The Child Protection Alliance (CPA) in partnership with Save The Children International and the Brikamaba UBS/SSS recently celebrated the Day of the African Child in Brikamaba in the Central River Region.
The Day of the African Child has been set aside by the African Union in remembrance of the victims of the 1976 Soweto student uprising and to encourage African states to critically reflect on the plight of their children and map out strategies to improve their standard of living.
In commemorating the Day, CPA organised a regional children’s bantaba with the theme ‘Building Partnership with Communities to End Child Marriage’, held at the Brikamaba UBS/SSS.
The event created a common platform for students and adults to interact and discuss issues affecting their lives and map out strategies to improve their learning and living conditions.
The gathering attracted about 100 students and 50 adults within the Central River region.
In his opening and welcoming remarks, the principal of Brikamaba UBS/SSS, Mr Jali Mori Jobarteh called for a greater partnership in combating child marriage, since it is a common practice in the Central River Region particularly Brikamaba. Mr. Jobarteh further challenged parents and care-givers to desist from such practice and allow young people, particularly girls to reach to their fullest potentials.
Mr. Jobarteh extended his profound gratitude for identifying his school to host this important event and he called on other stakeholders to emulate the work of Child Protection Alliance by reaching out to the communities.
On behave of the National Coordinator for Child Protection Alliance, Mr Lamin Fatty, Programme Officer, said the theme for this year’s Children Regional Bantaba has reaffirmed the commitment of Child Protection Alliance and its partners in in creating a conducive environment free from all forms of abuse, violence and exploitation for children. Mr. Fatty emphasized that there is a great need to increase accountability, strengthen coherence and alignment among various stakeholders, prevent inequitable outcomes, and invest in all children.
“Child marriage disproportionately affects the girl child and drastically alters the lives of the child – s/he is expected to perform and manifest learning and maturity of adults, carry out chores and become a responsible member of the family. In this situation, lives of young adolescents are placed in control of their in-laws and husbands, endangering not only their right to freewill but also their right over their own body and health,” Fatty lamented.
Mr. Fatty reiterated that child marriage is a serious human right violation which undermines their health, education, equality, and potential growth and to live in environment free from violence and exploitation. He noted that these are rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), as well as other international and regional human rights instruments and the Government of The Gambia has domesticated these rights in the Children’s Act 2005.
He said people need to understand that child marriage is prohibited and there is stiff penalty for violators thus “anyone who marries a girl under 18 years will spend 20 years in jail. The girl’s parents would spend 21 years in jail and anyone who knows about it and fails to report the matter to the authorities would spend 10 years in jail”.
Fatty reiterated that communities are important social actors and agents of change and “we cannot ignore the important role they can play in ending child marriage, in ensuring that we build a community that is free from violence, abuse and exploitation. Communities can play this role by respecting the rights of children, by being tolerant, obeying rules and the laws of the country.
“Adults should support the empowerment of children with life skills so that they are able to make responsible decisions in their lives and successfully navigate the challenges of life they may be confronted with. They should also promote the meaningful participation of children in the campaigns against child marriage. Indeed, children are part of the solution we are seeking to this societal problem,” Fatty concluded.
The day was marked with a procession, inter-generational dialogue, quiz and drama performances and was well attended by a cross section of the communities.