Religious and community leaders - Childrens Rights Reform

Religious and community leaders

Role of religious and community leaders in the children’s rights legislative reform process

Religious and community leaders can be essential for a successful children’s rights legislative reform process, especially in States where customary law plays an important role or where religious and community leaders are considered to be high (if not the highest) authorities.

Particularly in States applying customary and/or Islamic law, it is essential that religious and community leaders are consulted during the preparation and drafting process of children’s rights legislative reform. They should be given an opportunity to present their opinions and experiences and will provide valuable insights on how best to develop legislation that will be effective in the State’s particular context.

Religious and community leaders also have an important role in garnering the public’s support for children’s rights legislative reform.

They will also play a role in the implementation and enforcement of any legislation that is enacted at the local level.

E.g.: In Burkina Faso, the passing of the law against FGM was the result of a comprehensive process which included:

  • Aggressive consciousness‐raising campaigns in local populations about the harmful effect of this practice;
  • Research and surveys, which allowed for a better understanding of the root causes and scope of the problem;
  • Involvement and engagement of opinion‐leaders, decision‐makers and policymakers, as well as the media, in public discussions and debates;
  • Establishment of an institution to monitor implementation of the law, with a mandate to intervene in case of violations;
  • Formation of partnerships and coalitions to “Stop FGM”;
  • Strong determination to foster participation in drafting the domestic legislation;
  • Training of judges and other stakeholders;
  • Lobbying with community leaders.

These were the conditions that not only encouraged the adoption of the legislation against FGM, but also stimulated compliance with the law.

Source: Kambou, Gisele (2003).