Today we celebrate the Day of the African Child.

‘The Day of the African Child has been celebrated on the 16th of June every year since 1991 as an honour to those who participated in the Soweto Uprising of June 16, 1976.’

The Soweto Uprising described a series of protests organized by high school students in South African as a result of the poor education quality and to demand the right to be taught in their own language. During the protest hundreds of students were shot and more than a hundred people killed.

Every 16th of June, key stakeholders meet to discuss the challenges and opportunities affecting the rights of children in Africa and celebrate the progress made so far.

The UN classified the rights outlined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child as the 3Ps: Provision, Protection and Participation.

Provision: ‘’Children have the right to an adequate standard of living, health care, education and services, and to play and recreation. These include a balanced diet, a warm bed to sleep in, and access to schooling.’’

Facts

  1. The reality in Africa is far from the norm.  According to a research conducted by Abaana, 20% of Africa’s children do not reach the age 6.  Lack of basic commodity such as food, medicine, shelter, safety and house has been a reality for decades and a result of Africa’s poor living condition. Toys are luxuries parents cannot afford. For this reason among others, many children are used during political unrest and in countries affected by war as child soldiers.
  2. In addition to the above, ‘’during 2010-2014, an estimated 8.3 million induced abortions occurred each year in Africa. This number represents an increase from 4.6 million annually during 1990-1994…’’ (Available online at https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/facts-abortion-africa)

 

a

 

Protection: ‘’Children have the right to protection from abuse, neglect, exploitation and discrimination. This includes the right to safe places for children to play; constructive child rearing behaviour, and acknowledgment of the evolving capacities of children.’’

Facts:

  1. ‘’40-47% of sexual assaults are perpetrated against girls age 15 and below.
  2. In SA in a children hospital age 15; 45% of children between 6 months and 15 years received medical treatment for sexual abuse.
  3. In a district in Uganda, 31% of school girls and 15% of boys reports having been sexually abused.
  4. In rural Malawi, 55% of adolescent girls report they were often forced to have sex.
  5. In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia an estimated 30% of prostitutes are girls ranging from 12-26 years of age. Similarly, forces marriage is 13.5 years for girls and 19.5% for boys.
  6. In Sudan, they estimate that 10 to 30% of girls die from female genital cutting’’ (more available at http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/publications/publications-a-z/457-sexual-abuse-and-violence-in-sub-saharan-africa)

 

Participation: ‘’Children have the right to participate in communities and have programs and services for themselves. This includes children's involvement in libraries and community programs, youth voice activities, and involving children as decision-makers.’’

Facts:

In Sub-Saharan Africa:

  1. ‘’More than 1 in 3 adults cannot read. 
  2. 182 million adults are unable to read and write.
  3. 48 million youths (ages 15-24) are illiterate.
  4. 22% of primary aged children are not in school.
  5. That makes 30 million primary aged children who are not in school.’’

           

                      There is still a lot of work to be done to ensure fulfilment of the Charter.

It is time that Africans take their destiny into their own hand as we do in times of calamities. In Kenya for example, after the 2007 elections, people stood and provided food and other commodities to the internally displaced. During the collapse of a building, the same scenario was repeated. Throughout Africa, people have united in times of needs by providing and exceeding what was required of them. We need to do the same to ensure the right of children are protected if not every day at least on the 16th of June every year.

The 3rd P in the Convention on the Rights of the Child: Participation- describes also how much control a parent exerts over their children and the extent of control determined by the parent versus the child’s need for independence.

A friend of mine who has a 10 years old son gave him the freedom to officially change his name to what he desired. When is too much, too much? Where is the line when it comes to giving our children freedom? It is true that by giving them freedom, we will be equipping them with new skills, build their self-esteem and empower them but where should we draw the line? How many African are actually aware of the existence of the Convention? I encourage us all to read and partner with local NGOs to fight for the rights of our children on this special day.

Happy African Child Day!