BY Constance Ndeleko
34th Ordinary Session of the ACERWC
Africa is the only continent with a region-specific child rights instrument. The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC) is an important tool for advancing children’s rights.
While building on the same basic principles as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the AU Children’s Charter highlights issues of special importance in the African context.
This year’s 13th pre-session and 34th ordinary session of the African Committee of experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child was held in Cairo, Egypt with different sets of delegations with representation from all regions of the African continent.
In attendance were child representatives from different countries who expressed their views on different thematic topics. Some topics were notably highlighted; children affected by armed conflict-recruitment of child soldiers, child forced labour, early child marriage, teenage pregnancy, child trafficking and the rate of child mental health care.
The children enunciated their perspective of the above vices; what they have witnessed, watched, heard and listened about and presented their recommendations on how we can make Africa safe and fit for its children.
They stated (children), ‘that we cannot talk about rights of the child if we the children don’t understand them. We cannot speak of specific days set out in the calendars for children if we don’t understand what they stand for, we shouldn’t be hearing it from other mediums, we should be the intermediate that disseminates and speak about real issues affecting us (children) and how we can create transformational goals to change the narrative and make Africa better and sustainable for its children.’
It is of importance to enhance awareness and sensitize our communities on children rights. As well as to make them visible within and beyond their boarders. Children need representation and they need to represent themselves at conferences that are made to support the well-being of the child.
They say, ‘when you include us towards decision making processes we will be a force of change towards finding actual solutions as we relate with what is affecting us on the ground.’
‘Yes, I am a child, I might not be undergoing all what other children are undergoing at the Refugee camps, affected by armed conflict-child soldiers, child labour, child trafficking and child pornography but I am at a better position to understand them and issues affecting them.’
‘We the youths and children are trendsetters and the force of change towards making Africa fit for the African child and we need the society out there to help us by instilling virtues and creating the base foundation for a holistic growth and development.’
We want Africa that is fit for all children regardless of their backgrounds, social status or their gender. We want Africa that is inclusive for all children and that which is supportive towards the well-being of the child.
It is our plea that we see more children included in child based conferences, activities as well as push all ACRWC member states to enhance children government where we can raise issues of concern and way forward towards helping the African child thrive.
As the charter turns 30 it is our hope that our recommendations are included and more children voices are represented in each state of the African Continent.