By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer
As usual, July 4 is the United States’ Independence Day, but this year, it’s also Zambia’s Heroes Day, which falls on the first Monday of July. Many countries celebrate holidays dedicated to heroes, whether military, political or humanitarian. Who are your heroes? They may be people you’ve never met or someone you’re related to. Maybe you have multiple heroes.
At ChildFund, we hear from time to time about children and adults who take stands for someone else’s rights — a person who needs protection or could use extra support as he or she fights for what is right. It can be a lonely and scary feeling to be a hero, but we are thankful for people doing what they can to improve the world, despite personal risk.
In honor of Heroes Day in Zambia, please watch Jake Lyell’s video about Patricia, who was married at age 15. She is a hero in my eyes, and so are the people who helped her escape her marriage, which had already led to abuse and the end of her formal education. Questioning long-held traditions and creating awareness of early marriage’s harmful effects are bold stands in Zambia and many other countries. We need heroes willing to speak out for the rights of girls and women.
By Tenagne Mekonnen, ChildFund Africa Regional Communications Manager
Jumbe Sebunya, ChildFund’s regional director for east and southern Africa, recently reflected on ChildFund’s commitment to children’s rights and the Day of the African Child, celebrated annually on June 16.
What are ChildFund’s current strategies in Africa?
We currently work in 11 African countries, reaching a total of 8.5 million children and families. ChildFund focuses on engaging children, families and communities in an effort to improve outcomes for children both at the micro level within their immediate communities but also on a macro level, within their countries and regions. Thus, our approach is two-pronged: hands-on at the community level, and also at national and regional levels in terms of policy advocacy efforts on children’s issues.
We have had good success with a number of our program strategies, such as ChildFund’s work on early childhood development (ECD), which focuses on parent-child-community relationships that are central in creating a healthy beginning for a child. Through ECD programs, we are able to ensure that the first experiences of a child begin with an informed ECD caregiver and a supportive community. We have seen that such an environment has a lifelong impact on the children’s development and success in life.
The Day of African Child is one of the main events celebrated in Africa. How is the event helping promote the rights of children in Africa?
The event should remind us all of our duty as citizens of Africa and its friends to promote the rights of the child on this continent. It does indeed commemorate children rising up against [South Africa’s] apartheid government that was bent on denying children their equal rights to education, health, etc. In Africa today, there has been some progress achieved for children in education, gender equity, HIV and AIDS and other areas. However, with children making up a significant portion of our populations (in some countries more than 50 percent), governments, civil society organizations and other key development partners have to keep children’s well-being and rights central to any and all sustainable development efforts on the continent.
How are you planning to celebrate the Day of the African Child, and what will that mean to the children you serve?
In Ethiopia, we are joining with the African Union Commission and others to organize a forum that will highlight African achievements and the plight of children in the continent. We are also bringing children from other countries where ChildFund works to share their stories and have their voices heard on issues affecting children in Africa. We are also participating in various events within countries in which we operate.
The theme this year is “Eliminating Harmful and Social Practices Against Children: Our Responsibility.” What is ChildFund doing along these lines?
In almost all the countries where ChildFund operates, children experience some form of physical violence before the age of 8! This is unacceptable, and in a number of countries ChildFund works with children, families, local communities, as well as governments, to address harmful social practices as well as violence and exploitation against children.
What are your expectations as you join other organizations and the African Union to celebrate the Day of the African Child?
I have many expectations for the Day of the African Child, especially to urge all African citizens and governments in renewing our commitments: To significantly reduce the number of children that are subjected to sexual violence and abuse of any form; to reduce the number of children living outside family care; to end harmful social practices against children like early marriage and genital mutilation; to eliminate any form of child labor on the continent; and to support birth registration for all children without discrimination in Africa.
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the African Union, ChildFund, Save the Children, Plan International and the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) gathered last week to focus on the future of children across Africa. The meeting culminated with the drafting of an open letter to the chairperson of the African Union Commission, urging renewed support for the rights of children, who will become tomorrow’s leaders. We wanted to also share that letter with you.
23 May 2013
Her Excellency, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma
Chairperson of the African Union Commission
As civil society organisations working to secure a better future for children in Africa, we would like to congratulate the OAU/AU on its 50th anniversary. We would particularly like to commend the great strides that have been made for children in Africa over the last 50 years, including improved primary school enrolment, impressive reductions in child mortality and increased access to essential maternal and child health services, and the establishment of mechanisms to protect and promote children’s rights set forth in the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
However, despite this progress, much remains to be done to ensure every child grows up healthy, well-educated and able to enjoy the full rights to which they are entitled. Ensuring we maintain and increase the gains we have made for children will require political leadership, strengthening of institutions and targeted investment. It will take concerted effort from us all – governments, regional bodies, business, international partners and the civil society.
We believe the 50th anniversary of the AU and the 21st Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union represent important opportunities to place children at the centre of Africa’s vision for the next 50 years, through reflecting their needs and interests in the African Common Position on Post-2015 Development Agenda.
We urge Your Excellency to use your Chairmanship to encourage and influence African Governments to:
1. Meet the commitments they have made to children under the regional and international child rights instruments and relevant declarations such as the Dakar Declaration and the Abuja target to allocate 9% of their GDP to education and 15% of their national budgets to health, respectively.
2. Address with the same commitment and vigour the issues of violence and exploitation against children, with clear and measurable targets for protection.
