Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Mtoto Afrika – Girls’ thoughts on children’s rights

June 16th is known as the International Day of the African Child (Siku ya mtoto wa Afrika). It’s a remembrance day of the thousands of students who participated the Soweto uprising in 1976 and defended their right to have good education in their native language. That day, hundreds of demonstrators were killed by the police and this led to more protests and deaths during the following weeks. Since 1991 the day has been celebrated for raising awareness of the condition of life of the African children and the importance of education.

In the girls’ group we approached the same themes. We told them about the day and asked them to think about children’s rights and responsibilities. We also asked them to draw or write down both what is positive and negative in their living environment when it comes to children’s position in their community.

This led to fine observations and interesting discussion. They see a lot of good and valuable qualities in their community such as love, communality, respect of the elderly, family and home. The girls appreciate education and they are happy that nowadays girls are also allowed to schools. However, they pointed out many defects too. They see neglection and even child abuse, lack of food and shortage of other basic needs. Perhaps one of the most important remarks is gender inequality. Girls are given more household duties such as cooking, cleaning, childcare and collecting firewood and water. This leaves them with little free time and energy to study. Boys are still prioritized when it comes to education.

Girls are aware that children have the right to education, quality food, home, clothes, playing and praying and the right to be heard. Girls would like to have more time to meet friends and rest. This led us to think about the balance of rights and responsibilities and to seek ways to better communicate with parents. In girls’ opinion, first the responsibilities have to be taken care of and the negotiation has to be well timed and grounded.

It was great hear the girls’ own opinions and ideas about the topic. Due to gender inequality the girls are usually quite unconfident to speak out and share. They need to get the experiences of being heard, respected and allowed to have opinions.

Minna Varho & Ida Nyroos

The writers are Master’s degree social work students from University of Turku in Finland and are currently doing their internship with Ni Hekima Pekee.