From Victoria Ruzvidzo in Pretoria, South Africa—
The African Union Commission chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has called for the creation of an Africa that secures decent livelihoods for children as opposed to hunger, wars, early marriages and disease that most children on the continent are exposed to. Speaking at the Global Child Conference here yesterday, Dr Dlamini-Zuma fired a broadside at Western powers for disregarding the safety of children when they descend on countries they accuse of dictatorship.
“You may be bombing a dictator, but what happens to the children. That is what we see happening on the other side of the Mediterranean,” she said. This was in apparent reference to the bullying mentality that some Western powers have exhibited in the last few years, bringing strife and hunger that have seen many people displaced, killed or deprived of their dignity.
In countries such as Libya and Iraq, millions of children have been left dead, homeless or orphaned as Western-sponsored turmoil became the order of the day when the super powers moved in to remove Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein respectively. Furthermore, children are being exposed to harsh conditions as Europe grapples with refugees, mainly from this continent running away from sponsored wars and their attendant challenges.
The Global Child Forum conference brought together thought leaders from 28 countries from Africa and beyond, including Zimbabwe, to come up with practical ideas that can be adopted by governments, private sector and other stakeholders to safeguard the welfare of children.
The world has at least 2,4 billion children and Africa accounts for the bulk of them, hence the convening of the conference here. Dr Dlamini-Zuma said increased access to education would reduce the number of early child marriages. Statistics showed that 60 percent of girls that dropped from school ended up married prematurely while only 13 percent of school girls got married early.
“We need to ensure that children remain in school up to secondary and tertiary level. The quality of that education is also critical. It was also critical that the welfare of mothers be considered when discussing children’s rights because the two could not be separated. “Where is the mother in all this. If a mother is sleeping under a bridge the child will also sleep under the bridge. So we must ensure that the mother is part of this discourse and has the necessary rights and capabilities so that the child has better prospects in life,” she said.
The overall development of the continent was critical in ensuring a bright future for children. She stressed that the African Charter also put responsibility on children towards their family or society. This ensured that children, to some extent, contributed to their welfare and future through adhering the humane principles inculcated in them as the grow up.
The African Union’s Agenda 2063 also emphasises the importance of child rights. AU chairman, President Mugabe has also spoken passionately on the need for Africa to build a conducive environment for children as future leaders. Global Child Forum honorary patron Dr Graca Machel emphasised the need for the private sector to broaden its contribution to child rights beyond mere donations.
“The private sector needs to take child rights as its responsibility. It should look at children as an investment and go beyond just building schools, but ensuring clean water and sanitation, skills development to develop children as human capital for nations,” she said.
High quality education, clean water and sanitation, skills development and other such ingredients were critical to improve lives.
“The private sector needs to meet face to face with society. The private sector is a critical investor for our children and youths so that they can unleash their potential,” she said.
Research would also help the formulation for specific country by country interventions instead of blanket initiatives that generalised problems and were thus ineffective in some cases.