Panos urges African leaders to strengthen child protection systems to safeguard children
Lusaka, 15 June 2022. To commemorate the 2022 Day of the African Child, Panos Institute Southern Africa (PSAf) calls on Southern African leaders to strengthen child protection systems as a way of safeguarding children and securing their future.
The Day of the African Child (DAC) is commemorated every year on 16th June to celebrate children in Africa as well as to inspire a sober reflection and action towards addressing the plethora of challenges that children in Africa face on a daily basis. The commemoration is in remembrance of the 1976 uprisings in Soweto when high school students in South Africa protested against the apartheid-inspired education, which resulted in the public killing of the unarmed young protesters by the police.
This year’s Day of the African Child is being commemorated under the theme “Eliminating Harmful Practices Affecting Children: Progress on Policy and Practice 2013”. The theme presents a challenge and an opportunity for governments, traditional leaders, opinion leaders, civil society organisations and individuals to reflect on the harmful practices affecting children in Africa and explore ways to effectively safeguard children at all levels.
Article 21 of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child requires African countries to “take all appropriate measures to eliminate harmful social and cultural practices affecting the welfare, dignity, normal growth and development of the child… and in particular: (a) those customs and practices prejudicial to the health or life of the child; and (b) those customs and practices discriminatory to the child on the grounds of sex or other status.” In the same spirit, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) provides for the protection of children from harmful practices that include economic exploitation and performing work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education, or to be harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.
As an institution that advocates for and promotes children’s rights and protection of children from harm in homes, schools, and communities, Panos desires to see an Africa with strong and effective laws and policies to ensure that children are protected from various harmful practices that hinder their growth into responsible and productive adults.
PSAf notes with regret how children in many African societies are still subjected to harmful practices such as Female Gentile Mutilation (FGM), early, forced and child marriages, child labour in its various forms, as well as the preference of boy children by parents and guardians which makes girls to feel undervalued and less important in families and society as a whole. These archaic inhumane practices are retrogressive, and go against every good thing concerning children. It is unacceptable that in the 21st century we still have sections of our society where harmful practices are accepted as a normal part of the social fabric.
PSAf is concerned that these, among other numerous harmful situations that children in Africa and world over grapple with every day, make it difficult for them to fully realise their potential and contribute positively to the development of their nations. We are of the view that unless children are effectively protected and treated with the care and dignity they deserve, a lot of potential will remain unrealized, and their rights will continue to be violated.
With support from Save the Children in Zambia through funding from Sweden, Panos is currently implementing the Driving Sustainable Change for Children’s Rights (DSCCR) project that seeks to promote child led and child focused social accountability in the country. The project supports Zambian children to, among other actions, engage with leaders at various levels of governance in addressing challenges, including harmful practices, that may hinder improved delivery of children’s rights to quality education, health, and social protection. Across Southern Africa, we are also working with schools, radio stations and radio listening clubs to provide platforms for children’s engagement with decision makers, and advocates to reinforce children’s voices to highlight harmful practices, and possible solutions.
We encourage governments across the region and other stakeholders to join forces to ensure that child protection laws and policies are strengthened in order to eliminate any harmful practices that could be affecting children and their development into responsible and reliable adults. We also encourage the media to actively and effectively highlight harmful challenges, and ways in which different stakeholders can create an Africa safe for children.
Executive Director, Panos Institute Southern Africa