NO CHILD SHOULD BE LEFT BEHIND
By Constance Ndeleko
It is another day and seated under the shade as the sun sets on the west I ask myself this, Do I know children rights and about their welfare? How many people know about them? Do children know that they have an act that protects them and they have rights? What are they protected from? Who protects them? Well, maybe not all of us know but perhaps a few understand that there are laws implemented to protect children rights and their welfare at National, Regional and International level.
Is it out of ignorance that people don’t know about matters concerning children or is it that they have not heard at all about it? Is there enough outreach out there to enable the society to understand issues that affect children?
We took time to talk to Dr. Nkatha Murungi Advocate of the High Court of Kenya and lecturer and Researcher in Human Rights with a keen focus on children, women and disability rights to understand the African Charter on rights and welfare of a child and how to protect their rights and welfare as well. A Child is the principal legal instrument for the protection and promotion of rights of children on the African continent thus there are set values that will protect their rights and welfare on African continent; There are entitlements, responsibilities, duties of African countries need to make for these entitlements and protections to become a reality
The charter is unique in many different ways as it includes facts that only such region specific instrument on children’s rights. It embraces unique values; recognition that in African context children not only have rights but also responsibilities, it seeks to address issues that are prevalent in African context, and which are not addressed in global instruments such as Convention on Rights of the Child. Which include; harmful traditional practices, apartheid, internal displacement and education of gifted children.
The charter establishes a monitoring body i.e. African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the child, it has a strong mandate to monitor and implement, Mandate includes capacity to receive individual complaints for violations of children’s rights. Through the oversight of the committee the charter ensures that African Countries take the necessary measures to full fill their obligation under the charter.
It explains the state of domestication and implementation of the African Charter on the rights and welfare of the Child while it progresses towards ensuring rights under the charter are implemented at national level.
Not only do countries harmonize their laws with standards set by the charter but take practical action to ensure that the laws and policies are implemented. Domesticate charter standards, African committee of Experts on Rights and Welfare of the Child regularly engages African countries on the steps to fulfil their obligations under the charter.
We ensure that no Child is left behind by; having immense disparities in adoption of legislation in Africa to give effort to the charter since its adoption in 1990, dedication of African countries adopt it as a national law, dedicate sections in general laws to address the rights of children.
Significant number of African Countries have recognized the rights of children in their highest laws i.e the constitution .Although there are still challenges in ensuring African countries keep up with the pace of continuous process of law reforms to ensure complete harmonization. African countries lag behind in ensuring that their national laws are updated to protect children and wellbeing of children eg. cybercrimes and other technology based threats
Domestication of international treaties takes more than just adopting national laws. It requires adoption of measures to ensure that the laws are given effects at national level. What can be done to ensure that no child is left behind this in this development process is that; The law is potent for protection and promotion of rights and wellbeing of children in Africa. There are Solid legal and policy basis that creates solid foundation for demand of accountability.
One of the many challenges is that In legislating for the children in Africa is that the law can also be unintended barrier for children to benefit from protections that are available to everyone else In the same country. Most times laws are made in a manner that fills it recognizes the peculiar needs of particularly vulnerable groups of children e.g. children with disabilities or in some cases girls.
Therefore, it is important that law makers in African countries are conscious of the needs to reflect and address needs of all children through their legislations. In basis of equality of all children is that we ensure that no child is left behind in Africa’s development. And as a society we should come out strongly to support them as they hold a significant position of the future.