Having children in our ChildFund programs participate in the Day of the African Child ceremonies at the African Union earlier this month was a shining moment. We asked Joan Ng’ang’a, communications officer for ChildFund Kenya, to post about the experience of traveling with the children from Kenya to Ethiopia.
Wednesday, 13 June
It is 11 a.m. when Jane and James meet for the first time. Discussing what they hope to get out of the trip, their respective projects, and the excitement of flying for the first time, both students are anxious to start their voyage.
One hour before check-in, Jane and James get their passports. They have waited a long time but it is worth it. We get to the airport at 4:20 p.m., check in and proceed to gate number 7 for boarding.
“You mean, they just jump off the ground,” James questions, as he watches a plane take off for the first time. We all laugh. Our flight takes off as scheduled at 6:20 p.m.
We land at Bole Airport in Ethiopia around 8:40 p.m. and are warmly greeted by Tenagne Mekonnen, ChildFund’s regional communications manager in Africa. It’s been nearly a year since our last meeting, so I am excited to see her and she is happy to finally meet Jane and James. After dinner, the children run off to recite their work. Everyone is in bed by 10 p.m.; it has been a long day.
Thursday 14 June
On Thursday, we rise with the sun around 6 a.m. We enjoy a good breakfast and meet the team from Gambia for introductions. We meet Abdulahi and Ramatoulie for the first time. Together, we ride to the U.N. complex in our van. We really like our van because it displays our countries’ names.
Today is the day that all the children, from Ethiopia, The Gambia and Kenya, will compete in a Q&A before the African Union. They will also be able to share their prepared art work. Both Jane and James read their poems. We conclude the day with a lunch and a visit to the Gambian embassy. It has been an exciting first day.
Friday 15 June
On Friday, by 7:30 a.m., we have all had breakfast and the children have dressed in their traditional attire. The fabrics and colors of their clothing display their rich African culture. They are proud to represent their countries.
On our way in, James sees the Kenyan flag and we take some pictures. I am truly humbled to finally arrive at the African Union, a place I had only read about over the last 10 years. We take even more photos!
Our sessions begin at 10 a.m. with opening remarks from the Commissioner of Social Affairs, followed by more speeches from the organizers and representatives from the government of Ethiopia and ChildFund International. Like celebrities, the children get interviewed by two radio stations. Someone from a local newspaper interviews James, as well. Before long, the children are treated to tea time. They really like the break and enjoy their cake and soda.
After lunch, we tour the University of Addis Ababa’s museum. There we absorb the history and culture of Ethiopia. We are all fascinated by the stuffed lion at the entrance of the museum. It looked so real!
Saturday 16 June
Today is the actual anniversary of the uprising in Soweto, South Africa, in 1976. But since it’s a weekend, the children are allowed to sleep until 7:30 a.m. After breakfast, we all head to the Arada community to visit a children’s art club. Abdulahi speaks on behalf of the group. He briefly recaps the last two days of our stay in Ethiopia and the children get to know each other. Split into four groups, the children break off to view and learn more about pieces of art posted in the club. Some of us learn a new word, today: Jambo – hello in Swahili.
Our van picks us up at 5:30 p.m. and takes us to the awards ceremony and closing reception at the African Union. A surprise to us, Tenagne brings ice cream! We arrive at the AU and meet ChildFund’s regional director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Jumbe Sebunya, with whom the children take photos. The highlight of the evening is the presenting of awards by ChildFund. We are excited when Jane wins first place in literature in the high school group and James wins first place in literature for the middle school group. We take more photos than ever at this event!
Monday 18 June
It is 8:15 a.m. and we have arrived at the airport. We depart from gate number 7 and before long, the plane lands in Nairobi. We are finally home. James and Jane meet with ChildFund Kenya National Director Victor Koyi for a debrief. They tell him about their exciting trip, yet we all express happiness to be home!
By Selamawit Yilma, ChildFund Ethiopia
Every June 16, the Day of the African Child, brings together representatives from African Union states, development organizations and other groups to discuss issues pertaining to the children of Africa. This year’s theme, “The Rights of Children with Disabilities: The Duty to Protect, Respect, Promote and Fulfill,” focuses on the unequal treatment of children with disabilities. We interviewed Hannan Endale, inclusive programming specialist, at ChildFund Ethiopia, who knows the challenges faced by those with disabilities due to her own impairment—blindness.
Would you please tell us your understanding of the Day of the African Child?
In my view, Day of the African Child is a very important event that needs widespread attention. By educating the public about the potential, rights and concerns of children, we have the chance to make the world a friendlier place for them to live. However, because the day is better known by child-focused organizations, there is a strong need to engage other governmental organizations and potential stakeholders.
How do you perceive the theme for this year?
This theme is timely, focusing on the right topic at the right time. We have seen a worldwide shift in the discussion of the rights of people with disabilities due to the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). The convention draws attention to the rights of children with disabilities in diverse arenas and recalls “obligations to that end undertaken by States.” Our country, Ethiopia, has been a state party to this convention since 2010. The 2012 theme for the Day of the African Child gives us the opportunity to develop our understanding about the rights of children with disabilities and to work for the improvement of the quality of their lives.
Would you address how to protect and support children with disabilities?
Children with disabilities are not enjoying the same privileges as their counterparts, nor are they receiving equal treatment. Neglect, abandonment and discrimination are among the injustices faced by disabled children.
