Selasa, 10 Juli 2012

PROTECT THE RIGHTS OF CHILDREN-As Africa Celebrates Day of the African Child


EXACTLY 36 years ago in South Africa, more than 1000 children were killed on the streets of Soweto during a peaceful protest to draw the attention of the ruling white Apartheid regime to the inferior quality of education for the blacks and to demand their right to be taught in their own language and not Afrikaans- the language of the ruling class.

This peaceful protest saw some children maimed and killed, whilst others were badly wounded in fighting for their rights.

It was for this effort that member states of the then Organisation of African Unity, now African Union, and its partners declared June 16, every year, as the Day of the African Child  (DAC), in accordance with Resolution CM/Res.1290 (XL).

The day, therefore, presented an opportunity to focus on the work of all actors committed to the rights of children on the continent and to consolidate efforts in addressing obstacles to the realisation of these rights.

It also provided an occasion for governments, international institutions and communities to renew their  commitment to look at the plight of marginalised and particularly vulnerable children, by organising activities to promote their rights.

The Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, in collaboration with the Department of Children, Right to Play Ghana and the United Nations International Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF), celebrated this year’s event at the Dzorwulu Special School in Accra yesterday. This years celebration was on the theme; “The Rights of Children with Disabilities: The Duty to Protect, Respect, Promote and Fulfill.”

In a speech read on her behalf, the Minister of Women and Children’s Affairs, Mrs Juliana Azuma-Mensah, said there was the need for African governments and their institutions to raise the awareness of the public about the rights, capabilities and potentials of children with disabilities and to draw attention to the situation of children with disabilities, particularly, who are  vulnerable and prone to marginalisation and violence.

She noted that Africa was making steady progress towards improving the situation of children living with disabilities but needed to do more by providing peaceful environment for the development of children.

“Children can, only, fully realise their potential in an environment of peace, security and good governance,” she said.

Also, there was the need to take up measures to protect and ensure that children do not suffer from  physical disabilities since the health of children was paramount.

Mrs Azuma-Mensah reaffirmed the country’s support to ensure that the welfare of children and those with  disabilities were promoted and guaranteed.

“The signing of treaties and the harmonisation of international instruments, such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), into domestic legislations, including the Children’s Act, the Juvenile Justice Act, the Human trafficking act, the Criminal Code Amendment Act, the Disability Act, Mental Act and the Domestic Violence Act, are major legal strides that have facilitated the child protection issues in the country,” she explained.

She announced that the country was in the process of developing a comprehensive National Child Protection Policy to protect children, including those with disability, from abuse and exploitation.

She, further, assured governments commitment to lay the foundation for the best interest of the Ghanaian and African child and to build the societies to satisfy the needs of all children.

Mrs Azuma-Mensah, however, called on stakeholders, related organisations and individuals protecting the rights of children to continue to support the government to chart a good path for children with disabilities, stressing; “let us dedicate ourselves and rise together to defend our children’s rights to grow up in an all- inclusive society.”

The Country Manager of Right To Play, Dr Bella Bello Bitugu, in his remarks, said it was only when participation and opportunity for all was ensured for everybody in the society that sustainable development could be guaranteed in the country.

He, however, called for continuos support for children with disabilities, in order to give them a voice to contribute their quota to the development of the country.

The UNICEF representative to Ghana, Dr Iyabode Olusanmi, in her address, said UNICEF, in the next few years, would work hard to improve on the schooling system for children with disabilities and other marginalised groups.

“A place where these students will be respected, challenged and empowered so that they can also become doctors, lawyers, athletes and decision makers,” she explained.

Also, UNICEF has initiated the process of expanding their support for inclusive education programmes for children with special needs in deprived communities in the Northern Region.

She said this was an important and essential strategy for the country to achieve universal education, hence the right and smart thing to do.

Speaking on behalf of the children, a primary five people of the School for the Blind in Akropong, Master Asamoah Adjei, said  there was the need to provide a platform for children with disabilities to enable them contribute their quota to the development of the nation.

He also called for the equal rights to education, protection and freedom from discrimination to enable such children feel part of the society and also develop their God-given potential as provided by law.

“Disability can befall anyone in the society, hence the need for all to come together to support us in contributing our quota to mother Ghana,” he said.

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