12 August 2023
Today we celebrate International Youth Day, established by the United Nations to recognize the leaders of the next generation and emphasize the integral role youth can play in creating their own future. This is a cause near and dear to our hearts at IBJ, and we are excited to participate in this global celebration.
While today we honor the success and power of our generation, we must also remember the one million children currently suffering in prisons around the world. These children are often detained and tried as adults, imprisoned for years on end without ever seeing a judge, and subjected to unthinkable brutality at the hands of broken juvenile justice systems.
To fight for the rights of our vulnerable brothers and sisters, the IBJ Youth Charter Initiative is committed to building a global community who support and give a voice to these children.
The Youth Justice Charter, a movement which seeks to spread awareness about their plight, is the first youth led global campaign dedicated solely to the rights of juvenile prisoners. We hope that the Charter, which is available on our website, will be signed by every global citizen as a pledge to uphold its commitments and participate in the fight. We hope you will take the time to add your signature and join our movement.
In the spirit of recognizing the incredible youth leaders already dedicated to reforming their justice systems, we conducted our first ever Youth Charter Competition earlier this year. The winners, our Youth Charter Defenders, have been awarded grants to implement innovative projects to aid children in conflict with the law. Some examples of promising Defenders are Syria’s Alaa, who is building the first Juvenile Court in her village, Democratic Republic of Congo’s Eric Makala, who is committed to providing free legal aid to convicted child soldiers, and Burundi’s Anna Bella, who is using her background as a journalist to raise human rights awareness and inspire change for her country’s juvenile incarceration system.
Currently, we aim to raise 50’000 USD to fund dozens of these innovative projects around the world.
So today, in honor of International Youth Day, we are proud to introduce to you the inaugural class of Youth Charter Defenders below.
Join the movement, protect youth around the world, and help to carry out the mission of the Youth Justice Charter, we invite you to stand in solidarity with our Youth Charter Defenders.
Together, we can enact change in the name of a better future for all.
With hope and gratitude,
Founder, Youth Charter Initiative
Jean Claude Barakamfitiye
Africa Regional Juvenile Justice and Youth Coordinator
Anne Bella Irakoze “Synergy of Skills for the Protection of Children in Conflict with the Law”,
Burundi, Youth Justice Charter Article 1
Anne-Bella, a 22-year-old student and journalist, has crafted a novel approach to tackle the problem of children in prison in Burundi. The project involves 3 key actors visiting the prisons with incarcerated children – a family member, a lawyer, and a journalist. By having family members actively involved, the project ensures the emotional support these children need. The inclusion of lawyers guarantees prompt and effective legal assistance, providing the children with a fighting chance for justice. Finally, journalists play a crucial role by bringing these stories into the public domain and creating awareness. Together, these three pillars form the basis of Anne-Bella’s innovative approach to protecting and empowering Burundi’s imprisoned children. Through this synergy of roles, the initiative expects to provide at least 15 children with crucial legal aid. Anticipated outcomes include a substantial improvement in 50% of these cases and the eventual liberation of at least 7 children.
Faith Buntu “Empowering Incarcerated Minors through Psychosocial Reintegration”, Burundi, Youth Justice Charter Articles 8 and 10
Burundi’s population is heavily skewed towards youth. This is why Faith feels encouraged to support them. With her project, 10 incarcerated minors will benefit from psychosocial care and 5 incarcerated minors will be able to see their parents once a month. Additionally, 10 minors will acquire professional skills or receive education in trades, like sewing, enabling them to reintegrate into society and the economy. Faith’s project specifically addresses Articles 8 and 10 of the Youth Charter, providing children in prison with access to family, psychological and social resources, and support upon release. She hopes to work with members of the target children’s home churches in this project, and form partnerships with local psychologists and religious leaders to ensure that children get access to these services.
Christine Mutoni “Social Media Youth Advocacy”, Rwanda, Youth Justice Charter Articles 1 and 2
Christine Mutoni, a law graduate in Rwanda, proposes this project to improve access to justice for youth in Rwanda regarding social media usage. She aims to educate and create awareness among youth about the laws, crimes, and penalties related to social media. By engaging with youth on platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok, the project will share information, real-life case examples, and documentation to help youth understand their rights and limitations. The project relates to Articles 1 and 2 of the Youth Charter by addressing the discrimination in accessing legal information online and empowering youth to understand their rights in social media-related crimes. Additionally, it will encourage collaboration between various groups. From law enforcement and government bodies to academic institutions and civil society groups.
