16th June every year, is observed across Africa as the “Day of the African Child”. This day honours the memories of students who were massacred in Soweto, South Africa, in 1976 for protesting against discriminatory systems of education in the then apartheid regime.
It was designated as Day of the African Child in 1991 by the African Union and every year events are organized to promote children’s rights.
The National Commission for Children (NCC) being a statutory body established to monitor and coordinate the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC); to oversee the implementation of Part III of the Child Rights Act (CRA) of 2007 and to advise Government on policies aimed at the improvement of the condition and welfare of children in Sierra Leone, joins all other countries in Africa in commemoration of the Day of the African child on Thursday 16th June, 2016.
The theme for this year in Sierra Leone is “Protecting children’s rights during violence and crisis in Sierra Leone”
This year’s celebration is a clarion call for more priority to be given to the protection of children’s rights during periods of violence and crisis of whatever kind such as social, economic, political, environmental, cultural, religious etc.
It is evidently clear that in all such situations e.g. the Ebola Virus disease, the past flooding incidents in the country, the current water crisis and inter-school violence and indiscipline adversely affect our children as they constitute one of the most vulnerable segments of society.
The NCC therefore appeals to all parents/guardians to provide protective mechanisms to ensure that children are not exploited, abused and exposed to further danger resulting from violent and crisis situations. The Commission further urges all parents/guardians to provide proper supervision and guidance to their children to curb the increasing violence and antisocial behavior perpetuated by school going children.
The NCC hereby appeals to all state and non-state actors to play their different roles in ensuring that children’s rights are protected. The Commission strongly believes that if operational systems and mechanisms such as effective preparedness and prompt response to disasters are established and functional, the adverse effects on children in situations of crisis and violence will be minimized.
Furthermore, the Commission requires all political actors to discourage and exempt our children from all forms of political activities. Similarly, children are also strongly advised not to allow themselves to be used during such activities as they stand to bear the greatest brunt should violence erupt.
The NCC’s call to action is therefore one of increased, concerted and accelerated effort by all duty bearers to ensure that children’s rights are protected at all times.
The Commission envisions a Sierra Leone where children are safe, their issues prioritized, and have opportunities to develop to their fullest potential.