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SPEECH BY H.E DR. JAKAYA MRISHO KIKWETE, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED REPUBLIC OF TANZANIA, AT THE OPENING OF THE FOURTH FORUM OF THE GLOBAL NETWORK OF RELIGIONS FOR CHILDREN (GNRC), 16 JUNE 2012, DAR ES SALAAM

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President Dr Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete and the President of the Arigatou International Global Network of Religions for Children (GNRC), pose with some of children participants from different countries and religious constintuences after opening the 4th GNRC forum at the Serena Inn in Dar es salaam today June 16, 2012. The GNRC's fourth quadrennial forum will emphasize interfaith solutions to poverty's impact on children. The global gathering has brought together some 250 religious leaders, child-rights workers, and civil society representatives from around the world.

Theme: Ending Poverty, Enrich Children: Inspire. Act. Change

Reverend Keishi Miyamoto, President of the Arigatou International;
His Excellency Alhaj Ali Hassan Mwinyi, Former President of the United Republic of Tanzania;
Your Excellency Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim, Co-Patron, GNRC Fourth Forum;
The Right Bishop Dr. Method Kilaini; Co-Patron, GNRC Fourth Forum;
Dr. Mustafa Ali, Chairman of the GNRC Fourth Forum Organizing Committee;
Mr. Abubakar Kabwogi, Secretary General of the GNRC Fourth Forum;
Elhadj As Sy, UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Sothern Africa;
Eminences, Excellencies;
Invited Guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Allow me to join those who spoke before me in thanking God Almighty, the Merciful and Compassionate, for enabling us to meet here this morning. I would also like to thank Reverend Miyamoto, Dr. Ali and the entire Organizing Committee for affording me this rare opportunity of being part of the Fourth Forum of the Global Network of Religions for Children.
This is the first time the Forum is being held in Tanzania. Indeed, it is a great honour for us to play host to distinguished participants from 64 countries and representatives of UN agencies. I know you have already been welcomed, but let me add my voice in welcoming you all to Tanzania, and to Dar es Salaam in particular. I hope you will have a comfortable stay. Please feel at home and I encourage you after the meeting, to see a bit of the country and experience what Tanzania has to offer. I am sure you will be appetised enough to come back for a longer safari and beach experience.
Ladies and Gentlemen;
I commend the organizers for choosing a very opportune theme for this Forum “Ending Poverty, Enriching Children: Inspire. Act. Change.” It is a statement of fact that where poverty has been ended, children benefit. They are happy and grow to realize their potentials and ambitious in life. On the contrary, where poverty abound, children suffer the most and all their hopes and aspirations are dashed. Indeed, poverty is the world’s biggest development challenge of our time. We must fight it and win; losing is not an option because the situation is not good at all.
The UNICEF estimates that 22,000 children are dying each day due to a host of deprivations because of poverty. Many die quietly in some of the remotest and poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny of the watchful eye and the conscience of the world. It is equally sad to note that about 67 million children of primary school age in the developing world do not attend school and around 300 million children go to bed hungry every day. The sad story does not end there as 650 million (1 in 3) live without adequate shelter; 400 million (1 in 5) have no access to safe water; and 270 million (1 in 7) have no access to health care services.
Excellencies, Your Lordships;
Ladies and Gentlemen;
Overall, out of 2.2 billion children on this planet, nearly half are severely deprived of at least one of the essential goods and services they require to survive, grow and develop to fulfilling adulthood. So many children are losing their lives to easily preventable diseases or malnutrition, and others are being murdered in armed conflicts. Unfortunately, a number of these conflicts are caused by religious extremism and fanatism. Furthermore, intolerable numbers are dying from HIV/ AIDS before reaching adulthood, and many more suffer from discrimination, hostility and violence, just because of being children. In conflict areas, the situation is worse and too ghastly to contemplate.
Ladies and Gentlemen;
These statistics are a stark reminder of the magnitude of the challenge we are faced with. They confirm that too many of our children in both developing and industrialized countries are living in deplorable conditions. As a result of this, too many children are denied their basic rights such as education, healthcare, nutrition, and protection from harm and exploitation. As a consequence children’s mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual development is inhibited. Rural children are more affected than those living in town because of the dichotomy between rural and urban development. Sadly, also, the girl child is worse off than the boys, mainly because of bad cultural practices. Indeed, these deprivations greatly undermine children’s ability to achieve their full potential when they grow up.
