Uganda should join global drive against abuse of children’s rights

It is worth noting that the recent joint winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala Yousafzai and Kailashi Satyarthi are both eminent child rights activists whose steadfast devotion to the fight against child rights violations transcends their respective countries.

Hence by choosing to recognise the efforts of these activists, the Norwegian Nobel Committee helps to put a spotlight on children whose rights are continuously violated and more often with impunity. Can this global recognition, therefore, reinvigorate all the efforts that aim to push the child rights agenda in Uganda and beyond forward?

In India alone where Satyarthi has devoted his life to the fight against child labour, the 2001 National Census of India estimated the number of child labourers aged between five and eight years at 12.6 million out of the 217 million child labourers worldwide.

Worse still, 120,000 children in India were engaged in hazardous jobs, which represents the worst form of child labour as provided for under Article 3 of International Labour Organisation Convention No.182. In fact, Unicef estimates that India has the largest number of child labourers in the world under the age of 14 years while sub-Saharan Africa has the highest percentage.

In Uganda, we have more than 2.7 million child labourers, according to the International Program on Elimination of Child Labour. This contravenes the provisions of 1995 Constitution, the Children Act and the Employment Act, and a host of other international instruments that Uganda ratified.

Pakistan, where Malala hails from, fares no better in regard to the protection of the rights of children. Malala’s relentless pursuit for the rights of girls to access education in a strictly Muslim region almost cost her life.

Yet equal access to education is a child’s right as per the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children. There is a disproportionate level of literacy rates between boys and girls. For example, the Federal Education Ministry of Pakistan places overall literacy rate at 46 per cent with a mere 25 per cent of girls literate while independent sources place girls at only 12 per cent.

Unicef estimates the number of child labourers at that 17.6 per cent and 70 per cent of these are girls. In the rural areas of Pakistan, education for girls is strictly prohibited on religious grounds.

However, limited access to girl child education is a worldwide problem. According to the 2014 Millennium Development Goals report, in 2012, of the 126 million youths worldwide who lacked basic reading and writing skills, girls accounted for more than 60 per cent. In Uganda, female pupils miss classes for three to four days per month, which translates into eight to 24 days per year according to Unicef survey report conducted in 10 districts in 2013. The school dropout rate in Uganda for girls is higher than that of boys.

In Uganda, 51 per cent of children are considered moderately to critically vulnerable to rights abuse and more than four million children live in poverty deprived of basic child rights.

Despite a few positive strides, there seems to be lack of urgency and deliberate action plan to address the hurdles our children continue to face. For example, government has been reluctant to expedite the amendment process of the Children Act, long after the Uganda Law Reform Commission presented a draft amendment Bill in 2010. The amendments are intended to, among others, prescribe tougher penalties for child rights offenders.

Nelson Mandala once said, “Safety and security of children don’t just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children – the most vulnerable citizens in our society – a life free of violence and fear”. I truly believe the global recognition that comes with the Nobel peace prize triumph should be harnessed so as to catapult the rights of vulnerable children world over to the top of global agenda.

Mr Oramire is a child rights aocate working with Centre for Children’s Rights.

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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