Why do we mark ‘Day of the African Child’?
On 16 June every year, ChildFund recognises the Day of the African Child. Across the African continent, children and adults mark this day by performing songs, skits and other presentations to call attention to children`s rights.
Despite these celebratory festivities, the Day of the African Child marks a tragic anniversary, when dozens of children and youth were killed during a student protest in Soweto, South Africa in 1976. Forty years later, African children still face many trials, including hunger, illiteracy, terrorism, civil warfare and gender-based violence.
The theme of this year`s Day of the African Child is “Conflict and Crisis in Africa: Protecting All Children`s Rights”, which focuses on child protection in regions where there is civil conflict. Currently, there are many threats to children in the region, including the ongoing civil war in Sudan and the rebel insurgency in northern Mali; while the kidnapping of 276 Nigerian schoolgirls in 2014 made headlines the world over, with most of the girls still being held captive. Other countries, including Liberia and Sierra Leone, are still recovering from the devastation caused by conflict in previous decades.
Armed conflict puts children in danger, and makes them more vulnerable to being hurt, killed or exploited. However, even in peaceful nations, children`s basic rights can be jeopardised due to corrosive practices.
Early marriage is one practice which continues to harm girls in many African countries. For 29-year-old Mavis from Zambia, being married as a child and having her first baby at age 13 has had a lasting impact on her life. Although she is now a happy mother of five children, she dreams that they will have a better childhood than she had.
Mavis explains: “I want my children to be educated. I don`t want my children to experience what I went through. Because I don`t know many things, I don`t know how to read or write my name. I don`t want my children to earn a living by selling tomatoes like me.”
Zambia`s child marriage rate is one of the world`s worst, with 42 percent of Zambian women between the ages of 20 and 24 being married before the age of 18. Unfortunately, many girls who marry and become mothers early miss out on a range of opportunities which could improve their living standards: education, leisure, civic participation, fulfilling work and self-determination.
On the Day of the African Child, ChildFund recognises the importance of guaranteeing the safety and protection of all children in Africa and across the world, and continues to work to ensure their rights are realised.