Bernard Baingana “Protecting Children from Adultification by the Law”, Rwanda, Youth Justice Charter Articles 7 and 10
Bernard, a motivated law graduate and legal officer at Rwanda Bridges to Justice, leads this project with a specific focus on the Southern Province of Rwanda. Bernard aims to address the pressing issue of treating children as adults within the criminal justice system by raising awareness, developing informational materials, organizing public seminars and workshops, and collaborating with media outlets. Additionally, Bernard seeks to improve access to justice for youth by advocating for comprehensive reforms, enhancing capacity building and training for law enforcement officials, and promoting rehabilitation and reintegration programs. He intends to foster community involvement and create a moot court competition on juvenile justice to further engage stakeholders.
Bagirinka Zuhla “Juvenile Centered Justice”, Rwanda, Youth Justice Charter Article 1
Bagirinka, a passionate Rwandan law student, proposes this project to improve access to justice for juveniles in Rwanda, with a specific focus on the South Province (Huye District) and Kigali City. The project aims to raise awareness about juvenile justice and Miranda Rights, provide legal representation and advice, train youth advocates, monitor police stations, establish youth paralegals, and conduct legal clinics exclusively for juvenile cases. The project aligns with the provisions outlined in Rwandan child protection laws and seeks to promote fair trials and adherence to the rule of law for juveniles. To ensure the success of this project, Bagirinka plans to draft concept notes, seek partnerships with licensed institutions, assign trained UR-LSA members to monitor police stations, and collaborate closely with Rwanda Bridges to Justice for legal services. He will also provide incentives and recognition to volunteers for their hard work.
Dorcas Shabani “Naki Hika Piya”, DR Congo, Youth Justice Charter Articles 7 and 10
As a lawyer and women’s rights activist in the DR Congo, Dorcas is familiar with the struggles women face in the local criminal justice system. Young girls in prison are exposed to diseases, they do not have access to water or menstrual products, some are pregnant or have children, and others are victims of inhumane treatment by the guards. This project will intervene in order to help these girls to be treated appropriately and protect their rights during the investigation of their case or during detention. Not only will these girls benefit from legal assistance, in particular, the free assistance of a lawyer during all legal proceedings, but they will also receive assistance with a Dignity Kit during their detention, which will contribute to their hygiene and health. Upon their release, the project will also provide for their family reintegration and their psychosocial support with the help of a social worker and a psychologist.
Noé Bujiriri “Legal Support for War Displaced Children”, DR Congo, Articles 1 and 8
Noé, a law graduate and 2021-2022 Laureate Champion of Justice for Minors aims to provide legal support for war-displaced children in conflict with the law. Noé plans to set up a toll-free number to receive alerts on cases involving Children in Conflict with the Law and create a task force to share the alert information between protection actors, provide free legal assistance to Children in Conflict with the Law, and organize advocacy and sensitize community leaders to offer these children rapid legal and psychosocial support. To achieve this, there will be judicial support for at least 30 cases and Noé will establish a network of stakeholders through the task force.
Eric Makala “Sheriya Sawa Wote”, DR Congo, Youth Justice Charter Articles 1, 7 and 8
Eric is a young lawyer and activist in the DR Congo. His “Fair justice for all” project aims to promote the fundamental rights and freedoms of all children as guaranteed by the constitution of DR Congo, various international charters and treaties, and the Congolese family code without distinction of race, sex, and social level. This project will allow all vulnerable children to have easy access to be assisted or pleaded by a legal defender for free. During the execution of this project, Eric will ensure the provision of services for children through the establishment of an office of legal defenders, giving accused children a space to seek legal help. He will also collaborate with different justice stakeholders who campaign for the well-being of children. These steps will likely achieve the release of some children in detention and improve the general living conditions of children in detention.
Noel Mbungu “Judicial Assistance for War Displaced Children”, DR Congo, Youth Justice Charter Articles 1, 3, 4 and 5
Since 1996, conflict in eastern DRC has led to approximately six million deaths. There has also been a dramatic increase in children placed in custody and rehabilitation facilities who do not have access to lawyers or legal advocates. Kanyarutshinya is one of the largest camps for displaced persons in the DRC – located in the eastern region of the country. To help these children, Noel is leading a judicial assistance project in Kanyarutshinya. He will establish a permanent service of lawyers dedicated to the legal protection of displaced children. He will also provide psychological support through the organization of a play area.
Floribert Nasekwa – “Training for the protection of youth rights” DR Congo, Youth Justice Charter, all articles
Floribert, a university student in DR Congo, aims to eradicate arbitrary arrests and protect the rights of children and youth through training workshops, flyer distribution, and reports on the current status of incarcerated youth. The education of youth and members of the public through the workshops and flyers will contribute to the eradication of arbitrary arrests, and also help the Congolese government to build the rule of law and to protect human rights, especially those of children and young people. Floribert plans to include a wide range of volunteers, civil society members, and grassroots leaders in the training workshops.
