As we celebrate the month of June in remembrance of the Day of the African Child (DAC) which falls on the 16th day of the month, we are celebrating achievements of the children’s rights in Africa as pinned by the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child under the theme, ‘Humanitarian Action in Africa: Children’s Rights First’ as commissioned by the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.
The events of 1976 Soweto student’s uprising in South Africa in the apartheid era, whereby students marched in protest of the poor education demanding to be taught in their own languages serves as a reminder that children’s rights continue to be trampled upon. Nevertheless, the children in South Africa sacrificed their lives for the freedom of everyone.
Sadly, such situations continue unabated nowadays. The Sudanese uprising could be reminiscent of that South African era whereby hundreds of protesters including students have been engaged in peaceful demonstrations since April with turn of events being the rising death toll by the day as hundreds have been slain by the Army and thrown into the Nile.
We at CANGO applaud the decision of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the then OAU who in 1991 declared June 16 as Day of an African Child, an event to be commemorated by all AU member states.
As Africa, we must stand together with and for children affected by life threatening situations of continued sectarian wars and the presence of terrorist organisations pushing children to find themselves armed with weapons and turned into child soldiers against their will.
The child who witnesses the killing of the parents, and on daily basis wishes that s/he could seek their mother’s counsel or hear their father’s laughter one more time; the child armed with weapons and turned into a soldier, itself a crime against humanity, according to international laws; over and above, children and women who are sexually abused during these conflicts are the one who have to live with the psychological scars and effects as they find themselves in such situations.
These conflicts, no matter their nature, have an impact on children’s rights which include but are not limited to the right to life; the right to live in a family environment; the right to health; the right to education; and the right to survival and development.
As we commemorate as a continent, we must draw it closer to home. We acknowledge that while the Kingdom of Eswatini is not ravaged by civil wars or armed conflict, the country has its fair share of crises affecting children either socially, politically or economically.
At policy level, the country has taken positive strides by enacting the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Act (2018) and the Child Protection and Welfare Act (2012) which both guarantee and safeguard the rights of all eMaSwati, especially children.
While having made this commendable progress, the war is half won as a lot still needs to be done in the implementation of regulations guiding these laws.
Children continue to be affected by high levels of poverty, gender-based violence, neglect, lack of access to basic services such as water, education, health and social protection, impacted by HIV/AIDS and many more social ills.
Parents relations and wellbeing of children and failure to make proper decisions to promote the welfare and rights of children have potential dangers undermining the rights and welfare of our children. We are cognisant with the conflicts at family level that have negative ramifications on children’s rights.
Children raised by violent parents and guardians are prone to emotional abuse and neglect. These leave deep-seething and lasting scars. Child abuse is not limited to bruises and broken bones, it goes further than that to ignoring their needs lack of supervision and other dangerous situations, making them feel worthless which result in serious emotional harm. This is the Eswatini’s child’s conflict.
The conflict is not only limited between individuals. Couples engulfed by their personal conflict and strive also account for high rates of child abuse. relationships also. Some of these parents may be physically or mentally unable to support and care for their children. At other times, the economic and domestic violence caused by alcohol and drug abuse impair the parent’s ability to safeguard children.
While there is an array of issues affecting children at family level, the country’s financial situation leaves the state of health and wellbeing of the child worse-off, and further exposes children to opportunistic preying others who violate children in exchange for a meal a day.
Therefore, we still hope for the provision of resourced institutions, personnel and programmes to support the comprehensive implementation of these legislations.
The attempts by government and development partners is well acknowledged. It gives us hope that the country will cover all communities across the four regions with access to justice for children, the rehabilitation of victims of abuse and the protection from harm.
As stakeholders, let us take a pledge to join hands towards expanding services and institutions for the African child.
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