Speech by Margarida Botelho, membro do Secretariado do Comité Central, Rally «The Future has a Party. Freedom, Democracy, Socialism»

«A society that values the right to be a child, to grow up healthy and happy, has its eyes on the future and on a humanist and sovereign development project»

«A society that values the right to be a child, to grow up healthy and happy, has its eyes on the future and on a humanist and sovereign development project»

The greatest wealth of a country is its people. An educated and cultured people, solidary and sovereign, respected and with rights, is the decisive force to build a democratic and developed country.

Ensuring integral development for children, adolescents and young people is essential for a country that wants to have a future. Ensuring that they grow up healthy and happy, with curiosity and respect for the world around them, is everyone's right, regardless of their circumstances, but it is also a factor of development and emancipation for all.

In a world with so much inequality and injustice, where millions of children die of hunger, preventable diseases or war, doomed to child labour, racism, sexual abuse, refugee status, fighting for children's rights is imperative. The situation in Ukraine requires that all efforts be directed towards stopping the war, demanding a path of dialogue and peace, so that humanitarian support can be effective. From here we express our solidarity with all children in the world who suffer from war and poverty, and we renew our commitment to fight to guarantee them a planet of justice and peace.

The PCP looks with concern at the situation of the new generations in Portugal. Decades of a policy based on low wages, precariousness, degradation of public services, territorial disorder, difficulties in accessing housing, have given rise to a society of inequalities, with one of the lowest birth rates in the world and a high recourse to emigration.

Almost 23% of children and young people up to the age of 18 live at risk of poverty and social exclusion. For a child, poverty is more than the deprivation of material goods: it brings difficulties in accessing healthcare, education, culture, quality housing, healthy food, time with the family, it reproduces the lack of hope, jeopardises the development of every child and that of the country itself.

Despite the crocodile tears that always accompany the statements of successive governments and the European Union when they refer to children, the truth is that capitalism is not interested whether they grow up creative and critical, participatory and confident of their rights. It suffices that they know what is essential for work and exploitation, that they question and organise themselves as little as possible.

A society that values the right to be a child, to grow up healthy and happy, has its eyes on the future and on a humanist and sovereign development project.

When the PCP says, “Children and parents with rights, Portugal with a future”, it does so because it is the bearer of this project.

To have or not to have children is a personal decision, which is part of a life project. It was with the struggle of women and the contribution of the PCP, as early as 1982, that motherhood became a choice and not a fatality. Being a personal decision, motherhood and fatherhood have a social function. They are not a whim or a luxury. Families have an irreplaceable role in the growth of their children, but the State has its own responsibilities that it cannot discard.
Experiencing the growth of a child implies having a decent salary, a permanent labour tie, good conditions and stable working hours, access to housing, day care, school, health services, transport.

There is no fight against child poverty without increasing wages and fighting precariousness and unemployment. Even for families that are not statistically poor, the decision to have or not to have children is linked to stability, maternity and paternity rights, and the conditions that have to be guaranteed for children.

The deregulation of working hours, which affects most of the new generations of workers today, makes the life of those who have children a race against time, putting children to work hours as hellish as those of their parents, with more hours in the nursery, school and in front of screens, and fewer hours of play and sleep. A society that defends the rights of children reduces working hours to 35 hours, fights savage working times, leaves time to live.

Portugal needs free day care centres and a public network of day care centres that guarantee that all babies have access to quality equipment and that families are guaranteed a vacancy. It needs a valorised, close, motivating Public School. That the National Health Service guarantees a family doctor and nurse and that primary healthcare includes paediatricians, dentists, nutritionists and psychologists. That Social Security guarantees the universality of child allowances and social protection. That culture and sport is accessible to all.

Children need time, to play, to spend time with family and friends, to be outdoors. Playing is structuring in growth and is a right. A society that promotes children's rights does not force parents to work every weekend, shorten recess, or makes the street a danger. It gives them back public space and nature, guarantees them the right to participate.

It is true that the evolution of the last few decades has been remarkable. The April Revolution opened up to children and their families, especially women, new rights, equality in law, public services, health rates among the best in the world. With the struggle and the PCP's proposal, in the last two legislatures it was possible to guarantee free school textbooks and transport passes and start the process of free day care centres.

But the struggle for the rights of children and parents, for a Portugal with a future, demands more. It demands that workers exercise their rights in every workplace with the courage and determination that fighting for the happiness of their children gives. That those who work with children and young people demand conditions to exercise their profession well. That children and young people do not conform to injustices and fight. It demands an alternative policy, with solutions to the country's problems.

The PCP is aware of the reality and difficulties that Portugal is facing. But it does not give up on proposing and fighting for a policy that defends the rights of children, those of today and those to come.

Here we are, to open perspectives and give confidence in the fight for this project of the future.

In such a complex moment in national and international life, in which so many risks coexist with so many possibilities, building the happiness of the new generations is the most exciting and most dignified task we can undertake.

Long live peace!
Long live the JCP!
Long live the PCP!

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