Few Kenyans noticed that yesterday was the International Day of the African Child.
This is a day marked annually on June 16. It was first established by the Organisation of the African Unity (the forerunner of the African Union) in 1991 and it aims at raising awareness for the situation of children in Africa, and on the need for continuing improvement in education. It also commemorates and honours those who participated in the uprising in 1976 in Soweto, South Africa, when thousands of black school children took to the streets to protest against the inferior quality of their education during the Apartheid regime. The security forces responded with violence resulting in more than a 100 people killed and thousands injured.
Kenya has over the years used the occasion to create awareness on child rights and to focus on diverse child rights violations and underlying causes. Ideally, the day provides an opportunity to assess the progress towards realisation of the rights of children, and celebrate the gains for the children.
This year’s theme, ‘The Rights of the Children with Disabilities: The Duty to Protect, Respect, Promote and Fulfill’, was appropriate as it helped to focus on the special needs of persons with disabilities, including children. As the Secretary for Children Affairs Jacqueline Oduol says, despite the strides the country has made in development, children with disabilities are still faced with stigma and discrimination. This should not happen. Parents and communities must protect and promote the rights of children with disabilities. But more important, the Government must ensure these children are accorded opportunities to develop their full potential and participate in nation building.