The 16th June of every year is celebrated as the Day of the African Child. It is a day where all stakeholders on children’s rights reflect on the plight of children in the region. It is also a day to reflect on how far as a continent, we have advanced in the protection of the rights of children. The day has then become an opportunity to examine the progress towards the realization of the rights of children across all African Countries.
The commemoration of this day was adopted in the year 1991 to honour the lives of the students who died in the Soweto uprising of 1976. The students marched the streets to challenge the white apartheid government on the poor quality of education and to disapprove the Black Education Act which segregated students based on their race. The white apartheid government brutally responded to the unarmed students’ protests, killing more than a hundred students and injuring thousands.
Each year, a specific issue affecting the African child is put into focus. This year’s theme is ‘Leave No Child Behind for Africa’s Development’. The theme builds on the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development for Children in Africa: Accelerating protection, empowerment and equal opportunity. The 2030 vision emphasizes on all member states of the African Union to streamline children’s rights with developmental goals enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The ‘leave no child behind’ theme focuses on the overarching principle of inclusivity, which tackles inequality. The Sustainable Development Goal 10 calls for the ‘social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status’.
According to UNICEF, almost 1 billion children (nearly 40% of the world’s total) will live in Africa by 2050. By investing in children now, Africa stands to gain a potential demographic dividend by 2030 and beyond. Children can be the drivers of change and not merely as subjects of protection, especially concerning the realization of SDGs, if Africa invests in them.
In the last two decades, significant positive outcomes for children have been recorded across Africa. These include increased access to basic services, lower child death rates and decreasing gender disparity, higher school attendance rates, reduced morbidity rates among others.
Even with the positive outcomes achieved in regards to African children rights and welfare, several challenges remain that need to be resolved. On education, sub-Saharan Africa accounts for more than half of the world’s out-of-school children (34 million) and girls account for 54% of the out-of-school population. The rate of child poverty remains high in Africa with about two thirds of the children experiencing two or more major deprivations of their basic needs.
The success of the SDGs relies on accountability mechanisms to ensure that governments are answerable for delivering on the goals for all children everywhere without leaving anyone behind. Agenda 2030 encourages UN Member States to regularly undertake and report on consultative Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) at national and sub-national levels. The VNRs provide a means of scrutinizing the extent of the integration of SDGs in national policies and plans. At least 10 of the 65 countries that conducted VNRs and submitted reports in 2016 and 2017 were African countries. They include Kenya, Botswana, Ethiopia, Uganda, Benin, Nigeria, Madagascar, Sierra Leone, Togo and Zimbabwe. These positive developments are welcome and integral in ensuring that no African child is left behind.
(African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. (2018, March 13). www.acerwc.org/our events/day-of-the-african-child-2018/. Retrieved June 25, 2018, from www.acerwc.org: http://www.acerwc.org)