3. Honour their reporting obligations as Member States to the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child
Investing in children and putting their rights and best interests at the centre of Africa’s development will not only help ensure that every child grows up to meet their full potential, but it is also a viable economic strategy to drive and accelerate Africa’s economic growth.
Today, Africa’s prospects are bright with booming economies, a burgeoning middle class and a youthful population. It is now feasible to imagine that in the coming decades no child in Africa will die from preventable causes, every child will go to school and learn, every child will have adequate protection from violence and exploitation and we will break the intergenerational poverty from the continent.
The African Union has demonstrated its commitment to children on many occasions. Under your leadership, we remain committed to working with you and the African Union Commission to ensure that children are at the heart of Africa’s renaissance.
Save the Children
African Child Policy Forum (APCF)
By Tenagne Mekonnen, ChildFund Africa Regional Communications Manager
The 50th anniversary of the Organization of Africa Unity is being celebrated this week in Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia.
The official anniversary on May 25 marks a significant milestone in the journey of Africans since the OAU charter was signed in 1963 by representatives of 32 governments. The aim was to promote the unity and solidarity of the African states and achieve a better life for Africa’s people. South Africa became the 53rd member in 1994, and in 2002, the OAU’s successor, the African Union, was formed.
Anniversary celebrations will draw on African narratives of the past and present, while looking to the future. The anniversary is expected to motivate and energize denizens across the African continent to accelerate a forward-looking Pan-African agenda and a 21st-century renaissance.
Against this historical backdrop, ChildFund International’s Africa regional office, Save the Children, Plan International and the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Children are staging a one-day conference to shine the spotlight on Africa’s children.
Today’s event, “Children’s Rights in Africa 50 Years of the OAU/AU” reflects on challenges and progress during the past five decades, while seeking even greater protection and promotion of children’s rights by leaders across Africa in the future.
Reporting by Tenagne Mekonnen, Africa Regional Communications Manager
The Day of the African Child, marked each year on June 16, stems from the brutality and cruelty inflicted on children in Soweto, South Africa, in 1976 during apartheid.
Thousands of black schoolchildren went to the street to protest the inferior quality of their education and to demand their right to be taught in their own language. Hundreds of young boys and girls were shot down, and in the two weeks of protest that followed, more than 100 were killed and more than 1,000 injured.
Each year, schoolchildren across Africa honor the memory of those killed and the courage of all who marched. This year, children in ChildFund’s Ethiopian programs share a song and their artwork to commemorate the day.
by Meseret, 13, and Jerusalem, 12
Listen now, listen now
We children we know
We deserve the love of mothers and fathers
We need to be free of child abusers
We know, we know
Child abuse is not right
We have education right
Parents and communities
We children have rights
We are tomorrow’s doctors and leaders
Be gender sensitive
Beating and insult is not good for us
Advise us and guide and grow us
To help us be good citizens
Yabsra, 14, Grade 8
On my art, I have tried to show a child who has opportunity to go to school and another street child who is crying there. At the same time, I tried to show the student who went to school greeted the [street child] and another child, being carried by his mom, waved his hand to this boy. There is also a teacher who is calling the street boy to join the school. The message I want to pass on is that everybody, regardless of age, should give love and respect to children and take care of them. I have tried to teach the community to support orphaned and street children as they are their own.
Kuribachew, 12, Grade 6
I have tried to express my feeling on my art. We need to take care of orphan children. I tried to show how children receive educational materials and uniforms for their school needs. This is to teach the community to continue their support.
by Vuong Tuyet Nhung, ChildFund Vietnam
At the national children’s forum held in late August in Hanoi, the focus was on helping children who are the victims of bad treatment, abuse, violence, exploitation, neglect and trafficking.
Eighty-five children from 12 Vietnamese provinces attended the event. The vice-minister of the Vietnamese Ministry of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA) served as chair. ChildFund Vietnam worked with local government agencies in Hoa Binh and Bac Kan to select six children and two adult facilitators from our program sites to represent each province.
Prior to the main workshop, our staff conducted an overview training on child protection to help the children become more familiar with issues like child trafficking, bullying and corporal punishment, as well as the abuse types and trafficking situations that exist in Vietnam and the world.
During the workshop, children had intensive peer discussions about human trafficking, abuse and violence in their areas, identifying reasons and proposing solutions. They also had direct dialogues with MOLISA and the Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative Against Trafficking (COMMIT) leaders to raise questions about these issues.
On behalf of their localities, the children also delivered powerful messages urging Vietnamese and Mekong regional leaders to combat human trafficking.
Among their calls to action:
Nguyen Hai Huu, director of Vietnam’s child-protection bureau, complimented the children’s confident presentations and communication skills. “Their messages amazed me much, with remarkable initiatives reflecting factual states in different areas,” he said.
“I’m so proud and happy to join in such a big event like this,” exclaimed Diem, a 14- year-old girl from the Bach Thong district. “As the leader of Bac Kan group, I encouraged all members in my group to contribute ideas in discussions.” She noted that the workshop helped her gain knowledge of children’s rights, child violence and trafficking. She also sharpened her teamwork and communication skills by working with children from other provinces.
“Now I have a better ability of defining violence cases around me. Before coming here, I thought it is nothing special if classmates beat each other or parents abused their children,” she said.
Five children who attended the August workshop in Hanoi will be representing Vietnam at the Mekong Youth Forum on human trafficking in Bangkok, Thailand, later this month.