June 16, 2006
Celebrating Day of the African Child
Today marks Day of the African Child. UNICEF issued a press release asking the international community to recognize that young people are Africa’s greatest resource and to help them overcome the challenged they face.
The Day of the African Child is celebrated every year since 1991 in honor of South African children killed by their government in 1976. Thousands of black school children in Soweto, South Africa, protested the sub-standard quality of their education under apartheid and demanded to be taught in their own language. Hundreds of boys and girls were shot and in the two weeks of protests that followed, more than 100 people were killed and 1,000 injured.
“This landmark event was a demonstration of great courage and conviction by the children of South Africa, who stood up for what they believed. It is a powerful reminder of the decisive role that children can have in bringing about change and of the importance of ensuring a quality basic education for all.” — UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman
The good thing about this release it that it shows us how violence is inter-related to other issues that marginalize the young. Violence against children is a serious threat in particular because of the continent’s disproportionate burden of conflict, extreme poverty and HIV/AIDS. Children living in conflict areas are at risk of gender-based violence because of the lack of family and community protection.
Women and children fleeing their homes because of armed conflict are more vulnerable to violence, abuse and exploitation. This exploitation increases their risk of HIV infection. In turn, HIV/AIDS has left many African children orphans. In sub-Saharan Africa, 12 million children under the age of 18 have lost one or both parents to AIDS. In turn, losing the people who would’ve protected them from violence.