At least 700 children across Africa congregated in Nairobi Kenya on Monday for the Inaugural African Children Summit to participate and reinforce the importance of child participation.
The attendance was both physical and online with participants being drawn from Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Africa, Nigeria and Sierra Leone among others.
The purpose of the Summit is to bring children from across the continent to discuss among themselves on children matters in Africa.
It aims to generate and share evidence – based child rights concerns and challenges in Africa, propose key policy recommendations on how Africa can address child protection challenges
Further it will provide a platform for children to come up with a children’s action plan on making the Africa they want.
The theme of the first of its kind summit, organized by Mtoto News, Wish Hub Africa and other partners, is to be Seen Heard and Engaged.
In spirit of child participation the children discussed and stated the challenges they face and gave possible solutions .In unison they stated that children in Africa face general problems that are experienced by children worldwide but also unique problems faced only by African Children.
They discussed issues in four broad topics namely child participation, health, education and internet and online safety.
To underscore the importance of child participation, they said when they are involved in solving their own problems better outcomes are posted as they are best place to come up with solution based on their own experiences.
Najat Maalla M’jid, Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence Against Children, during the Summit, challenged stakeholders to not view children as problems that need to be solved but a strong human capital that should be invested in. She said therefore, children should not be viewed as the future only but also the present.
Professor Philip Jaffe Vice Chair, UN Committee on the Rights of the Child said through various interaction in the summit, he had gained new perspectives on the way his organization will in the future presenting children issues to governments allover.
He said they previously they didn’t include children’s views and perspectives noting their views will be featured in their future presentation.
He added that from now on they will prioritize advocating for more budget allocation for professionals who work with children in health care and social work.
‘We will ask the governments to allocate more money for primary children care givers such as, psychologists pediatrics and nurses’ he said
Member of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, Hon. Aboubekrine El Jera, said he had taken note on the critical issues raised on teenage pregnancy, self- esteem and malnutrition noting that if not looked into can result in mental illnesses.
He lauded the Summit saying that it had given children an opportunity to speak to various organizations tasked with safe guarding their rights. This, he said, will allow children’s’ involvement in future program on issues involving them.
The committee, he said, is mandated with ensuring children’s rights are respected and promoted to give children an opportunity to be educated, participate as children in all programs concerning you.
Dr.Sidikou Aissatou, member of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, challenged stakeholders, governments and parents to empower their children to have confidence to speak up on their issues.
She added that rights are not given but taken noting the importance of adequately equipped children with skills that will help them become children’s right defender.