Annually on 16th June, the Day of the African Child (DAC) is observed by the African Union and its member states as a commemoration of the 16th June 1976 student uprising in Soweto, South Africa in response to the introduction of Afrikaans as the medium of instruction in local schools.
Day of the African Child (DAC)
The theme for the Day of the African Child (DAC) 2021 is “30 years after the adoption of the Charter: accelerate the implementation of Agenda 2040 for an Africa fit for children.”
The African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) recognizes the importance of the Day of the African Child (DAC) as an advocacy opportunity for enhancing the visibility of the charter as well as promoting children’s rights and welfare issues across Africa.
Thirty years since its first commemoration, the Day of the African Child is a great opportunity to identify the progress made during the 30 years as well as address the challenges that may hinder accelerated implementation of the Agenda 2040.
The ten aspirations for Agenda 2040 point out the various children rights issues needed to have an African continent fit for children including; quality education, protection from violence, exploitation, neglect & abuse, access to basic necessities of life and a healthy livelihood.
Although there have been some progress in the implementation of Agenda 2040 such as the reduction in the Infant Mortality Rate in Africa from 54 deaths per 100,000 live births (2014) to 43.934 deaths per 100,000 live births (2021), there is still that needs to be done.
This includes reducing to zero all preventable infant deaths including neonatal causes such as asphyxia, child pneumonia, malaria and diarrhea in all African countries.
According to UNICEF, new challenges afflicting the African child continue to emerge with increasing cases of child marriages, child pregnancies, rape, incest and school drop outs.
COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the challenges of the vulnerable communities in African countries and derailed the progress made towards ensuring that the children’s rights are met and upheld.
For instance in Kenya, cases violence have increased with unprecedented rise in the number of teenage pregnancies which ultimately affects the attainment of quality education among adolescents.
Moreover, the COVID-19 prevention measures initially put in place to curb the spread of the virus such as staying at home and restricted movements made it possible for domestic violence and sexual abuse of children since they were close to their perpetrators.
The World Bank reports that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the economy negatively and eroded the progress made in poverty reduction in Kenya; thus making access to the basic necessities by children very hard.
According to UNICEF, accelerating the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals in all African countries during and beyond COVID-19 has the potential to grant every child a fair chance in life, ensuring their health, safety, education, protection and equal opportunities are protected; therefore hastening the implementation and attainment of the African Union Agenda 2040.
To accelerate progress towards the SDGs for every child, the UNICEF embraces a ‘3As’ approach recommended for implementation by African countries;
- Awareness – With the right tools and information, children and young people can play a critical role in the implementation and monitoring of the SDGs, sparking action in their communities and holding leaders to account.
- Action – Governments to act for and with children as they plan, budget and implement programmes and policies.
- Accountability – Global leaders must be held to account on commitments made. This can be done through collecting, analyzing and sharing data on children to monitor progress as well as bringing children’s perspectives on the SDGs to decision makers to promote accountability.
The African countries governments cannot accelerate the implementation and attainment of Agenda 2040 alone but need multi-stakeholder collaboration with NGOs, private sector, teachers, community leaders as well as the children themselves.
The guiding principle “Leaving no one behind” should be at the fore of all the key stakeholders’ minds to fully implement these commitments and recommendations. Investing in children and young people is key in the achievement of a more equitable, just and sustainable world for all!
A dream African continent is possible!