The Commemoration of the Day of the African Child is rooted in the urgency for quality, accessible and equitable education as a human right for all persons irrespective of their race, gender, class or social status. The deprivation of which becomes a violation against one’s human rights.
In many African countries, access to affordable and quality education remains limited for many children, especially girl child. With a number of societies still viewing the girl child as an irrelevant gender that can only be used to generate wealth for the family thus many are married off at an early age into other families and after all the sooner this happens, the better. Such abhorrent ideas usually occur as a result of the patriarchal cultural traditions that uphold the interests of men over those of women. This, in itself, is a form of Sexual Gender Based Violence (SGBV) and for that, the Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) Alliance and all its member organisations continue to advocate against it in a bid to level the plane for both girls and boys.
Access to justice for survivors of sexual and gender-based crimes including child marriages, sexual harassment among others is crucial to protect and assist them, and to prevent its recurrence. Despite the existence of a strong legal framework for responding to the threat and incidence of SGBV, many societies are still characterized by high levels of violence against women and girls, a problem that is becoming normalized and remains under-reported.
Why must we continue to prioritize access to justice?
The Government of Uganda recognizes that addressing SGBV especially among women and girls is not only a human right issue but also paramount for economic growth of the country. To this end, the country is a signatory to a number of international frameworks including: The United Nations’ 1993 Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women; Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and Convention on Rights of the Child (CRC). These frameworks recognize the responsibility of the state to secure and address the rights of women and recognizes that violence against women is gender-based, emphasizing the that it goes beyond the private problems of individual victims.
According to the 2020 Annual Police Crime Report, a total of 16,257 persons were victims of Sex Related crimes, out of whom, 14,320 were female juveniles. These cases were exacerbated by the COVID19 preventive measures of closing down schools which have proven to be a more safer environment for the girl child. ,
As the SRHR Alliance, we are continuously making efforts towards increasing access to justice through formal and informal channels by young people , regardless of their gender. This is being achieved through the implementation of the Strengthening Community-led Redress (SCR) project that is being funded by the International Development Law Organisation (IDLO) and is being implemented together with Reach A Hand Uganda, Restless Development and Centre for Health, Human Rights and Development in Tororo, Busia and Butaleja districts.
Through the SCR, the SRHR Alliance is enhancing access to justice among adolescent girls and young women by strengthening linkages and collaborations between formal and informal justice systems through the SGBV Community Response Agents (CRAs) who are empowered in identifying and reporting SGBV cases. The CRAss diversely include young people (peer educators), cultural leaders, youth leaders, parents and community leaders within their different capacities.
This year’s Day of the African Child 2021 is being celebrated under the theme; “30 years after the adoption of the Charter: accelerate the implementation of Agenda 2040 for an Africa fit for children”
The charter is concerned with access to universal free primary education for every child in Africa which goes hand in hand with agenda 2040 (Launched by the ACERWC in 2016) : Fostering an Africa fit for children. The main objective of the agenda is to restore the dignity of the African child through assessing the achievements and challenges faced towards the effective implementation of the African Children’s Charter.
As we celebrate this year’s Day of the African Child, we call upon you to join the movement to fight against SGBV in our communities so that all children can access quality education and realize their full potential through;
- The Ministry of Education and Sports continue making a school a safer place that equips children with the primary building blocks that will enrich their lives
- The Ministry of Gender Labor and Social Development to expedite the implementation of the National Parenting Guidelines that are aimed at making homes safer places and free of any form of violence.
- The Justice and Law Sector Organisations strengthen community SGBV response systems for access to justice among adolescent girls and young women
- Strengthening existing avenues and addressing barriers that affect the availability, acceptability, affordability, and quality of formal and informal channels upon which adolescent girls and young women could effectively access SGBV justice-related services
- Building capacity of young women leaders to have collective voice and actions on SGBV injustices, ability to effectively engage duty bearers and support SGBV survivors among adolescent girls and young women to access justice.