THE 6th Edition of the Psychosocial Support Forum (PPS Forum), a hybrid meeting in which discussions are being held both virtually and physically, commenced today with a Children’s Forum ahead of the adult event to be held next week from 13 to 15 October.
By Michael Gwarisa
The pre-adult forum saw children from 13 countries from East and Southern Africa attending and deliberating on various issues that children and young people face, with the aim of coming up with a Children’s advocacy position they will present at the adult forum in the next few days.
The Forum is running under the theme Innovate. Integrate. Thrive the forum is being jointly hosted by the Mozambican government and the Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative (REPSSI).
Giving her remarks in Harare, REPSSI Zimbabwe Country Director, Mrs Sibusisiwe Marunda said children come first and they should be given space to discuss issues affecting them in a free and non-restrictive environment.
We always take into account that as REPSSI, being a children’s organization and being an organization that believes that you cannot have child protection without Psychosocial Support, we believe in listening to the children first.
“We always take into account that before we engage one another as adults, to first hear it first hand from the people who are experiencing life within our communities, within our families and within our nation. We always have a children’s forum as a build up to the adult forum,” said Mrs Marunda.
She added that the objective of the 6th edition of the forum is to ensure that children from various backgrounds and those who face different challenges convene and deliberate and share lessons with one another ahead of the adult forum.
“As you can see, we have created an opportunity for you to interact with children from the 13 REPSSI countries so that you also hear their experiences, you also hear their lessons learnt and see and say maybe this we can copy as well as improve where there is need for improvement.”
Amongst some of the matters the young people agreed to present at the oncoming adult PSS forum include the issues of Drug and Substance Abuse, child related policies realignment, Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), Sexual Gender Based Violence (SGBV), disaster and emergency preparedness, school dropouts and early marriages, disability inclusion in all forms of programming amongst a host of other issues.
Speaking on behalf of the Zimbabwean Children group, Luckmore Pamhidzai, an award winning SRHR activist said there was need for policies that address the modern day needs of children including mental health.
“You find that when policies were crafted long back, mental health was not a big issue but as it stands, more and more young people are experiencing psychosocial and mental health related challenges and some of these issues are linked to Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR).
“As children and as young people, we say there is nothing for us without us and for our issues to be heard, we need to be actively involved at every stage of policy formulation so as to come up with an informed position in as far as our issues are concerned,” said Luckmore.
Meanwhile, Mitchell from Namibia said, “It is critical and pivotal as young people to meet up and have forums like these especially meetings as broad as this one because we get to connect with other countries and find out exactly what they experience and sort of relate to it. We are being given a platform to stand on and give our voices out there because in most cases, its not always us that represent ourselves.”