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 The Day of the African Child 2019 – at a glance

Since 1991 the Day of the African Child has been marked as the day of commemoration and respect for the children and youth who decided to fight for their rights in the Soweto uprising in 1976. 

Every year, a theme for the Day of the African Child (DAC) is decided upon by the African Committee of Experts on the Rights & Welfare of the Child (ACERWC). 

On 16 June 2019, the theme for the Day of the African Child 2019 is:

“Humanitarian Action in Africa: Children’s Rights First”

The causes of humanitarian crises

A humanitarian crisis is an event that affects in a negative way many people at a time. It poses a significant risk – or threat – to their lives, safety, security, health or general wellbeing. Often, the people affected have little or no capacity to cope with the impacts of the crises.

Humanitarian crises may be natural disasters, such as floods, droughts, tsunamis, earthquakes or health epidemics, such as the outbreak of Ebola. They can also be man-made, resulting from factors such as uprisings, armed conflicts, or other tensions. A humanitarian crisis can also arise in the aftermath of human error or action, such as large scale industrial accidents.

Sometimes, a humanitarian crisis appears as a complex emergency, that is a combination of both a man-made and a natural disaster. The plight of refugees is one example of this. For some, what started as a natural disaster (for instance drought) forcing a community to abandon their lands, continued as a man-made crisis when these people were made unwanted refugees.

Humanitarian crises have far-reaching implications and affect all levels of society, with children being the most vulnerable to the impacts, as they lack life experience and have fewer resources to cope with and recover from a disaster.

Protecting children

Humanitarian crises often lead to violations of children’s rights. These violations include failure to provide education, health or an adequate standard of living for children to enjoy their rights, and the effects of these violations may affect boys and girls differently.

For example, boys may be subjected to arbitrary detention, torture and other inhuman treatment and forced recruitment – thus becoming child soldiers.

Girls are also extremely vulnerable during humanitarian crises and are at risk of being subjected to slavery, sexual exploitation, rape, forced marriages, physical violations, and forced prostitution.

Children in vulnerable situations suffer most from these crises. Especially children with disabilities, who need special care and attention before, during or after a crisis.

The members of the African Union are obliged to evaluate the viability of their policies to cater for children in vulnerable situations, including children with disabilities, to ensure that their rights are upheld. 

Children’s Rights First 

The selection of the topic for the Day of the African Child 2019 underscores that children in Africa are the ones who suffer the most during hard times.

Unfortunately, there is a greater problem: Many children in Africa are not enjoying their basic human rights even before a humanitarian crisis emerges. However, the core principles of children’s rights (the right to life, survival, and development; non-discrimination; the best interests’ principle; and child participation) subsist even during humanitarian crises and should accordingly be prioritised, nevertheless. This is international human rights law, for example, the African Children’s Charter.

Children’s rights, beginning with the right to life, survival and development, must take centre-stage – especially in humanitarian emergencies. Such is international law.

The importance of education

Good quality education, with its content focused on children’s academic, social and personal development is of paramount importance. It can prepare children for preventing and dealing with – or responding to – humanitarian crises, by equipping them with practical skills to enhance their protection and survival.

Thus, providing children with quality education is one very important aspect of securing children’s rights. Indeed, the young people of Soweto in 1976 were acutely aware of this. 

We need to make every day “the day of the African child” – a continuous long-term process which includes the children, their parents, community leaders, governments and NGOs. 

 

What to do?

The problems are huge. The need to “do something” urgent.

The African Union, the governments of the different member states, local NGO’s and governments and other stakeholders need to work together.

As Nelson Mandela said:

 “Safety and security don’t just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear.”

 We need to put our collective humanity in action mode. As a Take 10 Volunteer you are able to do just that.

 

 

Day of the African Child 2019: Children's Rights First

Photo credit: ACERWC (Click image for full concept note.)

“Safety and security don’t just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear.” 

~ Nelson Mandela

About the Day of the African Child

In 1991, the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the then OAU instituted the Day of the African Child in memory of the 16th June 1976 student uprising in Soweto, South Africa. At that time, students marched in protest against the poor quality of education they received and demanded to be taught in their own languages.

The DAC serves to commemorate these children and the brave action they took in defence of their rights. The DAC thus celebrates the children of Africa and calls for serious introspection and commitment towards addressing the numerous challenges facing children across the continent.

About the Soweto uprising

The Soweto Student Uprising began on the morning of 16 June 1976 when students from various schools in Soweto (South West Township), a neighbourhood of Johannesburg, decided to peacefully protest against the low-quality education they were receiving, and in particular the introduction of the Afrikaans language as a medium of instructions in their schools.

