Children upbeat in spearheading for their rights
November 2011: In many countries of the world, children continue to face many obstacles to robust growth and development ranging from violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect.
To mark the 22nd Universal Day of the Child on 20 November, a unique approach by Plan is emerging as a strong case study of how children can be empowered to fight for their rights and place child protection and support on the agenda of national and regional governments as well as international developmental agencies.
By establishing Child Protection Committees in all regions where it operates, Plan is increasing integrating with various community organisations and governance structures to enhance understanding of child rights and thereby empowering children to voice abuses on their rights.
Violence against children has a devastating impact - threatening children's survival, development and participation in society. It is not just widespread but is a fundamental breach of their human rights.
The 2006 United Nations Study on Violence Against Children estimates that a startling 40 million children are abused each year, 150 million girls and 73 million boys experience sexual violence while a 1.8 million and 1.2 million children are involved in prostitution and pornography and are victims of trafficking, respectively.
In Eastern and Southern Africa, the Child Protection Committees have made headway in reaching out to children, community members, teachers, government departments and the police to promote child rights.
Other than facilitating training programs for children and youth to appreciate their rights, Plan is collaborating with institutions to provide child protection in child-friendly environments.
In schools, children have been empowered to educate their peers about children’s rights, their responsibilities and the importance of education.
For 14-year old Winfred of Kamuli Girls Primary School in East Uganda, the work of the child protection commitees is finally paying off. Winfred is among the 5 nominees for the International Children’s Peace Prize 2011. The International Children’s Peace Prize is presented annually to a child, who’s courageous or otherwise remarkable acts have made a difference in countering problems which affect children around the world.
Winfred has also been recently honoured by Plan for her outstanding contribution towards fighting for children’s rights.
“These days the majority of the students know their rights and dare to speak up for what they believe is right and against violence, sexual abuse and corporal punishment,” says Winfred.
“Children now understand that they are somebody, that they can be something, and begin to understand who they are as individuals,” she adds.
Her comments are echoed by Fredrick, the 11-year old Chairperson of Kamuli Boys Primary School Child Protection Committee in Uganda. “We thank Plan for the trainings where we learn about interacting with friends and finding out about children’s rights in their schools and how they do things,” he says.
“In our group, we guide children and tell them about their rights responsibilities and correct them when they have wronged. And as a chairperson, I make sure that all children meet their needs and they are disciplined (well behaved),” Fredrick asserts.
Under its Child Protection Committees, Plan focuses on key priority areas that include; child protection and learning, increasing awareness and participation to both the children and parents on the importance of education and child protection issues such as early marriages, irregular migration, child neglect, violence and child labour amongst others.
“Education is crucial for the empowerment of children, young people and their communities in securing their rights,” Gezahegn Kebede, Regional Director for Plan International in Eastern and Southern Africa says.
“Through the community-based and national initiatives, Plan aims to increase children’s space and inclusion in decision making and policy making processes. We do this through support to existing and emerging children and youth organisations and child media work,” Mr. Kebede adds.
Read more on Plan's child protection work