It was on this day in June 1976, when children in Soweto, South Africa, took to the streets to protest apartheid-inspired education. These protesting children were met with the most brutal use of force by the white rulers.
In 1991, the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the then OAU instituted the Day of the African Child (DAC) in memory of the 16th June 1976 student uprising in Soweto, South Africa.
At that time, students marched in protest against the poor quality of education they received and demanded to be taught in their own languages. Therefore, this day serves to commemorate these children and the brave action they took in defense of their right.
To celebrate the children of Africa calls for serious introspection and commitment towards addressing the numerous challenges they face in Africa. The DAC 2020 theme is being held on ‘Access to a Child-Friendly Justice System in Africa’.
Therefore, the theme for this year’s celebration is apt considering a rapid surge in child abuse, drug abuse and exploitation in the country.
In The Gambia, as part of the commemoration of the Day, the national Coordinator of Child Protection Alliance stressed that laws to protect children and their welfare must be enforced in order to create a better child friendly environment for future leaders of the country.
Basically, the DAC also reminds us all to raise awareness for the ongoing need to improve the education of children living across Africa. It’s a need that still very much exists today. Of the 57 million primary school age children currently out of school around the world, over half are from sub-Saharan Africa.
Almost 30 years on, challenges facing African children stems from child marriage, rape and exploitation, drug to alcohol abuse, among others.
Despite this, the government of The Gambia has ratified and domesticated laws that are meant to protect children in the country. But, a lot more needs to be done to ensure these laws are enforced to the latter.
There is also the need to intensify our advocacy for better mechanisms that will help children at conflict with the law to be better citizens of the country without resorting to the courts or imprisonment.
"For every woman and girl violently attacked, we reduce our humanity. For every woman forced into unprotected sex because men demand this, we destroy dignity and pride. Every woman who has to sell her life for sex we condemn to a lifetime in prison. For every moment we remain silent, we conspire against our women. For every woman infected by HIV, we destroy a generation"