By Raisa Okwaras
Children have spoken up in line with the theme of the Day of the African Child (2022)- Eliminating Harmful Practices affecting Children: Progress on Policy & Practice since 2013. With that, they request the abolishment of harmful practices that most African children experience.
The children presented this through a Children outcome statement on June 15, 2022, in Maseru, Lesotho, where thirty-four children from Burkina Faso and Zambia had gathered to commemorate DAC. The children had also come to have more understanding of the African Child’s Charter whose child-friendly version launched the following day on June 16, 2022.
Some of these harmful practices include corporal punishment, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), initiation schools, and virginity testing.
“As much as we appreciate our rich culture, we are concerned about practices symbolizing the initiation into adulthood such as Female Genital Mutilation, virginity testing, and initiation schools, among others, which results in physical and emotional harm. These practices are also linked to child marriage as well as boys dropping out of school and being involved in child labor,” read part of the statement.
Other issues include online sexual exploitation, peer pressure, and other mental health issues.
“While the internet has provided us with an opportunity to learn, it causes some harmful practices such as online sexual exploitation, us being groomed and trafficked through the internet, and our privacy being compromised through the online platforms. Finally, dues to peer pressure and mental health issues, some of us are involved in drug abuse, compromising our health and education,” it added.
The children of Africa, therefore, gave a recommendation to all stakeholders including the African Union, African governments, CSOs, and children.
For instance, the recommendations they gave to African governments include listening to and respecting the views of children, making sure court cases involving children are heard and resolved in a short time, and creating constitutional provisions for the establishment of children’s constitutions. The AU was recommended to make efforts to find out what is happening on the ground and not just wait for the government to report.
Also, CSOs were told to provide children with facilities that enable them to engage with each other and identify ‘child-friendly’ adults whom children can trust.
Children were recommended not to accept help from strangers especially through the internet and to report the occurrence of harmful practices to parents and authorities.
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