The Gambia has come a long way in safeguarding, guaranteeing and protecting the interests of children. This country is a signatory to the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the rights and welfare of the child. In 2005, an act was passed in the National Assembly which further domesticated these international instruments. The Children’s Act was a great achievement for the child rights movement.
However, the recent rape and impregnation of a Senegalese child of ten years is a caution against the temptation of complacency. It’s a reminder to us of our duty to reassess and work even harder to ensure the sacred rights of children, especially the girl-children, is guaranteed. Because it happened in the neighboring country, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening here. The recent case of a man allegedly raping his daughter and impregnating her in The Gambia here is one that comes to mind. Governance is a process that adapts to the calling of the times and embraces efforts to meet those challenges by reaffirming our commitments and renewing our efforts.
At the core of the problem to solve the myriad of issues surrounding the proper implementation of the rights of the child is the confusion and misunderstanding surrounding the rights themselves. There is the neo-traditional notion that child rights is a western idea that would only make our children morally corrupt .This is a fatally flawed argument which has no basis in the proper understanding and practice of culture and religion. African children are like any other children around the world and they need the reasonable protection accorded to children in other parts of the world. Many religious traditions have affirmed this a long time ago, for at the core of religion is the best interest of the human being.
There is a need to intensify the advocacy and government efforts to lessen, to the best of our ability, these violations which are rearing their ugly again. All stakeholders are called upon to give them their best support. Child rights activists cannot do it alone.
Moreover, communities need to realise that it’s a necessity to protect our young generations. It’s a duty laid upon the strong to protect the weak and not abuse or neglect them.
It’s a collective duty on us to recognise that every child has the right to a decent childhood; to be protected and cherished under the best possible conditions. And the starting point for all this is the family, for if the child is under threat in her own home; like the case of the father accused of raping her daughter, then even the state would find it difficult to protect such a child. But to stop such things from happening, the state needs to punish and bring to book the culprits, thus sending a clear message to all and sundry that child rights violations will not go unpunished.
A nation without a healthy and empowered young population will forever wallow in poverty, ignorance and underdevelopment. It has been said the young are the future but we shouldn’t forget they are the present too. That they are with us and need our protection and nurture if we are to herald and usher in a generation of active citizens, who will take the nation to higher levels in its drive towards development, progress and prosperity.]]>