Ladies and Gentlemen;
I am sure every responsible and well-meaning person should be concerned with the well-being of our children and young people. All of us must appreciate the need and be ready to do something useful for the sake of our children. It is heart-warming, indeed, to note that this world is not short of such people. Those of you gathered here today and this organization, the Global Network of Religions for Children, is clear attestation to that assertion of mine. I wish we could have more people and organizations like yours in this world. Surely, this world would be a great place to live in for us, our children and children’s children.
I am happy with the increasing global awareness and readiness to take action to fight and improve the lives of children. There are many international, regional and national convention, protocols, proclamations, instruments and laws which are geared toward addressing the many challenges and needs for children on this planet. The challenge is about ensuring the objectives of these instruments are implemented to the latter and spirits. We are beginning to witness positive results, but a lot more needs to be done. There are too many children who are still left out which calls for continued concerted efforts at national, regional and international levels.
In my view, tackling child related poverty requires two pronged interventions. The first one is to assist families of the children become prosperous so that the children will live a poverty free environment. The second is actually informed by the fact that it may take time before poor families can become prosperous. In this regard, children should not be left to wait for so long. This therefore, behooves humanity to look for ways to directly assist children from poor families get the necessities of life they are deprived of because of being born and living in poor families. Such children need nutrition, education, health care and protection so that they can live in dignity survive and grow to become productive human being in society.
This is the responsibility of every one of us, parents, all people in their communities, governments, civil society and faith based organizations. We must properly anchor the promotion of children’s rights and needs in our plans, programmes and activities. We need to make children a priority in our plans and programmes to reduce and eradicate poverty.
Ladies and Gentlemen;
I would like to state clearly and honestly that we, in Tanzania, are also facing similar challenges as our counterparts in developing countries. In a country where 33 percent of the people live below the poverty line, certainly there are many children affected and suffering from poverty. The Government has been taking a number of measures to address the challenges of poverty in the country and child poverty is being given particular attention. We have adopted an all inclusive approach because this matter is multi-stakeholder in character and involves many actors.
First and foremost, we have a fully fledged Ministry dealing with children’s affairs. It champions the formulation of policies, plans and programmes guiding action on child development in the country. The Ministry oversees their implementation. As a result, we have enacted laws protecting the rights of children, we have the National Child Development Policy (2008), the Child Act No. 21 (2009), the National Costed Plan of Action for Vulnerable Children (2007-2010), and the National Policy Guideline for the Health Sector Prevention and Response to Gender Based Violence (2011), all dedicated to the welfare of children. We also have other related policies include the National Education Policy (1995) and the National Health Policy (2010).
Excellencies;
Ladies and Gentlemen;
I am happy to mention as a result of these efforts, many indicators are showing that we are now making progress in reducing child poverty. For example, child enrolment in primary schools has reached 97 percent which makes us well on track to reach the MDG target by 2015. Furthermore, between 1999 and 2010 child malnutrition has been on the decrease, but we need to do more work in this area.
We are on track with regard to gender parity in primary and secondary schools. Unfortunately, that is not the case with higher education where there are more boys than girls. However, the government is working hard to ensure that the number of girls in higher education is increasing. Education is a critical key to development and success. With the appropriate education a child is empowered with a very effective lever to break the poverty cycle and live a fulfilling life. The various special mechanisms to support students from poor families get education have been very useful. We are committed to do more so that all get access to get education.
Ladies and Gentlemen;
Based on our own experiences, we have learned that tackling child poverty requires strong partnership of all stakeholders including development partners, private sector, civil society, faith based organizations and persons of goodwill. It is not a matter for government alone. This is a cross-cutting matter which requires the involvement and participation of many actors besides government. However, government has assume the leadership role of formulating policies and putting in place measures which will guide actions of various stakeholders with interest in the welfare of children.
