
While counselling services was the most demanded that accounted for 47 percent, according to NCWC.
The country today has 13 woman and child protection units or desks across the police stations, one stop crisis centre at the Thimphu Hospital, and the family and child bench established at the district court in Thimphu that have all helped increase access to child friendly services.
Kunzang Lhamu said that the women and children issues will receive an added impetus in the current plan with the gender equality promoted and women and girls empowered.
“The child wellbeing and protection issues as well as strengthening the child justice system are being addressed under various National Key Results Areas.”
Meanwhile, three monuments across the city were lit up in blue last night as a visually powerful reminder about the need to protect children’s rights. It was also to advocate and raise awareness on the most pressing issues facing children today.
The day is also observed as the World Day of Action and Prayers for Children. Guests and children lit butter lamps at the celebration.
They also witnessed the launching of the Child Mandala, the vision that guides the collective efforts of all duty bearers made towards the wellbeing and happiness of children.
UNICEF also launched its report ‘The Convention on the Rights of the Child at a Crossroads’.
While looking at the undeniable achievements of the past three decades, the report also calls for scaling up proven solutions and interventions, expanding resources, involving young people in co-creating solutions, and applying the principles of equity and gender equality in programming to accelerate progress in advancing child rights and to address stagnation and backsliding in some of these rights.
Education Minister Jai Bir Rai said, “The government remains committed that the children of Bhutan are cared for and nurtured in all stages of their lives.”