The Day of The African child is envisioned to be a day that gives children an opportunity to express themselves and hold their governments accountable on the different issues affecting them. Based on this year’s theme “30 years after the adoption of the Charter: Accelerate implementation of agenda 2040 for an “Africa Fit for children”, there is need to engage children on what they think has been the progress in the implementation of the agenda 2040.
During the commemoration of the Day of The African child, children participation is the highlight of the day. Children articulate their views and present specific recommendations addressed to all stakeholders.
In the ten aspirations of agenda 2040, Aspiration 10 states that African children’s views matter and The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC) provides for child participation where the views of children matter and must be heard (article 4 (2) & (7). Article 4 (2) states that If children can voice their opinions, then those opinions should be heard and taken into consideration during legal and administrative proceedings and article 7 states that Every child who is capable of communicating his or her own views should be allowed to express his or her opinions freely.
The right to be heard and taken seriously enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child has unleashed an opportunity to radically transform the lives of all children. There has been significant progress over the past three decades in the law, policy and practice of many African countries towards children’s participation and what it means.
In the lead up to the day of the African child a survey was conducted for children on their views of the Agenda 2040 and the survey will strengthen the children voices on the Charter. The children gave their views on the ten aspirations as follows:
· Aspiration 1: The African Children’s Charter, as supervised by the African Children’s Committee, provides an effective continental framework for advancing children’s rights.
“Most children also know about the African charter on the rights and welfare of the child they learnt it from schools and children meetings. On this Aspiration children recommend that there is need for training on the charter and for it to be made in a child friendly version. They also want to be involved more in the work of the committee so that they can understand how the committee works in protecting them.”
· Aspiration 2: An effective child-friendly national legislative, policy and institutional framework is in place in all member States.
“Children agree that their governments have laws that protect them, they also agree that there are social workers and children officers at the community level as well as functioning toll free lines. However, they feel that more needs to be done in budget allocation to children services, with others feeling that their governments don’t give enough money for children services.”
· Aspiration 3: Every child’s birth and other vital statistics are registered.
“Although most of the children who responded to the survey have a birth certificate, the majority felt it is not easy to get a birth registration in their countries.”
· Aspiration 4: Every child survives and has a healthy childhood.
“On this Aspiration, children felt that it is not easy to get to hospital when they needed, they did have access to health information including that on sexual reproductive health, it is also not easy to access a balanced diet as well it not easy to access counseling at school and communities. However it is easy to access water.”
· Aspiration 5: Every child grows up well-nourished and with access to the basic necessities of life.
‘’On this Aspiration as children we feel that children with disabilities in our community are not supported by government with food, clothes and school, also we still have some of our friends living on the streets, Although most of our mothers go to the hospital to get babies, most of the babies in our community are not immunized.’’
· Aspiration 6: Every child benefits fully from quality education.
“We are taught about Africa in school, however not all children in our community are in school, more we don’t have equal number of girls and boys in school and not all of us have internet and computer.”
· Aspiration 7: Every child is protected against violence, exploitation, neglect and abuse.
“Children in our communities are still being violated and cases of FGM, Child marriage, breast ironing and we are still being exposed to pornography. Furthermore some of our friends are still working and don’t go school and we are still experiencing corporal punishment.”
· Aspiration 8: Children benefit from a child-sensitive criminal justice system.
“Our countries have plans on crime prevention on children and don’t take children below the age of 12 years in prison but children who are in conflict with law are still being put together with adults and a lot still needs to be done to protect and respond to the needs of children victims and witnesses.”
· Aspiration 9: Every child is free from the impact of armed conflicts and other disasters or emergency situations.
“While most of us don’t have conflict in our countries and we are not recruited as child soldiers, we feel that our governments are not doing enough to involve us to play a role in peace building and prevention of conflict as we are not being equipped with resilient skills to face disasters.”
· Aspiration 10: African children’s views matter.
“We are involved in developing laws and policy and have child participation forums in schools, we however feel that more needs to be done on this because we are not involved in budget making process and planning.”
By 2040 expectations of African children’s views matter:
● Child participation, based on the principles of representation, inclusion and accountability, is cultivated at all levels.
● Children participate meaningfully in law making and policy adoption in matters affecting their interests, and are involved in the oversight of their implementation.
● Dedicated processes for children’s participation are in place, such as a permanent and dedicated forum in the form of a child parliament, or ad hoc forum in the form of a child caucus aimed at bringing forward the voices of children in these processes.
● At school level, child participation and leadership are cultivated by involving children in school management, for example in advisory student/learner councils..
● Legal protection is in place affirming children’s rights to assemble, organize and access information and to express themselves freely.
● Children have the right to be consulted and heard in proceedings involving or affecting them.
● Children are involved in the monitoring and accountability process for this Agenda, the SDGs and the AU’s Agenda 2063.
African governments must empower children to speak out, to influence the matters that affect them, to learn that they can make a difference and to challenge violations of their rights. This will enhance the lives of children, strengthen communities, and contribute to the building of more transparent, open and accountable societies.
African governments must take urgent, sustainable legal, policy and administrative measures to ensure children have appropriate platforms to share their views, to consider their concerns in the policy practices and uphold their best interests in all socioeconomic development initiatives.
Additional information: Survey done by Plan International, Save the Children and CSO Forum
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