Propagating the rights of children in Africa: AU Child Rights Research Centre in partnership with the African Child Policy Forum host cross- country learning forum on enhancing child rights implementation.

11 November 2019
Story by
Jeanette Dadzie
Marketing and Public Affairs Officer, Office of Advancement and Public Affairs

“We find it unacceptable that some 20 percent of African Children are suffering from stunting. In some countries, more than half of children under five years of age are stunted. It is equally unconscionable that nine out of ten pupils in primary schools will not have the required skills, knowledge, and competencies that they are expected to acquire when they complete this basic stage of education. It is disconcerting that, despite knowledge of this reality, we are not investing enough in the education of the children of this continent.-The African Report on Child Wellbeing 2018

Africa University together with its partner the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) have taken a stand in the advancement of child rights in Africa by bringing together practitioners from across Africa, among them Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Eswathini, Uganda, Sudan and representing South Asia, Nepal, to share experiences and lessons from other nations in progress made towards meeting the targets set by regional, continental and global bodies in creating a safer world for children.

Mr. Yehulashet Mekonen, Programme Manager of the African Child Observatory Progamme, African Child Policy Forum, Ethiopia said of the partnership with Africa University,

“Your mission of, “Investing in Africa’s Future”, can also be taken to mean investing in Africa’s children. Child Rights are so neglected on our continent and this is a wonderful opportunity to place this important issue back on the agenda.”

Mr Mekonen further built upon the partnership between the two entities through the donation of publications developed by ACPF that shall be made available in the Jokomo/Yamada Library for use by academics and the student body, thereby increasing access to knowledge and research generated by some of the best scholars and academics on the continent.

The Vice Chancellor Professor Munashe Furusa in his welcoming remarks said,

“The lack of access to opportunities that break the cycle of poverty denies our children the very rights that we as nations, governments and the global community should be safeguarding and providing for the youth. Over half of our population is comprised of the young in Africa and it is therefore our duty is to ensure that we create for them a future that will allow them to thrive and realize their potential.”

He went on provide context to the challenges facing children in Africa and encouraged the practitioners in attendance to interrogate and develop interventions to curb them,

“How do we ensure that children are removed from situations where they are forced -through no cause of their own- from schools and driven to work as they are the breadwinners of their families in the absence of support from the society? How do we keep children away from violence when the very communities that are meant to protect them conscript them instead into armies, taking advantage of their gullibility? How do we keep our female children safe when it is their very families that bargain them off into early marriage for short term gain? Education is one of the keys to empowering our youth and bringing us closer to a continent and a world that is safe. Further to this is access to justice in cases where they have been wronged. Far too often, the crimes perpetrated against children are handled in a piecemeal approach whose outcomes favour the perpetrator as opposed to the victim. It is practitioners like yourselves who bravely forge forth, confronting issues that many shy away from and speaking loudly and eloquently for the voiceless.”,

Ms Ayo – Odongo, Chief Executive Director of the Uganda Child Rights NGO Network set the pace for the conference in her opening presentation with regards to challenging participants to do more than simply speak, develop policies and store them in volumes for academics, calling on development practitioners to act. “I am standing here today to make a presentation and I feel a sense of dejavu as these are the very same things we spoke about in 1991, in the early 2000’s and today. My question to everyone here is, what have we done so far that is tangible? We have to put our talk into action especially as we proceed forward from this conference.”

Dr. Venganai of the Child Sensitive Social Policy Programme at Women’s University in Africa said of the opportunity created,

“The diversity on offer here gives an invaluable opportunity to learn from all over Africa. Africa University is such a beautiful campus and is the perfect venue providing serenity and a warm welcome for these deliberations. In Africa, we still have the mentality that children should be silent and not participate in what we would think of as adult issues. We glance over them and there is a need to create a forum to talk about what is happening to them and affecting their lives negatively.”

The conference which is the first of its kind organized by the pioneering Child Rights Research Centre shall undoubtedly serve as the perfect forum from which experts not only establish networks across the continent of like- minded and passionate practitioners, but is the first step of many towards empowering the African child.

Established in 2017 with the support of UNICEF, the Africa University Child Rights Research Centre led by Director Dr. Tendai Chakarisa has made tremendous strides in the field generating impactful research into violence against children, identifying the indicators of child abuse and neglect and developing new research methodologies to inform best practise into knowledge generation for practitioners.

The mandate of the centre has also extended to the training and capacitation of policy and law makers within Zimbabwe to not only educate but to also influence dialogue on this most pressing issue backed by data and research generated from the centre.