June 16 is internationally known as the day of the African Child. Africa’s population is projected to double by 2050 to 2.4 billion people. With its rapidly growing population, over 60% is the youth below the age of 25. Despite its large pool of natural and human resources, the continent still faces a number of challenges ranging from corruption, poverty, civil unrest and war, gender inequality, and many more. Throughout these challenges, the African youth and African Children suffer the most, their needs and obstacles are not taken into account and their contributions to tackling Africa’s problems are overlooked. Yet, youths are the ones leading the movement to change for a better Africa.
To tackle Africa’s challenges, the roles must be reversed at certain levels and inclusive at certain levels. Let the youth lead. The African child must not be seen as a “problem to be solved” by governments or international bodies. The African child must be seen as an equal player in the continent’s development. This year’s theme for International Day of the African Child is “Leave No Child Behind for Africa’s Development. To many African youths like myself, this theme inspires hope. On June 16th, 1976, it took the loss of lives of hundreds of children for their voices to be heard, are we not dying enough?
Nelson Mandela said; “One way that we can build a better future for children is by empowering them through allowing them to speak up for themselves. Of course, we as adults have to guide them and take ultimate responsibility but that is something quite different from patronizing them. The rights of children must, importantly, include the right to be themselves and to talk for themselves.”
As we commemorate the 2018 Day of the African Child, these words ring true for our continent. Children represent a renewed strength and vigour that is critical to sustaining the momentum as we look towards a more inclusive and prosperous continent. If we must progress, we cannot afford to neglect their authentic voices - particularly the girl child, who is often left behind. From enacting laws to shaping cultural norms, we have a binding responsibility to seek and treasure the input of African children.