By Jennifer Kaberi
The African Union set aside 16th June Day of the African Child (DAC) as a day for not only celebrating African children but also as a platform for child participation.
But, is DAC about children? I am in several planning meetings at sub-national, national, sub-regional, and regional and one thing I have heard over and over is “Who is the child guest?”, the operating word is “GUEST”. Hence, begs the question, if DAC is meant for children, why are we having children being invited as guests, instead of adults being invited as guests.
If you follow me you know my day and night (mom) job is working with children and one thing they raise is they feel most of the time when they attend these meetings it is for them to read a statement and not actually meaningful engage, one of the children asked me “Miss Jenny, what happens to the statements after we have read them”, another one asked, “When are you going to start doing what we have requested”. I know that the children are right.
Can I say that Adultism has infiltrated DAC and while we say it is celebrating children, it is actually adults doing their thing in the name of children as children entertain them? If you don’t agree with me, look at the program of the DAC, look at the planning committee and look at the venue. Do they have children or children’s input in them?
So here are my radical recommendations based on the conversations I have had with children, for DAC to be truly about children, leave the planning to children with guidance from adults, let us not prescribe what should be done, instead of having speechshops of adults speaking to adults about children lets have a conversation where adults are reporting to children what they have done in actualizing their rights, let the children ask questions even if it makes adults uncomfortable that is the point of accountability. Let’s move the event from hotels and stadiums to grassroots where the children are.
At the African Union, there should be a special sitting of the Heads of State to report to the over 40% of Africa’s population on what they are doing in making an #AfricaFitFor them I dare say an AFRICAN CHILDREN SUMMIT. This should be translated at the Regional Economic Communities, National all the way to the community levels. For this to happen I will add something a colleague said 16th June should be declared a school holiday to allow children to congregate and engage with their leaders. Let the children invite you and not you invite them.
This means then that DAC will be a process where children have been empowered enough to identify issues to be discussed, give recommendations, and do a follow-up and not just one where we trend #DayofTheAfricanchild globally, but it will be a day where adults will know that they will need to be accountable to children, so DAC will Day to Account to African Children and we will put THE CHILD back in DAC