Around 10.000 unarmed but singing and chanting students took to the streets that morning. Their goal was to have a rally at the Orlando Stadium.

However, they met heavily armed police who fired teargas and later live ammunition on them. 176 people were shot and killed. More than a thousand were wounded.

The uprising influenced other country-wide protests that changed the socio-political landscape in the country. In remembrance, June 16 is now a public holiday in South Africa known as the Youth Day.

 The Day of the African Child 2019 – at a glance

Day of the African Child 2019: Humanity in Action

Since 1991 the Day of the African Child has been marked as the day of commemoration and respect for the children and youth who decided to fight for their rights in the Soweto uprising in 1976. 

 

Every year, a theme for the Day of the African Child (DAC) is decided upon by the African Committee of Experts on the Rights & Welfare of the Child (ACERWC). 

The theme for the Day of the African Child 2019 is:

“Humanitarian Action in Africa:

Children’s Rights First”  

The causes of humanitarian crises

A humanitarian crisis is an event that affects in a negative way many people at a time. It poses a significant risk – or threat – to their lives, safety, security, health or general wellbeing. Often, the people affected have little or no capacity to cope with the impacts of the crises.

Humanitarian crises may be natural disasters, such as floods, droughts, tsunamis, earthquakes or health epidemics, such as the outbreak of Ebola. They can also be man-made, resulting from factors such as uprisings, armed conflicts, or other tensions. A humanitarian crisis can also arise in the aftermath of human error or action, such as large scale industrial accidents.

Day of the African Child 2019 – about humanitarian crises

Sometimes, a humanitarian crisis appears as a complex emergency, that is a combination of both a man-made and a natural disaster. The plight of refugees is one example of this. For some, what started as a natural disaster (for instance drought) forcing a community to abandon their lands, continued as a man-made crisis when these people were made unwanted refugees.

Humanitarian crises have far-reaching implications and affect all levels of society, with children being the most vulnerable to the impacts, as they lack life experience and have fewer resources to cope with and recover from a disaster.

Day of the African Child 2019: Children's Rights First also in refugee camps

Protecting children

Humanitarian crises often lead to violations of children’s rights. These violations include failure to provide education, health or an adequate standard of living for children to enjoy their rights, and the effects of these violations may affect boys and girls differently.

For example, boys may be subjected to arbitrary detention, torture and other inhuman treatment and forced recruitment – thus becoming child soldiers.

Girls are also extremely vulnerable during humanitarian crises and are at risk of being subjected to slavery, sexual exploitation, rape, forced marriages, physical violations, and forced prostitution.

"Children's Rights First" is the topic of the Day of the African Child 2019

Children in vulnerable situations suffer most from these crises. Especially children with disabilities, who need special care and attention before, during or after a crisis.

The members of the African Union are obliged to evaluate the viability of their policies to cater for children in vulnerable situations, including children with disabilities, to ensure that their rights are upheld. 

Providing quality education is at the heart of children's rights

Children’s Rights First 

The selection of the topic for the Day of the African Child 2019 underscores that children in Africa are the ones who suffer the most during hard times.

Unfortunately, there is a greater problem: Many children in Africa are not enjoying their basic human rights even before a humanitarian crisis emerges.

However, the core principles of children’s rights (the right to life, survival, and development; non-discrimination; the best interests’ principle; and child participation) subsist even during humanitarian crises and should accordingly be prioritised, nevertheless.

This is international human rights law, for example, the African Children’s Charter.

Children’s rights, beginning with the right to life, survival and development, must take centre-stage – especially in humanitarian emergencies. Such is international law.

Day of the African Child 2019: Children's Rights First is an important value.

The importance of education

Good quality education, with its content focused on children’s academic, social and personal development is of paramount importance. It can prepare children for preventing and dealing with – or responding to – humanitarian crises, by equipping them with practical skills to enhance their protection and survival.

Thus, providing children with quality education is one very important aspect of securing children’s rights. Indeed, the young people of Soweto in 1976 were acutely aware of this. 

We need to make every day “the day of the African child” – a continuous long-term process which includes the children, their parents, community leaders, governments and NGOs. 

What to do?

The problems are huge. The need to “do something” urgent. The African Union, the governments of the different member states, local NGO’s and governments and other stakeholders need to work together. 

As Nelson Mandela said: 

“Safety and security don’t just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear.” 

We need to put our collective humanity in action mode. As a Take 10 Volunteer you are able to do just that. 

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