Children have spoken, we must act resolutely

Children have spoken, we must act resolutely
Children have spoken, we must act resolutely

Africa-Press – Rwanda. For the last 15 years, Rwanda has been organising an annual National Children’s Summit, which takes place on the occasion of the World Children’s Day, on November 20.

The summit attracts representatives of children drawn from all corners of the country, who join government officials, as well as representatives of international agencies like UNICEF and other stakeholders in shining a light on the challenges facing children, and draw up recommendations with a view to improving children’s rights and wellbeing.

Now, over the years, Rwanda has made significant gains in the protection and promotion of the rights of children, whether through enacting child-friendly policies or creating the necessary institutional frameworks to continuously advance their rights, or engaging and empowering children around issues that concern them.

From universal access to basic education and healthcare, to improvements in delivery of crucial socioeconomic services for children, we’ve made significant inroads into creating a bright future for children and young people of Rwanda in general.

In eliminating all forms of discrimination against children, whether in education or other vital services, Rwanda has created conditions necessary for any child to grow up believing in themselves and dreaming big.

And, schemes like community-based Early Childhood Development Centres and school feeding programme have gone a long way in improving the living conditions of disadvantaged children, affording them an opportunity to have a fair shot at life.

Indeed, this year’s theme for World Children’s Day, “I am The Future”, resonates with Rwanda’s efforts to create an inclusive, child friendly environment that supports their physical and intellectual development, as well as empowers them to unlock their creative potential.

Nonetheless, children continue to face a myriad of difficult problems, which often take a toll on their quality of life, whether it’s their physical development or mental health – with lasting impacts individually and far-reaching knock-on effects on society in general. These challenges in most cases originate from families, neighbours and the community.

On Saturday, at the 15th National Children’s Summit, children made their voices heard, putting older people on the spot and demanding urgent action. At the top of the list of the issues they want addressed urgently are family conflicts, malnutrition and stunting. They also want parents to find more time for childcare, and to raise and nurture their children in accordance with Rwandan cultural values.

They also asked society to decisively deal with child sexual abuse and the issue of teen pregnancies that often lead to schoolgirls dropping out of school, to improve the living conditions of children living with disabilities, tackle period poverty, and to promote counselling and career guidance services in schools. And the pandemic has only worsened the situation.

These are serious challenges that the government and its partners as well as the general public must deal with head-on. We can no longer prevaricate or simply wish these problems away. The children have spoken unequivocally and we must act resolutely, in terms of advocacy and raising awareness, crime prevention and justice delivery, as well as scaling up childcare, counselling, mentorship and other key services where there are gaps.

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