Girl Child addresses Seychelles National Assembly Featured
November 20 is Children's Day, is an international celebration intended to bring nations together to promote child welfare. For the first time in the history of the National Assembly of Seychelles, a 13-year-old Seychellois child addressed her lawmakers on World Children's day. In an impassioned address, the child, Shayane Hoareau, spoke about the challenges - including those related to Sexual Reproductive Health Rights - that children face growing up in the picturesque island country. These were her words, which have been slightly edited for clarity.
Honorable Members of the National Assembly and all Seychellois who are listening,
It is a great honor to be the representative for all Seychellois children and for addressing the National Assembly this morning.
My name is Miss Shayane Hoareau and I'm 13 years old.
On November 20, 1989, the United Nations drafted the Convention for the Rights of the Child. The Government Seychelles had signed this document on September 20, 1990.
This means that not one of us can say that we haven't heard of this document.
This document addresses what a child needs, even before they are born until they have reached the age of maturity - that is, 18 years of age here in Seychelles.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child has 54 articles and although I do not know all of them by heart, I believe that whatever is detailed is good for children.
It is also good for parents and is good for the community as well.
A number of things have been done in Seychelles so that our children can rejoice in those rights and help us to grow as responsible citizens.
They have the right to be born, the right to access healthcare, the right to live with their parents when they are separated, the right to go to school.
All of this has been possible thanks to the devotion of the Government of Seychelles towards this Convention.
For that, we say a huge thank you.
Before I go further please permit me, Honorable Members, to paint a portrait of the situation that children in Seychelles are living in today.
A 2015 study shows that 3 out of 5 children in the class of S1 through to S5 have been abused sexually. The majority of the time by a member of their own family.
The youngest was a three-month-old baby who died as a result of sexual abuse.
Here in Seychelles!
Children are involved in sexual intercourse from a very young age, and often with one or more partners.
The youngest to fall pregnant was aged 10. Ten years old!
However, the law does not allow a child to consent to sex before the age of 15. The law prevents access to contraceptives for such children. They have to wait until the age of 18.
How many more young mothers should there be before the law is revised?
In addition, children get access to alcohol easily.
However, the law states that you have to be 18 years old to get access to alcohol.
Where are we getting it from?
Cigarettes as well.
Drugs, let's not talk about it.
Before we even reach the age of maturity, at least 14% of children between the ages of 11 to 16 have tried some kind of substance.
In addition, children are being used to sell drugs.
Some have had to get into prostitution to be able to support the drugs lifestyles of their parents.
And let's not forget those that even in their mother's womb, some children have tried drugs and are born with the effects of drugs.
Even in the family, children grow up on their own.
Parents are busy. Parents work. Parents have separated. Children suffer.
The number of suicide attempts amongst children continues to increase.
Schools. We all know. Academic levels are coming down and continuing to go down.
Where is the problem?
To whom does this problem belong to?
This is the reason why we the children wanted to address with the National Assembly on this day.
Put yourself in the shoes of Dylan Rose, which was only 12 years old.
Instead of playing football, going to school, he lived on the streets, slept wherever he could find a spot. He ate what he could find until he lost his life.
Who would wish this on their children?
In fact, there is an article that addresses the protection of children just like Dylan.
Ladies and gentlemen, all that we see on the television have arrived at our door today.
Regardless of the dangers, of all this education and awareness, the attitudes of certain adults do not change!
Young children continue to be neglected, get abused and maltreated!
There are more suitable ways to raise and discipline children.
I would like to thank the National Council for Children, NCC, which has been engaged in educating adults on all of this.
If you, the adults, want us to become better, then you have to lead us by example.
There's a saying 'Children see, Children do!'
We feel that the finger is being pointed at us.
But my grandfather has always said that there are three fingers pointing back at you when you point the finger at others.
Everything that is happening is a reflection of our society.
As children, we do not condone violence.
We don't want violence among children, between children and their parents, between children and their teachers, stealing and deaths.
All of this is not good for us.
Mr. Speaker and all the Members of the National Assembly, all Seychellois who are listening, today, I am making history by being the first child to address the National Assembly of our country, Seychelles.
Article 3 of the Convention States:
In all decisions made, the best interests of children must be taken into consideration. We would like to be listened to, even if some of the things we say might not make much sense to you.
This reminds me of an incident that happened in America that I watched on the Internet.
The driver of a huge truck that miscalculated its path and was stuck under a bridge.
The road was blocked. There was a lot of panic. The engineers, mechanics, police, and many professionals came to try and find a solution. While they were discussing, a small boy came up with his bike.
He approached the person in charge to ask whether he could speak.
No one listened. Finally, a young man asked him what he needed.
That little boy asked if they had tried removing the air from the tyres.
Immediately, the man tried out his idea and was able to remove the truck out from under the bridge.
Mr. Speaker, honourable members, the truth comes out of the mouth of a child. We have ideas, a lot of ideas, and we can help resolve the problems that sometimes the adult themselves have created.
How many developments will be made without taking the child into account? Many housing estates, for example, don't have facilities for playing!
We need a place where we can run, sing and play all kinds of games if we like. Give us a chance to develop sports, cultural and traditional activities. It is our right to know our history and to keep our culture alive.
But if you do not show us, how are you supposed to protect our heritage tomorrow?
Mr. Speaker, we also have our dreams. We also have our vision for the future. Do not only see us as the source of the problems in Seychelles.
Instead, view us as the resource that can help to resolve these issues.
We are the key. We are the future. But remember, we are also the present. We are not just an expense. We are a good investment.
Continue to treat us with respect and dignity so that we can also grow up with those same values. If you wish us a good morning, we will also wish you a good morning.
Yes, we know that having rights also comes with responsibility. We have our part to play. Parents also have theirs. And all the leaders of this country also have a role to play. Don't just say that children have rights. Learn about these rights and see where you can help.
Support services that provide support to our children. Help those services to become stronger and effective so that they will prevent the bad people from taking advantage of us.
Think of the most vulnerable children - abandoned children, children who are poor and children who live with disabilities. Don't treat them like they are lesser, on the contrary help to create a better environment to help them develop their potential to the maximum possible.
Mr. Speaker, Members of the National Assembly, we depend on our adults to protect our interests. Already, by giving us a moment of your time, you, the Honorable Members have shown engagement towards us.
We promise to work hard at school so we can contribute to taking our country forward.
Thank you for listening to us despite the fact that you are busy with the budget. For once this assembly today has become the assembly for all children too.
We also thank everyone for listening.
Long live all children in Seychelles!
Long live our national assembly!