The Day of the African Child is celebrated every year on June 16 since 1991. It was first initiated by the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in honor of those who participated in the Soweto Uprising in 1976. It is a time for the world to reflect on the progress made towards child’s rights and to raise awareness of the need for improvement of the quality of education provided to the African Child.
One of the aims of the Day of the African Child is to highlight harmful practices such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), Child Marriage, Money wife amongst others. These are some of the areas our organization, Basic Rights Counsel Initiative have been actively involved in over the past eleven years.
The theme of this year celebration “Eliminating Harmful Practices Affecting Children: Progress on Policy and Practice since 2013” is a call for action to everyone to come together and put all hands on deck in finding solutions to the harmful practices that has led to the death of so many children in Africa. At Basic Rights Counsel Initiative Calabar, the best interest of the child is one of our core values and over the years, our programs and campaigns have reflected same.
The African Child is constantly exposed to harmful practices like Female Genital Mutilation, Child Marriage, and Money Wife Practice. Over the years, we have built partnership with several organizations and networks working together to address child marriage across Nigeria, this campaign opened a space for a conversation on child marriage in local communities as our sensitization efforts extended down to Becheve Community in Obanliku Local Government Area of Cross River State.
The cultural practice of ‘Child marriage/ Money wife’ is a custom in which a girl child is sold out to a man by her parents as wife in exchange for livestock like goats, farm produces like barns of yams or to pay a debt. Civil Organizations and Advocacy Groups have tried to make the people of Becheve see the dangers in these practices, however, some of the community leaders have enacted local laws putting an end to it after our sensitization efforts.
The African Government should adopt stronger measures to protect children from practices that violate their fundamental human rights. While Civil Societies and NGOs do their part in sensitizing the public on the effect of harmful practices, the Government still has a major role to play. Eighteen (18) of the Twenty (20) countries with the world highest Child Marriage rates are in sub-Saharan Africa, many girls drop out of school due to early marriage and child birth, we cannot continue to turn blind eyes to the pains of the African Child.
We call on everyone to come back to the drawing board, put on their thinking hats and fight against the harmful practices affecting the African Child because they are the future and must be protected TODAY, not tomorrow.