Futhermore, there is a lack of commitment to increase their involvement in activities that may enhance their personal development. These children are also overlooked as valuable assets to the well-being of the community. For that reason, it is our responsibility to ensure that their rights are protected, respected and fulfilled while encouraging the government to bear the same duties.
If we truly have a child’s best interest in mind, we must not fail to include those children with disabilities. They deserve to have the opportunity to grow, develop and enjoy their childhood by exercising the same rights as everyone. Institutional, environmental and attitudinal barriers that hinder their full, equal and effective participation in society have to be removed. Most importantly, the children themselves have to be given the opportunity to participate actively in the development of policies that will affect them.
Could you explain how ChildFund is working in this area and how it plans to strengthen the support given to children with disabilities?
ChildFund, in partnership with Pact Ethiopia and Family Health International 360, is the technical lead organization in the Yekokeb Berhan Program for Highly Vulnerable Children—a program funded by USAID.
Yekokeb Berhan is committed to providing high-quality, age-appropriate, inclusive services for all children. In the program, we ensure that all excluded children are given the proper attention in every aspect of the project. ChildFund is playing a leading role in fulfilling this objective by initiating strategies to provide equitable access to services for individuals and groups, and specialized techniques that will foster participation of excluded individuals or groups within the Yekokeb Berhan Program.
How does it feel to work with these children and ChildFund?
Working with a program that has had this much impact in reducing the challenges faced by highly vulnerable children gives me great personal and professional satisfaction. It is my hope to see my fellow citizens lead a life free from discrimination and poverty.
As a person with a disability, I know, firsthand, what it means to live a life of segregation. And I know the feeling of being discriminated against and unaccepted because of one’s abilities. Having experienced those feelings, it is more than a pleasure to be part of ChildFund’s mission to support children with disabilities.
By Isam Ghanim, ChildFund Executive Vice President, Programs
As ChildFund prepares to celebrate the Day of the African Child on June 16, we recognize the sacrifice of the children who lost their lives in the uprising in Soweto, South Africa, in 1976. On that day, 10,000 students marched in protest of South Africa’s requirement that children be educated in English and Afrikaans rather than their native languages. Hundreds died and thousands were injured as security forces charged the peaceful demonstrators.
The Day of the African Child reminds us of a child’s right to use their voice to express aspirations, concerns and perspectives about their current situation and the future.
ChildFund applauds the African Union’s continued attention to children and encourage all governments and development circles to put children at the center of their policy and practice. Africa has made excellent strides to support the well-being of children, but significant effort is needed to sustain the gains and fill the gaps in access to health assistance, education and protection of children.
For more than 70 years, ChildFund has focused on the well-being of children. In cooperation with the ChildFund Alliance, we work in 59 countries and have succeeded in mobilizing billions of dollars in programs to support children. We see the celebration of the Day of the African Child as a chance to continue that support.
In collaboration with our partners and the African Union, ChildFund is bringing children from Angola, Kenya, The Gambia and Ethiopia to participate in events taking place June 14-16 in Addis Ababa. These children represent the millions of children and families in 11 countries receiving support from ChildFund in Africa. Their participation fills us with joy and reminds us of our responsibility to all children.
The theme of this year’s Day of the African Child—“The Rights of Children with Disabilities: The Duty to Protect, Respect, Promote and Fulfill”—is also an important focus for ChildFund. We have worked hard for many years to support environments conducive for children with disabilities. Our goal is to assist in all children’s healthy transition from infancy to childhood and beyond. ChildFund believes that being disabled cannot and shall not be a barrier to success in life, and we are committed to promoting, respecting and protecting children’s rights across Africa and the world at large.
Guest post by Dr. Gilchrist Lokoel , ChildFund alumni
Gilchrist Lokoel is a physician in the Turkana district of Kenya.
They say that if you want to know how a society is doing, look at the way it treats its mothers and children.
My experience in giving back to society began in university, where I was the chairman of the Medical Students Association of Moi University Medical School. We took free medical camps to disadvantaged communities in Mt. Elgon, Turkana (my home area) and Pokot. We also visited and had medical camps for inmates at prisons on a yearly basis.
Later as an intern in Mombasa, my colleagues and I managed to put in a lot of hours day and night trying to save the lives of mothers and children, especially during the post-election violence that rocked Kenya in 2007-2008.
Now, upon qualification, I deliberately chose a transfer to Turkana (my home area), which my superiors found very odd as it was considered a hardship area. Upon arriving, I discovered all the doctors had resigned as there were no prospects for a young doctor to prosper in this difficult and remote area. So, I worked alone as the only medical officer for three months before the government sent three more doctors. It was during this time that I was attending to all patients — maternity and general surgery, accident victims and gunshot victims arising out of the inter-ethnic conflicts.
I worked day and night with minimal motivation and resources. It’s the spirit of helping others that has kept the fire burning.
Two months later, I was promoted to District Medical Officer of Health. During my two-year tenure, immunization coverage rose from 47.3 percent to 58.3 percent. Malnutrition dropped from 22 percent to 16 percent. We increased outreach to hard-to-reach areas, offering medical services to the nomads. Medical camps were introduced on a quarterly basis to save the lives of the poor. We renovated a pediatric ward with modern equipment. And we increased disaster preparedness and response, especially for preventable illnesses like polio and measles
The Day of the African child is a day to challenge all of us to hear the plea of African children to live and be who they want to be in future. It’s a day to give children a second chance to reach their full potential and contribute to their nation.
After all, ChildFund gave me the opportunity to be who I am today.
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.