Loveth Christiana Omerah – “Education as the Path to Justice” Nigeria, Youth Justice Charter Article 10
Loveth, a university student in Nigeria, aims to promote access to justice for children through the provision of educational materials related to child rights. She plans to produce and distribute 250 copies of a Small Human Rights handbook in two languages. Her project will appoint three teachers/trainees to educate students for 12 months. In addition to the guidance of these teachers, students will learn about juvenile rights through educational visits to police departments. Students will be incentivized to learn by certificates awarded in monthly evaluation tests. Finally, Loveth plans to increase engagement for her project through the creation and distribution of banners and T-shirts.
Michel Archange Irakoze, Judith Tumaini, Salvator Abumuremyi, and Marcelline Witonze “Counsel and Legal Aid in Burundi”, Burundi, Youth Justice Charter Article 1, 5 and 10
In 2020, IBJ awarded several young Burundian lawyers the funds to implement impactful projects in their communities. 4 of them have advanced to join Burundi Bar Association to create a change. Through their completed projects, they uncover a pressing need to break barriers and ensure fair access to justice for all. This group of lawyers hopes to serve the vulnerable by providing legal assistance to those who cannot afford a lawyer.
Alaa Husein “Save me, I’m not a Criminal”, Middle-East, Youth Justice Charter Article 4, 7 and 10
The ongoing conflict and subsequent displacement in North-West Syria have led to a grave injustice: children above the age of 10 are being prosecuted as adults and detained with them in prison. Alaa Husein, a passionate advocate for children’s rights, has taken the initiative to challenge this injustice in the region known as the Euphrates shield.
Her project, titled “Save me, I’m not a Criminal,” aims to lobby for the establishment of special courts for juveniles and the creation of corrective facilities within existing prisons, separate from adult areas. These corrective facilities would not only provide psychological care and family visitation rights but also promote education, professional training, and support hobbies. Alaa is working to transform the judicial treatment of children in Syria, emphasizing that they should not be stigmatized as criminals but provided with opportunities to grow and learn, securing the future of a free Syria.
Krishna Sharma “Children in Prisons in India”, India, Youth Justice Charter Article on legal representation, preventing article 4, 6 and 7
In India, a failure in the juvenile justice system has led to children being detained in prisons, an issue that is often neglected. Krishna Sharma, a dedicated lawyer with a passion for child rights, is tirelessly working to change this grim reality. Through his project, “Children in Prisons in India,” Krishna plans to conduct an evidence-based study on child detention across various states, raise awareness, and advocate with government stakeholders. The expected results include awareness-raising, the development of a handbook for stakeholders like the police, advocating for accountability, and pursuing strategic litigation in the Supreme Court of India.
Verma Nikunj “Digital and Physical Book Designed to Inform Children About Their Rights”, India, Youth Justice Charter Article on 4.
Children’s understanding of their rights can be hindered by complex language and the lack of engaging visual aids. Verma Nikunj, a 17-year-old passionate designer from India, is on a mission to make learning about rights an exciting experience for children in prison. Drawing from his love for art and graphic design, Verma has devised a project aligned with Article 4 of the Youth Charter to create a comic book, using vivid cartoons and relatable stories to elucidate various rights. Each tale will convey a moral that educates the children, making it an enjoyable and instructive read. Recognizing potential barriers such as language and disabilities, Verma plans to create versions of the book in native languages and offer audio recordings. With the support of educational and legal aid groups, he aims to bridge the gap between complex legal terms and children’s understanding, contributing to a more just society where young minds are informed and empowered.
Lae Lae Win, Sandar Linn, Yin Yin Htwe “Child Rights Advocacy Project for Legal Empowerment in Myanmar”, Myanmar, Youth Justice Charter Articles 1, 4, 8 and 10
Violations of Child Rights due to Myanmar’s tumultuous situation have created a pressing need for innovative approaches. In response to these needs, three committed law students, Lae Lae Win, Sandar Linn, and Yin Yin Htwe, are joining forces to address Child Rights violations in Myanmar. Their multi-faceted initiative includes awareness campaigns, focused group discussions, assessments of juvenile justice, and advocacy training. Despite potential challenges such as security risks and governmental cooperation, they are determined to create impactful and sustainable solutions. Through a strategic and innovative approach, the trio seeks to provide legal empowerment and awareness, contributing to a just society where children’s rights are respected and promoted in Myanmar.
Abigail A J Junginger “Legal Protection for Children in Conflict with the Law”, Indonesia, Youth Justice Charter Articles 1 and 4
Aimed at providing legal protection for children in conflict with the law in Indonesia, Abigail A J Junginger’s project focuses on collaboration with institutions such as the child protection commission, legal aid organizations, and youth communities in Jakarta. The initiative includes socialization activities targeting schools, children’s prisons, street children, and orphanages, covering legal counseling on child exploitation, juvenile detention, and children’s human rights. With specific targets of reaching 80 children across different environments, the project embodies a determined effort to empower children legally, ensuring their rights and dignity within society.