Today we celebrate the Day of the African Child. Do you ever remember hearing about it when we were growing up? Or were we too busy doing what sixteen year olds ought to be doing?
I don’t know what this day means for African children today but I can imagine that there have been many strides made to realise their rights. In our day “rights” was not a word heard we heard often. It was simple.You did as you were told period. Would you even dare utter “rights” to your parents? Remember when I got pregnant? What was seen then as a tradition (sending me to live with my unborn baby’s father), would in 2020 constitute a forced marriage. If I had been forced into marriage in 2020 I would probably be writing you a different letter. Maybe part of it would have read as follows:
“It has been a difficult few months adjusting to my new role as a married woman, well a married child really. If only I could turn back the hands of time I would be at school with my friends right now. Oh what I would give to be able to play again – if only for a few minutes, but married women don’t play or so I have been told. I have been cautioned several times to abandon my childish ways and behave like a grown woman. Dear Kochiwe, have I ceased to be a child because I was forced into marrying Leon? I went to sleep as a child and when I woke up I was a woman – a married woman. The welfare of seven people is now my concern. One day I was worrying about mathematics and History homework and a day later the burden of feeding seven family members was placed on my shoulders.”
As a generation that lived just before the rights hype hit Africa (in the practical and not theoretical sense), we have a responsibility to pass on knowledge. My take is that a right is not a right until it is accompanied with responsibilities. Rights cannot simply be dished out to an irresponsible generation, that way we create a culture of entitlement.
Source: Rhetoric Africa, via email