Humanitarian Action in Africa: Children’s Rights First

This morning, Women’s Institute for Leadership Development (WILD) conducted a radio program at Skyz Metro FM with young women who are keen on advancing children and young people’s rights in the community. Under discussion was the just ended celebration of Day of the African Child and how it impacts children’s access to fundamental rights.

Over the years, the Day of The African Child has been celebrated on the 16th of June every year since 1991 by all member states of African Union (AU), and its corresponding partners. The continent-wide event commemorates the spirit of the South African children who sparked the Soweto uprising of 1976 many of whom gave their lives.

On June 16, 1976, in Soweto South Africa, thousands of black school children marched in a column more than half a mile long to protest the low quality of education being offered to blacks and demanding their right to be taught in their own language. Hundreds of them were shot.

Nomqhele Siziba, an Executive Director at Youth Invest spoke of her role in advocating for children’s rights in the country, particularly in Victoria Falls.

“When we are advocating for children’s rights, it must never come from a position of arrogance,” said Siziba. “It should be a position of realising that if we don’t do anything about it, we are destroying our own future. We are responsible citizens and we want to ensure that if there are issues of child marriages and poverty, it is our right to advocate for such issues.”

Child marriages are one of the many injustices that exist within Zimbabwean communities, due to the high poverty.

“In remote areas, child marriages are still a reality that most individuals in towns find difficult to fathom,” added Siziba. “Offering children over to older men enables parents or guardians to take care of the rest of the family, particularly those who are of school going age.”

To mitigate against these ill social practices community dialogues with elders and village heads should be conducted.

“Community leaders cannot work in isolation when trying to solve the issue of child marriages. The government has a critical role of influencing policies such as the recently passed Amendment of the Marriage Bill 2017,” said Siziba.

Siziba added: “When a girl is married at a tender age, she is bound to be exposed to sexually transmitted infections or better yet run the risk of facing major complications during labour.”

Some children are exposed to Gender Based Violence (GBV), which impedes on their ability to fully enjoy their rights.

Skha Ngwenya, the Executive Director at Young Women’s Alliance brought in a cultural perspective to observing children’s rights, yet aligning it with International Standards.

Ngwenya stressed the need to introduce an office of a psychologist at every primary school so that children can have people to talk to, following the rise in cases of mental health disorders in society.

Source: Women’s Institute for Leadership Development (WILD)