Youth Reporter Angella finished her placement volunteering with ICS earlier this year but continues to write for us. On Sunday the 16th June for the International Day of the African Child she attended an annual dialogue in Kitgum district, Uganda.
Sunday 16th June was international Day of the African child. Ahead of the celebration in Kitgum district, the district decided to host their 2nd annual children’s dialogue.
Child advocates met together with community leaders including the district speaker, chief administrative officer and other key leaders in the neighbouring districts and communities.
The advocates were between the ages of 7 – 16. They had the courage to stand up on behalf of their fellow children and air the problems affecting them.
” A problem for one child is a problem for all children”
African Child Day Children’s Dialogue
The following issues discussed in the dialogue held on 10th June 2019 were:
The nodding disease has affected so many children in northern Uganda. The disease originated from South Sudan and affects children from the ages of 5-15 years. It affects children both mentally and physically. The mental instability as an effect of this disease can lead to children getting themselves into dangerous and often life threatening situations.
According to the child advocate Phionah, there are many families in places like lamwo and kitgum matidi that are affected by this disease but do not have the support to managing it. According to the district speaker of Kitgum district, the government has provided some things like food, soap, mattresses and some medicines to the support families but there was question as to whether this has been effective.
Neglect of disabled children in public schools
According to Sandra from oyam, disabled children have limited facilities such as wheelchair accessible buildings or sign language teachers to help them during school hours.
These children with disabilities are excluded from some activities. With time these children drop out of school because they don’t feel as though they can fit in with their community.
Sandra said “All children deserve to be treated equally despite the differences”. The children sometimes encounter a harsh start of life .
Sandra suggested that not only should the government hire more sign language teachers in schools so as to bridge the gap of communication between teachers and students but also train teachers on how to handle children with special needs. “The government should introduce a law that all buildings should be wheelchair accessible.” All the available stakeholders agreed that children with disabilities need more attention and support.
Women and Girls education
Alorach Patricia, another child advocate, raised an issue that there are few or no women staff in some schools. She also raised that girls have no facilities such as washrooms and some girls can’t access sanitary equipment. Many girls have dropped out of school because they either have no adult females to talk to or because they feel unsafe in shared washrooms. With no access to sanitary products some girls can’t come to school during their menstruation period.
“To educate a boy you educate an individual but to educate a girl is to educate a nation.” Patricia suggested the government hire more female teachers. The district speaker announced that they had begun to focus on this. She also suggested separate washrooms be built for both the boys and girls in schools and to teach children how to make reusable sanitary pads.
The district speaker suggested that NGOs at the forum work together to ensure that they could both protect their children and help the country grow as well.
African Child Day Celebrations
Ending Child Labour
Youth advocate Kidega Robert was passionate about ending child labour. He said that in his community children are found selling mangoes, cassava extra, stone quarrying, babysitting their siblings and even take to the streets to beg. This happens when they should be at school. This is mainly caused by poverty among the parents, ignorance and bad cultural practices among the community members.
Kidega Robert suggested that they should educate parents on the dangers of child labour and put strict laws in place to protect children against such harmful acts of child labour.
Teen pregnancy and child marriages
Teen pregnancy, child marriages and high rates of school dropouts was another issue discussed. According to child advocate Dorcus, many teenagers are unable to complete school either because they are married young or they become pregnant.
It is very dangerous for a girls health to give birth before she is fully developed herself, some girls even die during the process of childbirth. Dorcus said that peer pressure from their colleagues and family are some of the reasons for child marriage and many girls are unaware of family planning methods.
African Child Day Celebrations
Various grievances were discussed and various solutions were brought up but the main focus was on families. The fight for children rights should start by empowering families to empower their own children.
Focusing on families enables the children learn more: “charity begins at home”
After the dialogue there was a celebration in mucwini sub county in Kitgum district on 16th June 2019. The children had a safe space to showcase talents of dance, poetry, music.