Gbarnga, June 20, 2018- Liberia joins the rest of Africa in commemorating the Day of the African Child. The day which is celebrated every year on 16 June, was set aside to remember the children of South Africa who were massacred in Soweto in 1976 for protesting against apartheid system of education. The global theme for this year is “Leave No Child Behind for Africa’s Development”.
The National theme is Despite Disabilities: “Every Child has Inclusive Rights to Liberia’s Development.”The 2018 theme highlights the need to ensure that no child is left behind by specifically targeting those who are not benefitting from nation’s growth and development.
The theme also underscores the need for inclusive development for young people with disabilities, that is, whenever undertakings develop programs and policies for implementing National Agenda, children should be at the centre-stage to ensure that no child is left behind in the drive towards sustainable economic development.
Liberia is a signatory to the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC) which compels member states to uphold the rights and welfare of the children.
Addressing hundreds of people, including government officials, non-governmental organizations and children from across Liberia who gathered in Gbarnga, Central Liberia; Jutomue Doetein, Speaker of the Children Representative Forum remembered the children of Soweto who were massacred in 1976 at the same time reflected on the situation of many child across Africa.
Doetein maintained that such situation brings tears and sorry to him. He noted “many children across Africa are been affected from inhumane treatments.” The speaker added “when I heard youth or children are the future leaders I sometimes say to myself what future is there if children are been humiliated in the present.” He lamented “though government and partners are trying, but more needs to be done.” The speaker in his closing remarks calls on the government to include children in decisions making. Adding“everyone contributed to the fight against the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD); therefore our contributions matters.”
Speaking at the ceremony, Williametta Saydee-Tarr, Minister of Gender Children & Social Protection (MoGCSP) reaffirm the government commitment to protecting Liberian children. She maintained that her Ministry will work with the Children Representative Forum to address some of the issues affecting children in the country. The minister noted “if children were given the rights to be heard the Soweto 1976 incident would have been avoided.”
The Children of SOS Children’s Villages Liberia joins the rest of the children in Gbarnga cityto participate in the official celebration. SOS Children displayed a colorful cultural performance and also paraded the principal streets of Gbarnga. The SOS children’s Villages whose vision is a world where “Every child belongs to a family and grows with love, respect and security” at the same time perform a song “No child should grow up alone!”
In a brief remarks,SOS Children’s Villages Liberia National Director Mr. Augustine A. Allieu,noted that this year’s DAC National theme is appropriate, adding that “the 2006 UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities establishes that children with long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments should enjoy the same rights and freedom as other children.”
Mr. Allieu maintained that the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) provide detailed guidance for the development of inclusive societies. At the same time Mr. Allieu calls on duty-bearers to accelerate their efforts in protecting children and also recommended five actions which include: Fighting Discrimination, Dismantling barriers to inclusion, Supporting Families, Coordinating services to support children and Involving children with disability in decision making.
On his part, UNICEF Child Protection Officer, Mr. Sam Mensah appealed to policies maker to go beyond just policies to being practicable and pragmatism. He added that “the Global Theme: Leave no child behind for Africa’s development and the national theme Despite Disabilities: Every Child has Inclusive Rights to Liberia’s Development should be practical as duty bearer’s leaves hall.”
By Joseph J.B. Joboe, Comms & Brand Coordinator