Religions and faith based organizations have a unique role to play. Working in solidarity with governments and other stakeholders for the advancement of children, much more can be achieved. In essence, religions have the unenviable duty of guiding and helping people to be good citizens on this planet. Enable them to live harmoniously, peacefully, lovingly and in cooperation with other people within and across the religious, racial and other social, economic and political divide. Religion guides people to become responsible citizens in the sense of knowing their purpose in life as well as their duty and what is expected of them in life.
Ladies and Gentlemen;
There are no better persons for religions to dedicate efforts to impart these values than our children. I know schools are doing it but religions in their own right have a unique role and a very special way of doing it. The two systems should complement each other. If through both systems we can succeed to make our children understand these important values of life, adapt them and live by them, we will have succeeded in creating model global citizens. Indeed, many of the problems our societies and nations are facing today will be eased.
We will get responsible parents and good mannered children. We will get good citizens, friendly to all people, hard working and doing the right things. This way we will fight poverty in families and among children in a comprehensive and sustainable manner. Children will be born in families free from poverty and a world that is caring. They will get time to pursue their studies instead of being forced to engage in child labour to make ends meet for themselves or their families.
Ladies and Gentlemen;
I humbly appeal to all religious leaders and followers of the different religions to play their rightful role to enable our children to become responsible citizens and empower them to fight poverty. We should also remember that it begins with parents and it involves governments and everybody else in society including the private sector, civil society and religions. All should play their roles properly. So working together with all players is a matter of essence. Let us all do it for the sake of our children, nations and the world.
Indeed, the work of the GNRC speaks volumes about what can be done by religions and faith based organizations in efforts to create a society where children are valued, respected and happy. A society where children can be given the opportunity to grow to their fullest potential and become good and productive citizens. Allow me to take this opportunity to commend the GNRC for its initiatives and programs on promoting child poverty eradication, children’s rights, protection of the environment, ethical and peace education, and empowering children and young people. I implore you to continue the good work you are doing. The good thing about it is that it crosses the boundaries of faith. Please keep up the good work.
Excellencies;Invited Guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen;
Before I conclude my remarks, I want to assure you that, my Government and I, are satisfied with the invaluable contributions of the GNRC in pitching for the advancement of our children. I pledge our readiness to strengthen the cooperation with your Organization and work with you towards the realization of our shared goal of ensuring that Tanzanian children get the opportunity to live and grow in a conducive and secure environment. An environment that supports them to reach their fullest potential.
I am aware that this is not easy and neither is it an overnight thing. But, I am confident that, it is doable especially when we remain steadfast in pursuit of this noble cause and direct requisite resources to that end. That is what we are exactly doing. We are confident and inspired when we have partners like the GNRC, development partners and other national and international stakeholders ready to work together with us. For sure we will overcome and attain our lofty goal of making our world a good place for our children and our children’s children to live in.
Ladies and Gentlemen;
At this juncture, the words of my good friend Bono, the lead singer of the U2 Band are resonating in my ears, “God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them”. These words, Ladies and Gentlemen, meet so much to what we are doing right here at this Forum.
Ladies and Gentlemen;
After those many words, it is now my singular honor and pleasure to declare the Fourth Forum of the Global Network of Religions for Children officially open. I wish you very fruitful deliberations and every success in your endeavors.
God Bless Africa!
God Bless Tanzania!
God bless Children of the World!

I thank you for your attention.

Joachim Ernest Mushi, Kitaaluma ni mwanahabari muhitimu (Uandishi-2006) wa Chuo Kikuu cha Dar es Salaam, Taasisi ya Uandishi wa Habari na Mawasiliano ya Umma (IJMC) kwa sasa Shule Kuu ya Uandishi na Mawasiliano. Nimekuwa mwandishi wa habari za uchunguzi (Gazeti la Kulikoni & Thisday), Mwandishi mwandamizi Gazeti kongwe la Kiongozi, Mhariri wa Makala mwanzilishi wa Gazeti la Jambo Leo. Kwa sasa ni Mhariri Mkuu Kiongozi wa Thehabari.com, nchini Tanzania.

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