Katuta Besa: Voicing out for children’s interests
Published On July 21, 2022 » 2111 Views» By Times Reporter » Features
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• PRESIDENT Hakainde Hichilema and First Lady Mutinta are passionate supporters of strong families and children’s rights. Picture by President Hichilema’s Facebook page.

By HARBGUY MWAMBZI-
CHILDREN are under threat partly from intrusive use of technology and partly because of various factors making them targets of various forms of abuse.
Owing to such threats, various organisations and individuals have taken up the initiative to advocate children’s rights.
One such individual is youth child protection officer Katuta Besa, a child rights activist using sentitisation to promote children’s rights.
Mr Besa is a certified civic leader from YALI Regional Leadership Centre Southern Africa.
He is the founder of Children for Change Africa, besides being an avid supporter of children’s and youth development.
He is also an ardent supporter of environmental protection initiatives.
Mr Besa holds a diploma in Social Work and Social Welfare from the University of Zambia (UNZA).
He holds a Bachelors Degree in Development Studies from Cavendish University Zambia and is currently working with children in conflict with the law as a child protection officer for Undikumbukire Project Zambia.
Speaking in an interview recently, Mr Besa said it is important to give a voice to children through representing their best interests when they come in contact with the law.
“I help to ensure that the child’s needs are met, both physical and social, as well as any special needs. I am always happy to see the potential that every child embodies and the positive impact they could have on society and this always gives me the impetus to go on working out evidence based solutions for them,” he says.
Mr Besa said growing up, he always wanted to help people.
He said he derived satisfaction from lending a helping hand whenever and wherever he could.
When he left high school and thought of what he was going to do in university, he stumbled upon the idea of studying social work.
“I knew this is what I wanted to do. With informed guidance from my good mentor, Dr Brian Kapotwe, a seasoned agriculture and economic development professional with a background in social work from Mulungushi University, which at that time was National College of Management and Development Studies, I had no doubt that I was headed the right direction,” he said.
So, in 2011, he enrolled to study Social Work and Social Welfare and graduated with a merit in 2015.
“Currently, I am in my final year of my studies in the Bachelor of
Development Studies with Cavendish University Zambia,” he said.
He said his motivation to get into child protection advocacy arose from the need to ensure that targeted children who are addicted to various drugs and illicit substances within communities are protected.
“I grew up in Chawama, a slum south-west of Lusaka made up of many poor families. I was privileged to have grown up in a Christian household with good values and moral standards and granted, I attained a decent education,” he said.
However, many of his peers and young people generally in Chawama Township were not as lucky.
Many youths living in such communities were and still remain at risk of abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence.
“I saw the need to explore the systemic factors and to stress prevention, protection and restoration strategies for such children,” he said.
Mr Besa said there is need for carefully targeted interventions if such children have to be helped.
He said he knows this because he is part of the answer in helping communities like Chawama to build and develop key strategies and actions to strengthen the child protection system.
Mr Besa said although there has been minimal positive developments regarding children’s rights and protection, the legal frameworks have remained insufficient.
“Over the years, Zambia has signed two children’s rights declarations; the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child that was ratified in 1991 and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. Since then, there has been several developments concerning children’s rights through both legal and administrative changes,” he said.
He further noted that it has been exciting to that the Bill on the children’s code is being finalised.
He said this is something that people involved in protection of children have been waiting to see for many years.
But My Besa said the legal and policy frameworks for children and investments in education and child protection have remained insufficient.
He said in addition, investment in public resources in the social sectors benefiting children is dwindling.
“Although the convention was ratified early, it is up to now, only partially adopted and incorporated into domestic law,” he said.
The activist is currently participating in the 2022 Mandela Fellowship in Washington, USA, where he hopes to get more insights into promoting children’s rights.
“Being part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship is an exhilarating and exceptional experience. It is my story of persistence, resilience and hard work,” he said.
He said he has succeeded to be part of the fellowship after three years of successive failed applications.
“I finally got it right on my fourth application and first interview.
Under the leadership in civic engagement, I hope to gain and develop important cross-cultural communication skills that will undoubtedly be useful in my execution of activities in my community back home,” he said.
Mr Besa believes the USA approach to social challenges would help him gain a rich and deeper understanding of the country’s culture.
He hopes that eventually, this would help him to understand Zambia culture even better.
“Being on this fellowship and specifically is a great opportunity for me to acquire practical experience and knowledge in the development and promotion of non-profit organizations as I am currently rebuilding my own,” he said.
The future of any country lies in children.
Therefore, for Zambia to have a prosperous and secure future, it has to safeguard the rights of children by ensuring that they are protected and encouraged to grow into responsible citizens.
This would produce desirable results which the Government hopes to achieve even through policies such as free education for children.
Such policies, coupled with laws that enhance the rights of children, would ensure that the various forms of abuse and social vices like children marriage are kept in check.

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