The right of a child is worth fighting for

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 27 June 2016, 12:00AM

Another week another dollar, they say. 

And as we get down to business – with work or whatever your weekly routine is after taking some time off during the weekend – there is no doubt that there are so many issues we are faced with that demands our serious attention.

At a time when there is so much talk about rights and what have you, let me remind that among the most vulnerable members of the community whose rights are constantly violated are our children. We are referring to the children who are on the streets of Samoa at all hours of day and night. These children ave a right to protection, education and decent upbringing. 

Yet that’s not what we are seeing. 

Whether we agree or disagree about the existence of poverty in Samoa, the truth is undeniable. If the growing number of young people hawking goods on the streets of Apia and all over Samoa at all sorts of hours during day and night is not a sign of poverty, I don’t know what is.

As a community that cares, we cannot afford to ignore and allow the trend to continue as if it’s normal. 

Indeed, using young children, who should be in school, to attract the sympathy of passers by, who are then forced to buy something from them or give them money, should be discouraged by everyone.

We say this because the reality is that everyday in this country, we are seeing so many young children taking to the streets to beg – and sell - for whatever they could get their hands on, to help their families survive. 

In this newspaper, we believe that as a community, we should not allow this to continue. This is why as a newspaper; we have always been highlighting heart-breaking stories about these young people. 

Take the story 10-year-old Suliveta Suliveta we highlighted not so long ago. 

“My mum asks me to come and sell this stuff so that we can get money,” he said. “There are so many people in our household and we usually don’t have enough money and food.

“So the money I make every day and night, I give it all to my mom. I am now used to what I do, and I love it.”

Last year, we also featured a story about a five-year-old girl who sells hair clippers instead of going to school. That’s right, we are talking about a five-year-old girl. 

But these are just some of many who have barely made it out of the baby stages who are unashamedly pushed by their by parents at all hours of the day and night to beg on the streets of Samoa.

Take a drive down to McDonald’s at night or outside those nightclubs and you will see what we are talking about.

And that’s not all. Even during broad daylight when these children should be at school, there are many of them out there. 

Now, we are aware that sometimes desperation knows no end. We are also aware that in Samoa, some children are brought up on the notion that a child can be blessed beyond measure purely from listening and obeying the parents. 

With that in mind, some children have voluntarily decided to stay home, instead of getting an education, so they can hit the streets to make whatever they could to help their parents.

This is truly tragic. 

Let us remind here and now that it is the parents and caregivers’ responsibility to provide for these children. They should be given the opportunity to study and be nurtured until such a time when they can go out to find formal employment.

We talk about rights and this word is being thrown around so much for useless reasons.

But our children matter. And every child in Samoa should have the right to an education, quality health care, home, food, clothes and to be loved until such a time when they are old enough to make their own decisions.

Our children should be treasured as the gifts that they are supposed to be from God. 

This is a message we should be promoting. This is a fight worth taking up. 

When children are being forced to sell and beg from total strangers, putting their lives at risk at all hours of the day and night, as a responsible community, we shouldn’t just sit around. There should be outrage, there should be public condemnation of the systems and the people behind the systems which have led to this. Have a wonderful week Samoa, God bless!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 27 June 2016, 12:00AM

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