… Say CSO leaders at observance of Day of the African Child
On Monday, June 17, 2019, Liberians joined other African countries to observe this year’s Day of the African Child, which is an annual celebration, and opportunity to reflect on progress towards progress on health, education, equality and protection for all African children.
The event was observed on Sunday, June 16, but in Liberia, the day was observed on Monday, June 17, since Sunday is not a working day in the country.
The day, 16 June, has been celebrated every year since 1991, when the then Organization of African Unity (OAU, now African Union, AU) first declared the day to honor those, who participated in the Soweto Uprising in 1976 in South Africa. About 575 people died during a student uprising, but 451 of the dead were recorded as a result of direct police action, while some 2,387 people sustained severe injuries.
This year’s observance of the Day of the Child African was held under the global theme, “Humanitarian Action in Africa: Children’s Rights First,” with the national theme, “Children’s Fights are Human Rights–Liberia is no Exception; let’s Take Action.”
With the alarming rate of reported abuses meted against the African children, those in Liberia being no exception, three civil society organizations (CSOs), including HeforShe Crusaders-Liberia, Her Voice-Liberia, and Sister Aid, which are championing the cause of women and children in the country, have called on the government to pay more than the usual attention to the protection of children across the country.
These CSOs complained that in spite of Liberia being a signatory to the various regional and international protocols covering the rights of children, Liberian children’s rights are reportedly being abused daily.
The CSOs’ statement was read by Attorney Margaret Nigba, the executive director of Her Voice-Liberia.
“The government in many of its reports on the Human Rights status in he country, has repeatedly mentioned policies and actions taken to address the plights of children regarding sexual and gender-based violence, domestic violence and child trafficking. But to the contrary of the government, children rights are being violated on daily, ranging from being bread winners, early child marriage, undergoing female genital mutilation and experiencing physical assaults such as being beaten to death and burned to the first degree,” Attorney Nigba mentioned.
She made specific reference to the death of the nine year-old child in the Paynesville Community, the flogging of a student at the Soltimon Christian School by the dean of students, and reported increase of non-persistent child support, as well as other acts of violence against children that are on the raise throughout the country.
Atty Nigba: “We as CSOs are calling on members of the 54th Legislature to consider the passage of the Domestic Violence Act, and also call on President George Weah to either extend the Executive Order #92 on female genital mutilation (FGM) that has expired, a document that criminalize the practice of the FGM on persons below 18; or issue another Executive Order to address FGM, a practice that remains on the increase in the country, while endeavoring to legislate to end FGM.”
She further called on the government to equally consider the harmonization of Customary and Statutory laws (on the age of marriage), equip Criminal Court “E” (rape court) by assigning another judge to fast-track cases concomitantly, and other Circuit Courts to robustly respond to issue of child abuse.
It can be recalled that on the street of Soweto, South Africa in 1976, nearly 10,000 black students marched in demand of their rights to quality education.
The children’s protest at that time was in disapproval to the Black Education Act, which segregated black students based on their race and to be taught in their own language.
Following the two weeks of protest, over 100 students were killed, and 1000 more were recorded injured.
In remembrance of the black students, who lost their lives, and in recognition to their bravery in the quest for equal access to education, African leaders in 1991 in the spirit of African solidarity at the OAU meeting declared June 16 of each year as the “Day of the African Child.”