With its strong presence in promoting best practices in child justice administration, Advocacy for Child Justice (ACJ) has continued to be one of Zambia’s vibrant leading organization advocating for the rights and best interests of children in promoting social development and protection with a bias towards children who come into conflict with the law.
Since inception ACJ has been known of its great work of tackling issues from a child justice perspective and pushing for best practices through its Children’s Community Correctional Centres-Building Lives (CCC) in Chelstone which was launched in 2014 and further extended to the Copperbelt by opening ACJ legal Aid Desk (LAD) for children which continues to expand to other towns and provinces .The Centre and LAD programme provides rehabilitation and reformative programmes for child offenders through the diversion programme where referrals are received from the communities, police and the courts .The concept behind the CCC-Building Lives and LAD programme has continued to promote and champion restorative justice for children, providing safe spaces for children’s rehabilitation processes and to be a coordination link between the state actors such as Police, Social Welfare Department, Legal Aid Board, Zambia Prosecution Authority, Zambia Correctional Services and the Courts in the case management processes of the child justice system.
The CCC-Building Lives and LAD is consistently providing counseling, rehabilitation Case tracking and monitoring, facilitation of Bail and Police Bond for children who are at risk ,in contact or in conflict with the law, Life skills, recreation, court preparation.
The organisation has been running projects such as Maternal and Child Health in the Prison Systems of Zambia to help in creating a favorable policy and legal environment to ensure that Zambia is in line with the ratified treaties ,Child Protection and Participation to ensure access to quality legal help for children whose rights are being violated and promote social accountability and sustainability, Mutule Child Protection to contribute in ending child marriage,Sponsor a Child which helps in promoting and fundraising for the desired change of children’s education in vulnerable communities and the Clinic construction to help in cushioning government’s efforts in providing quality health to vulnerable communities through fundraising.
ACJ has successfully provided case management services to over 3,429 children who have reformed and making a change in the communities as some are still undergoing counseling and rehabilitation .ACJ has also trained over 450 key stakeholders in the Justice System who are helping in promoting best practices of child justice administration through meetings and workshops. ACJ has advocated and participated in the drafting process and part of the consortium of CSOs advocating for the enactment of the Child Code bill, Marriage bill, the operationalization of Children’s court as established by the current constitution, the integration of article 24 of the CRC into the Prisons Act, The use of non-custodial sentences of the mothers and establishment of separate structures for mothers in the correctional facilities, Legal aid representation, Speedy confirmations and the Plight of children jointly charged with adults through meetings with magistrates in pushing for Child friendly courts which has made policymakers realize their role in fulfilling child friendly justice system in Zambia.
It has also strengthened collaboration and networking among stakeholders in the justice system which has enhanced reporting mechanisms, fair trails, speedy confirmations and decongestion of holding cells at police and prison level.
ACJ has further made head ways in contributing to the elimination of Child Marriages and Prostitution prevailing rates were the counseling and rehabilitation of over 169 Children withdrawn from marriage and prostitution has motivated the girls to get back into school to build positive change as role models within their communities through the Ending Child Marriages campaigns, Community engagement meetings, Participation in international meetings like African Union Girls Summit which has helped in pushing for interventions and measures that have reduced the child marriages rates. ACJ has also continued to train children in assertive skills and over 240 children have been trained so far.
ACJ is currently fundraising for the building of a Teacher’s flat at Lukata Basic School and a Clinic in Chibombo District and has formed community structures that are helping in the construction process.
The organization has worked with partners such as Save the Children International (SCI), Danish Mission Council Development Department (DMCCD), Plan International Zambia and PATH Zambia among others. Through their continued support the organization has been able to promote child justice administration from local to international level.
ACJ ‘s future aspirations are to strengthen relationships with cooperating partners to develop income generating activities for vulnerable communities and award programmes that align within its programming through policy priorities and geographical focus. The organization will further continue to lobby for improvement in the existing legal framework, court systems, and budget allocation for programmes that are supportive to the protection and development of children through partnership and networking.
Lastly, ACJ is ready to push for legal documentation and dissemination of information on child’s justice standards in the promotion of administration as a basis for advocacy and programming as well as enhance the mitigation of impact on economic hardships among children who are vulnerable, those who come into conflict with the law to help in providing a conducive environment of positive change within communities.