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Background
Over the past decade, there has been an increasing discussion of ‘vulnerable children’ in the international development literature as the objective of development intervention parallel to the traditional concept of child agency. This is coupled with changing political-economic processes at global and local levels. In order to respond to these changes, and to address the effects of poverty, inequity and inequality on children's and women's rights, UNICEF Zimbabwe is increasingly working in public policy analysis and advocacy with governments and development partners to build support and political capital in favour of effective policies, laws and budgets that promote the rights and well being of children and women.

Conference objectives
The Conference – themed - ‘Towards a Child Sensitive Society in Africa’, seeks to explore the centrality of children in African contexts.  
•    It offers this multiplicity of child rights stakeholders an opportunity to revisit the thought-provoking Universalist and Cultural Relativist debates of childhood, with a view of finding common ground between the child rights principles and cultural norms still viewed at odds with each other.  
•    It provides a platform for interaction on the marginalisation of vulnerable children and the effectiveness of interventions which address child poverty and social exclusion.
•    It creates an opportunity for stakeholders to engage with the trending factors that increase the susceptibility of children to various forms of abuse, violence, neglect and       exploitation.
•    Time has been allocated for lively interactions between delegates through round table break away sessions and other activities to discuss the translation of child rights policy into practice.
•    In keeping with the right to be heard and taken seriously, this conference provides a rare platform for the children themselves to engage directly with all stakeholders on issues that affect them.
It is hoped that this conference will culminate in innovative and feasible approaches to child welfare in Africa, with measurable outputs, which may be integrated into government and private initiatives.

Sub-Themes
The papers will be presented in sessions based on the sub-themes below
•    Track 1 – Reconciling Child Rights and Culture
•    Track 2 – Social Inclusion, Poverty, Social Budgeting
•    Track 3 – Protecting our children from violence, exploitation and abuse

Children’s Plenary– “Listen to me and take me seriously”
The right to be heard extends to all actions and decisions that affect children’s lives – in the family, in school, in local communities, and at national political level. It applies both to issues that affect individual children and children as a constituency.  However, it is not sufficient to give children the right to be listened to. It is also important to take what they have to say seriously.
In keeping with this important child rights principle on the right of children to participate in matters that affect them, four children of diverse backgrounds and abilities will be given an opportunity to address and engage with the conference delegates in a plenary session wholly dedicated to them, to air their views on any of the areas covered in the sub - themes.  The selection of children will be done in a socially inclusive manner.

Break away sessions-
There will be break away session themed  “From policy to practice” intended to break the monotony of the plenary sessions and allow delegates to engage with each other in groups on issues raised in the track sessions. Particular focus will be on state performance in the following areas: alignment of national law; policy and interventions with international standards; the creation of institutional mechanisms for coordination, implementation and monitoring and evaluation of child rights policy; and in social budgeting for children.

Conference Structure
There will be keynote addresses, plenary sessions where experts in the child rights field will address the delegates; conference paper presentations and posters presentations (selected through the abstract reviewing process); and break-away sessions.  In keeping with this important child rights principle on the right of children to participate in matters that affect them, four children of diverse backgrounds and abilities will be given an opportunity to address and engage with the conference delegates in a plenary session wholly dedicated to them, to air their views on any of the areas covered in the sub - themes.

There will be a total of 4 guest speakers at the opening and closing ceremonies; 4 plenary presentations; 12 Conference papers; 4 child presentations.  There will also be 15 poster presentations derived from the selected submissions and a breakaway session where delegates will discuss in three groups the issues coming out of each of the track presentations.

 

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