Wed, 18 Oct 2000

National conference on children's welfare underway

JAKARTA (JP): The Indonesian Child Welfare Foundation (YKAI), in cooperation with several local and international non- governmental organizations, ministries and universities will hold a national conference on children's welfare here from Oct. 26 until Oct. 28, an official said on Tuesday.

Committee chairman Wagiono Sunarto said the event, the third to be held by the foundation since its establishment in 1979, will be opened by President Abdurrahman Wahid.

The first and second conferences were held in 1984 and 1989.

Wagiono, of YKAI, said this year's conference, entitled "Developing the Quality of Children of the Country toward the Establishment of New Indonesia", was aimed at inventorying the problems of Indonesian children and providing a solution.

"Children are the ones most affected by the economic crisis and conflicts in this country.

"But politicians rarely put children's welfare onto their political agendas," he said in a media conference.

Government, he added, did not have an institution or department that specifically handled children affairs.

"The conference is also aimed at developing a network within interested groups, and hopefully this conference can establish an institution that will be able to coordinate all parties," he said.

Wagiono said the conference would be divided into five workshops, each with a different theme. They are cultural revitalization; children's health, nutrition and education; special protection for children; mobilization of human resources; and children's participation.

Experts from the Ministry of National Education, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, non-governmental organizations and universities will participate in the event.

Participants will also include representatives from the United Nations International Children's Fund, the International Labor Organization, the Christian Children's Fund and Plan International.

"We will also have a special session that is fully organized by children to give them the opportunity to express themselves," Wagiono said.

Some 80 children, who will represent street children, students, refugees and disabled kids, will participate in the special session, he added.

YKAI has recorded a setback in Indonesian children's condition. Between 1997 and 1998, the rate of secondary school enrollment decreased by six percent, it said in a report.

Some 1.6 million children aged seven to 12 years old, and 4.8 million teenagers between 13 and 15 did not attend formal school during the period.

The foundation has recorded the number of child refugees at 200,000 to 300,000 from the total of some 900,000 refugees.

Indonesia is also registered as one of the countries that recruited children as soldiers in conflicts in Aceh and Maluku provinces. (09)