According to the UN: “The purpose of the day is to acknowledge the pain suffered by children throughout the world who are the victims of physical, mental and emotional abuse. This day affirms the UN’s commitment to protect the rights of children.”
Looking at the realities on the ground on either side of the Atlantic, it doesn’t look any better for the world’s children. With over 250, 000 child soldiers as per the statistics last year, the violence and aggression towards the most vulnerable of the human family is increasing.
Palestine for example is one country under aggression and the children who are innocent bystanders continue to suffer, without no consideration from the Israeli forces. According to Remember These Children, a coalition of groups calling for an end to the killing of children and a fair resolution of the conflict, 129 Israeli children and 1,523 Palestinian children have been killed since September 29, 2000. Most of the children get killed when going about their normal activities such as going to school or playing.
The United Nations Rights of the Child, a document that was endorsed by almost all the countries of the world, heralded with its ratification an unflinching demand to make the world a child friendly place, and made it a requirement that the best interest of the child is guaranteed at all times. However with all these, we still find children being taken as soldiers, as labourers in cocoa and tobacco fields across the world. The irony of ratifying a human right document and not living up to its dictates is an awful reality the world continues to face.
African leaders went a step further in their commitment towards protecting the rights of the child by instituting the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. This charter is much closer to home, in its consideration of the socio-cultural landscape that define the parameters of African values and traditions. But how far have we come to the realisation of these rights? At a time when the African child continues to find herself in the many contentious issues of her unique society – from the problem of illiteracy to the much more aggressive issue of female genital mutilation (FGM). These are some of the many questions that we have to deal with on a daily basis, coupled with an intense debate over issues that apparently goes against our cultures and traditions.
At a national level, The Gambia has come a long way in ensuring the child is safe and protected and that her best interests are guarded and guaranteed. This country is 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 which further domesticated these international instruments. The Children’s Act, 2005, was a great achievement for the child rights movement and it is a living aide memoire that the government really cares for the well-being of the child.
But we are not immune to the various problems that beset the full actualisation of the rights of the child. To ensure the compulsory education and protection from violence of all forms continues to be a challenge. And we have to be continually vigilant with regard to the protection of our young ones, for lethargy on our part, whether it be the government or the citizenry, will be tragic. Continuous campaign on the rights and welfare of children should be ensured for greater and faster attainment of the goals enshrined in the various conventions The Gambia is a signatory to.
A nation is without healthy and empowered young population will forever wallow in poverty, ignorance and under development. It is 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 promotion if we are to herald and usher in a generation of active citizens who will take the nation to another level in its drive to development, progress and prosperity.
Finally, as the world commemorates this very significant day with regard to making the rights of children the world over an important part of agenda, we call on the governments and all other stakeholders to do more in making the dream of the world safe for children a reality.]]>