Namibias Child Care and Protection Bill is intended to replace by monkey6


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									                Namibia’s Draft Child Care and Protection Bill:
                  Process for Public Awareness and Input

                     Dianne Hubbard, Legal Assistance Centre
                                11 March 2009

Namibia’s Child Care and Protection Bill is intended to replace the Children’s Act 33 of 1960,
which was inherited from South Africa. It is a long and complex Bill which covers a wide
range of issues, from the age of consent for medical treatment to court procedure in cases
involving children. There are many controversial matters in the Bill, such as proposals which
would limit corporal punishment by parents, which require broad input to make sure that
the law will be suitable for the Namibian environment. It is also important to make sure
that Namibia will have the capacity and resources to implement the proposed procedures.

The Legal Assistance Centre approached the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare
and UNICEF to appeal for more intensive public consultation on the following grounds: (a)
Widespread consultation helps to equip service providers to understand the need for the
new law and so to be more prepared for effective implementation. (b) Public involvement
in the law reform process helps to raise awareness of the legal issues and creates a sense of
ownership. (c) Insufficient consultation before tabling can result in referral of the Bill to
Parliamentary Committees, which could delay its passage considerably.            (A series of
committee hearings led to the Children’s Status Bill taking three years to move through
Parliament.) (d) If the Bill is not refined before going to Parliament, the result could be a
number of last-minute piecemeal amendments which may not harmonise well with the
overall framework.

The most recent draft of the Child Care and Protection Bill was completed by the Ministry of
Justice in 2008. Because of the extended lapse of time since the last public consultations
around a previous draft back in 2001, and the many developments in the situation of
Namibian children during the intervening period, a new round of public and stakeholder
consultation was proposed.

The Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, the Legal Assistance Centre, UNICEF and
Namibia’s Permanent Task Force on Orphans & Vulnerable Children agreed upon a process
to refine the draft Bill and take it forward. The process is being guided by a small Technical
Working Group chaired by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Gender Equality and
Child Welfare, It includes representatives from the Ministry, UNICEF, Legal Assistance
Centre, the Attorney-General’s Office (which must certify the Bill’s constitutionality), the
technical legal drafters and several senior social workers. UNICEF is providing funding for
the process, to the tune of almost N$3 million Namibian dollars (which are the same value as
South African rand), in the hope that it will be possible to draw on Namibia’s experience to
develop a “best practice” guide for the region.

Our objectives are:

    a) to refine the draft Child Care and Protection Bill, which is currently something of a
        pastiche of parts of the South African Children’s Act, so as to ensure its
        appropriateness to the Namibian situation;
    b) to draw on the experience of other African countries with recent child law reforms;
    c) to raise public awareness of children’s rights and obtain public input on the draft;
    d) to consult service providers and other stakeholders to ensure that the proposed law
        reform will be feasible to implement in practice.

The project requires a team of legal consultants with specific experience in children’s rights.
Namibia has no dedicated child law experts, so we knew that we would have to source
expertise from the region. Our idea was that this approach might provide an opportunity for
skills transfer to Namibian lawyers and service providers. We are very excited that Professor
Julia Sloth-Nielsen has agreed to put together a star team of experts who were involved in
the South African Children’s Act to assist us in Namibia.

Our plan has 10 phases:

PHASE 1: Agreeing on the process and the workplan, securing funds, and convening the
Technical Working Group. This phase was the longest and most difficult; it took , about 6
months and involved at least 9 drafts of the project proposal, budget and timeline.

PHASE 2: Preparation of some 20 fact sheets on specific thematic areas in the Bill and a
simple-language summary of the entire Bill. Effective public consultation on this law
requires breaking it down into manageable blocks for discussion. Brief fact sheets are being
prepared on thematic areas such as foster care, adoption and child trafficking for purposes
of public consultation. The fact sheets will be produced in English, Afrikaans, Oshiwambo
and further indigenous languages as our budget allows. Preparing the fact sheets has taken
about 3 months of very hard work, as we found that it was not possible to identify issues for
discussion without examining comparative laws and commentary for each topic. We knew
that we had to present good information and ask stimulating questions if we wanted to
spark public interest. We have already seen in practice the impact these fact sheets can
have. When the fact sheets were given to the Technical Working Group for review, the
members immediately started a debate on what the Bill should say, completely forgetting
that they were supposed to be approving the presentation of what is contained the draft!
The fact sheets will be distributed to interested stakeholders -- in fact, we hope to carpet the
country with them.

PHASE 3:    Intensive media campaign to inform public of proposals. Information on the
proposed law will be disseminated widely through newspapers and radio in several
languages. Shortened versions of the fact sheets will be collated into booklets which will be
inserted as supplements in at least 2 national newspapers, in 3 languages. This tactic alone
should reach 59 000 people – which is approximately 3% of the Namibia population -- in just
one day. We are also working with various youth publications on articles based on the fact
sheets and arranging for radio shows. All media dissemination includes a dedicated number
for SMS input as well as the usual contact information, as this has proved to be a very
popular channel of communication in Namibia. We are also utilising popular radio call-in

PHASE 4: Five regional workshops including participants from all of Namibia’s 13 regions
will be convened to discuss key aspects of Bill. These workshops will allow interested
participants to discuss the draft Bill using the fact sheets as a guide, with the input being
collected to guide refinement of the draft.

PHASE 5: Consultation with key stakeholders via 6 thematic workshops. Specific groups of
stakeholders will be brought together for a series of informal half-day or one-day discussions
of particular sections of the draft, such as those on adoption, foster care and the age for
medical consent and access to contraceptives. These workshops will target service providers

and those with special expertise in the topics identified. We are already receiving requests
from key stakeholders to attend these meetings.

A separate strand of consultations will target our most important stakeholders: Namibian
children. We had a brainstorming session this week and decided to use existing youth
groups and meetings as much as possible. Our plan is prepare a standard methodology and
a short video with dramatisations aimed at children to stimulate discussion, and then train
facilitators from existing groups to present the material and collect input. We will also be
piggy-backing on national workshops involving some 500 children, and holding four
dedicated meetings with children in different locations to fill in the gaps. There is neither
the time nor the money for anything more comprehensive, but we hope to involve a
sufficient number of children to get a good sample of viewpoints.

PHASE 6: Stakeholder consultation via written input. Stakeholders with specific expertise
will invited to submit detailed written comments on the draft Bill.

PHASE 7: Comparing the Namibian draft with the new South African law. We want to learn
from South Africa’s experience and avoid its mistakes. If there is any part of the new South
African law that you wish had been drafted differently, tell us now! We intend to invite
South African lawyers to give comments on the Namibian draft, and a few lucky lawyers will
be invited to attend a workshop with key Namibian stakeholders in Namibia to share
relevant experiences. (So if you have been hankering for a desert holiday, feel free to ply
with me with drinks after the meeting!)

PHASE 8: Collating the input. The input collected will be compiled into a single written
report and translated into proposals for amending the draft Bill.

PHASE 9: Incorporating changes into the draft. The Ministry of Gender Equality and Child
Welfare will of course make the final decisions on what inputs and amendments will actually
be incorporated into the draft Bill.

PHASE 10: Prepare the final Bill for tabling in Parliament. Technical legal drafters will adapt
the Bill accordingly and prepare it for tabling. Our goal is to complete the process before
the end of this year.

Maybe at next year’s meeting we can report back on how it all went.



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