African Children call for more inclusion in development programmes
As the sun peeked over the horizon in Lilongwe, Malawi there was excitement as scores of children were abuzz with activity preparing to take part in a solidarity march to mark the Day of the African Child, June 16, 2018.
The ground was pulsating with energy as children sung songs and recited poems and solidary chants as they marched towards Bingu International Conference Center (BICC) for the celebrations. Africa was set to commemorate her children, and the children themselves were geared to show the world that this was their day. The continental celebrations drew children from across Malawi, Gambia and Ethiopia.
The Day of the African Child champions the protection and rights of African Children. This year the focus is to ‘Leave No Child Behind for Africa’s Development,’ a theme inspired around the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs put emphasis on targeting those left furthest behind first. Children account for half of Africa’s population, so they must be prioritised, empowered and given a say, if development is to benefit all.
The children were singing, carrying placards, balloons and banners into the BICC compound: “We are children, we just need to live right and in peace. Stop all the killing. Stop all the fighting. Stop all the malice, give us what we need to grow up well,” children sang in unison as they marched, what a beautiful scene it was to watch.
The highlight of the event was the intergenerational dialogue where the children asked questions to a panel of delegates from the government, international NGOs and the UN. Confident and articulate, the children wanted to find out why they are not consulted in budgets, why people who perpetrate child marriage are either given very short sentences or not convicted, why children with albinism are so afraid to live in their own countries and why much more concentration is given to girls when boys have problems too.
The panelists took turns to assure the children that boys are also important and deserve care and protection. However, girls are much more vulnerable because cultures and traditions have exposed them to abuse, exploitation and neglect.
On children with albinism, the panelists assured the children that they are working together and doing all they can to ensure every child has a right to live freely regardless of who they are or where they live or what they look like.
In their communique presented to the audience by Victoria Ganamba, speaker of the Mwanza Children’s Parliament, an initiative by Save the Children Child Rights Governance project in partnership with the government, the children demanded to be put at the center of development if an ‘Africa Fit for Children’ is to be achieved.
“We have schools, but inadequate learning and teaching materials and inadequate qualified teachers. Our brothers and sisters with disabilities are discriminated in education, health and social life, some of our sisters and friends who are still children are being forced into early child marriages”read the statement.
It was highlighted that many children are living in the streets without protection that and corruption in social protection programmes (such as cash transfers, farm subsidies and bursary schemes) is widespread.
The children called for:
- Provision of enough teaching and learning materials and infrastructure;
- More resources for and full implementation of inclusive education policies;
- Holistic programmes for the care, protection and wellbeing of orphans, vulnerable and street children;
- Harsh punishment for parents who force their children to get married and for perpetrators of all forms of violence against children;
- Implementation of programmes that empower young girls to say to say NO to early marriages;
- Strong measures to deal with corrupt officers regardless of their position or who they are in society;
- Free secondary education;
- Improved welfare of teachers so that they can be confident, faithful and love their jobs;
- Sexual Reproductive Health services accessible, available and acceptable.
The chairperson for the Africa Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child-ACERWC, Goitseone Nanike Nkwe, while congratulating Malawi for amending the constitution to raise the age of the child to 18 years (to comply with article 2 of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child), called on the Malawi government to complete the process of harmonization of the pending 27 legal provisions in the national legal framework in a reasonable timeframe.
“These successes should not make us lose sight of the remaining challenges faced by children in Malawi and in Africa in general. As we endeavor to leave no child behind, we should give particular attention to the situation of the marginalized children in rural areas, children with albinism and the girl child” said the ACERWC chairperson.
The day of the African Child was adopted on 11 July 1990. It commemorates the bravery of the youth who lost their lives through massacre against the Apartheid government in 1976. The Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the then OAU (now African Union) set a side 16th June as the Day of the African Child.