Cuts to the budget aimed at addressing critical issues affecting children’s rights are causing concern, campaigners have said.
Evariste Murwanashyaka, the program manager of the Umbrella of Human Rights Organizations in Rwanda (CLADHO) said that while analyzing the 2022/23 budget, they realized that the budget allocated to maternal and child health has been reduced by 64 % – from Frw 127.6 billion to Frw 45 billion.
“It is an important sector and we wonder why the budget allocated to it has been reduced,” he said.
Their analysis also shows that the budget allocated to the protection and promotion of children’s rights has been reduced by 87%.
“It went from 2.3 billion Frw to 302 million Frw. This, among other things, should have been increased. The government should consider this issue when revising the budget in December this year,” he said.
He said there are still critical issues affecting children’s rights that should be given sufficient budget.
These, he said, include the defilement of children, street children, among others, who should be highly considered in budget planning.
Children’s voices in the budget process
According to Murwanashyaka, children’s voices should have a place during budget planning using their village forums at the national level.
“We have tried to create a platform where we empower children’s committees at the village level, where we collect their views for consideration in the national budget. However, we only do this in 13 districts, which means that the voice of children in 17 districts is not heard during the budget process,” he noted.
He said once the children have shared their ideas, they should be brought to the budget consultation table and then assess whether their ideas have been considered.
“We do it twice before the budget is approved, but it should be increased. They must participate in the round table where they can give their opinion face to face,” he said.
Innocent Ntakirutimana, coordinator of the child protection and participation program at the local child rights organization -Children’s Voice Today (CVT) – said there is a need to build the capacity of children to be able to participate in what is intended for them.
“The role of children in the planning and budgeting process and in other decisions is still weak despite some established initiatives,” he said.
He explained that citizens and special groups of people such as women, youth, people with disabilities and others have a platform where they share their views during the budget process.
“These categories are even represented on the district council, which allows them to have their voices heard in the planning and budgeting process. However, children’s forums are not consulted,” he noted.
He said the government should increase the budget to tackle school dropouts and street children.
“Although there is a basic education of nine and twelve years where students study for free, there are other costs such as school feeding and others that trigger school dropout because their families are too poor. With this, street children and child labor are also increasing,” he said.
In the health sector, he said, the budget should also increase facilitation of critical issues affecting children’s health.
“For example, girls’ rooms in schools should be well equipped to improve sexual and reproductive health,” he said.
Thacien Biziyaremye, a parent, reiterated that the government is doing a lot in terms of child protection and welfare by allocating the budget to address issues that affect children’s rights.
However, he said, the budget is not enough as some children have dropped out of school and engaged in dangerous activities working for money.
“Other children are on the streets and teenage pregnancies are on the rise. It requires sufficient budget to be processed,” he said.
It recommends an increase in a specific budget for the empowerment and capacity building of children’s families, especially vulnerable families.
“Additionally, teenage mothers need financial and socio-psycho support to be able to raise their children,” he noted.
Teenage pregnancies rose to 23,000 in 2021 from 19,000 the previous year, and family disputes.
The government seeks to spend Rwf 4,658.4 billion in the financial year 2022/23.
The new times contacted the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning to explain why the budget to address some critical issues affecting the lives and rights of children has decreased, but did not respond to the reporter.