By Aisha Tamba
Some NGOs operating in The Gambia have joined celebrations marking the Day of the African Child.
The NGOs included ChildFund The Gambia, Saama Kairo Federation, Ding Ding Yiriwa Federation, Children National Assembly, the Department of Social Welfare, Think Young Women, Gamcotrap, Peace Ambassadors The Gambia, Kids Come First Foundation and Voice of The Young.
The Day started with a march-past by these groups, followed by cultural performances, drama, poems and music.
Children were given a platform to showcase their numerous talents and discussed issues underpinning them at community levels.
The theme for this year’s celebration was children’s participation in humanitarian action, and the event was staged in Bwiam, West Coast Region from 14-16 June.
The Day has been celebrated on June 16 every year since 1991, when it was first initiated by the OAU – Organisation of African Unity, now AU.
ChildFund The Gambia headed events marking the day.
Its country director Musu Kuta Komma, reminded the gathering that this year’s theme at continental level – Humanitarian Action in Africa: Children’s Rights First – underlines the importance of recognising the rights and vulnerabilities of children…
“It further goes to remind us all that children and their rights should be treated as matter of utmost priority in humanitarian situations.
We cannot continue to assume that we know what best suits children and that they are best served being treated as mere recipients of developmental interventions,” Ms Komma told delegates.
She spoke of the support the Fund has rendered to displaced Gambian families during post-electoral impasse in December 2016.
“During this period, we came up with a cash transfer scheme that was designed with a local GSM service provider to support those families that had to play host to the many people that sought refuge in their homes.
Out of concern for the children in those families, we had to come up with that innovation to make sure the children did not go hungry due to extra pressure put on them by the internally displaced persons,” she explained.
She promised that ChildFund The Gambia and its three local partners will continue to galvanise collaborative efforts to promote rights and well-being of children and work to prevent abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence against them.
“This is because there can be no meaningful development for our children when they are not accorded the ideal space and environment to grow and live,” Ms Komma reported.
Speaker of Children’s National Assembly, Sarata Cessay, lamented how children continue “to be forced to get married” at the expense of their education that steals their dreams, particularly the girl-child.
She said FGM continues to be practiced in some communities in The Gambia, despite a legislation banning the practice in 2015.
She called for a stop to the “harmful practice”.
The commemoration of the Day of the African Child is to pay tribute to those children who participated in the Soweto Uprising of 1976.
About 10,000 black school children marched in a column more than half a mile long, protesting the poor quality of their education and demanding their right to be taught in their own language.
More than 100 people were killed in the protests.
The Day also raises awareness of the continuing need for improvement of the education provided to African children.