On the 11th of July, 1990, member states of the Organization of African Unity OAU, moved to adopt the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, which sets out rights and defines principles for the status of children on the African continent, as it came into force in 1999.
The Day of the African Child has been celebrated on June 16 every year since 1991,when it was first initiated by the Organisation of African Unity.
It honors those who participated in the Soweto Uprising in 1976 on that day. It also raises awareness of the continuing need for improvement of the education provided to African children.
The African Charter can be a powerful tool to hold governments accountable for ending child marriage.
Indeed, it defines the rights and responsibilities of a child and mandates protection of the girl child from harmful cultural practices such as child marriage.
As part of the implementation of the charter, the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) was established in 2001.
States party to the charter were expected to submit reports to the committee, which documents information and assesses the situation of children.
Member states must submit their first report on their implementation of the charter two years after ratification. After that, periodic reports are submitted every three years.
The reporting process keeps governments accountable to the commitments they have made within the African Charter, and is a great opportunity to raise better measures to end child marriage.
Ghana has drafted a National Action Plan for the Elimination of Worst Forms of Child Labour in Ghana, which became operational from 2017 and expires in 2021, and is being championed by the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations.
This document shows the way government coordinates all efforts of partners and activity compliments towards the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 8, target 7.
The Strategic Framework on Ending Child Marriage which was launched in 2017 and being led in implementation by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection is another policy which aims at ensuring the Ghanaian child, especially the female, has the best of future in terms education and not pushed into marriage at a tender age before 18 years.
These documents are but a few of the richly crafted policies that Ghana has to ensure that the right and safety of the child are protected to allow for them to explore their full potentials in education for the betterment of society.
However, the implementation of these policies as many others, has become difficult for governments overtime, due to a lack of commitment and of political will.
Our rural areas still see the worst forms of child labour which many go unreported and the few that get reported, run a haul of frustrating legal processes which relatives of victims and complainants mostly end up abandoning the cases.
Parents still give girls out to men who are sometimes thrice their age, with children older than them for marriage, with collaborations from family and opinion leaders, in return for material things such as money and some form of luxury.
Our water bodies in the coastal areas are inundated with children who serve as “slaves and apprentices” to fisherfolk, after their parents ‘sell’ them out for monies best described as ‘chicken change’.
WUZDA Ghana, a Nongovernmental Organization with high interests in the welfare of the child, makes consideration to the growth of children in all its projects planning and implementation.
Our projects in the rural communities have the objective to economically empower the rural farmer to be able to put their children through school and through training which prevents for the child to be involved in hard labour just to help the family to keep up.
Our interventions in schools where we provide some WASH facilities, are aimed at reducing the struggle the child goes through to access basic WASH amenities, so as to avoid them being exposed to danger while doing that.
The ‘After 24 Years Before Marriage A24Y’ Project aims at ensuring the girl child is put through school and allowed to be in school until after she is 24 years before any marriage discussions can begin.
We believe that by this time, the girl will be able to make decisions on her own regarding who she wants to get married to and how she wants the process to go.
She also would have grown physically and is better ready to go through the reproduction process without endangering her health and that of the unborn child.
Clearly, WUZDA Ghana has been rallying all its activities around the welfare and safety of the Child, but a drop of water in the ocean, is not enough, more needs to be done for the realization of a befitting future for the African Child.
Happy International Day of the African Child!!!
(Shaibu Awudu – Media and Communications)</strong>