International Day of the African Child 2015
16 June 2015
Since the African Union, AU (then known as the Organization of African Unity, OAU) adopted June 16 of every year as the Day of the African Child in 1991, to commemorate the 1976 Soweto Uprising in which over a hundred children were killed as they demonstrated for the basic right to decent education, there could not be a more auspicious time to flag this year’s theme: “25 Years After the Adoption of the African Children’s Charter: Accelerating Our Collective Efforts to End Child Marriage in Africa”.
The #BringBackOurGirls movement identifies with the theme for this year and we join our voice with those of many others across the continent and the rest of the world to demand that African countries must take all measures to end Child Marriage NOW. The Africa Union (AU) should determinedly champion a continent-wide approach at correcting cultural doctrines, harmful traditional practices, HTMs; and social orders that should no longer exist in all modern and thriving societies.
Our 219 ChibokGirls, aged between 15 to 18 years old, were tragically abducted from Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, 428 Days ago by terrorists who have alleged that they have sold or married them off. The Nigerian state has so far failed to rescue them from their captors thereby eroding the confidence of other girls in the safety of schools. We shudder at the thought of the violence our 219 girls maybe are being subjected to on a daily basis since their abduction, and the lasting adverse impact on their future.
Every country must face up to the reality of the suffering of the African child over the years. We ask that on this 25th anniversary of the African Union Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, the leaders of our continent must commit themselves to actualizing the lofty objectives of the Charter.
For Nigeria, all states in our Federation should be encouraged and pressured to pass the Child Rights Law into effect. That will forestall the reoccurrence of the kind of calamity we invited upon ourselves when 14 years old Wasila poisoned her husband and three of his friends in Kano, in her desperation to exit from the mental and physical torture of a forced marriage. We use this opportunity to laud the discontinuation of her prosecution by the Kano State Government.
The 2015 theme of International Day of the African Child resonates with our global Movement because we believe that every girl child on the continent should be treated fairly as a Child and not a Bride. Marriage can be an exacting institution. Children should not have their future truncated for the pecuniary gains of their parents, or the sensual gratification and ideological grievances of male adults. Marriage between children should also be discouraged.
It is gravely unjust for any society to thrust emotionally immature and psychologically unprepared children into an unbearable situation. Child marriage ends every girl child’s dream of seeking education. It forces many others to drop out of school. It is not surprising that fewer than 25% of girls old enough to be in secondary schools are enrolled at all in sub-Saharan African.
As we seek to start the long process of ending child marriage in Africa, we call on the AU to look seriously again at coalescing and harnessing all resources and efforts in helping to #BringBackOurGirls of Chibok. We would have failed totally as a continent if these young women who went in search of education, in a region hostile to their collective aspiration are forgotten and even worse as forcefully “married” wives of terrorists.
The Federal Government of Nigeria with the support of the AU can use the successful rescue of our #ChibokGirls as the most effective signal of strong support to all girls across Africa. The time to see to that that is Now!
Hadiza Bala Usman