By Angela Ekwutosi
World Children’s Day also known as Universal Children’s Day is a day for children all over the world. It is celebrated annually on 20th November, being the date UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration and Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The day offers us the opportunity to celebrate the young minds of the world and their togetherness. It is also for all and sundry to advocate and promote the rights and welfare of children all over the world as well as create awareness for many issues facing children.
The theme for this year World Children’s Day is equality and inclusion for every child. It calls to mind that human rights are not exclusive to adults; they also apply to children. Children deserve their rights as much as we do. UNICEF this year is calling on everyone to share a positive message of equality and inclusion for every child. It is a clarion call.
It will interest you to know that UN Declaration and Convention on the Rights of the Child spelt out the civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights of every child regardless of their race, nationality, sex, religion, abilities or social status. Many nations of the world are party to the Convention on the rights of the child, and have domesticated same. Nigeria has Child Rights Act which provides and protects the rights of a Nigerian child. In this Act, the chapter 4 of the Nigerian Constitution that deals on human rights is applicable to children.
Combined reading of the UN Declaration and Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Nigerian Child Rights Act, provide among other things the right to be treated fairly, right to have a say in the decisions that will affect them, right to freedom from discrimination, right to dignity of human person, right to private and family life, right to life, survival and development, and in all action, the best interest of every child is of paramount important.
Looking through the lens of equality and inclusiveness, have we been true to these rights. In all fairness, some people understand the essence of equality and inclusiveness, and thus they naturally respect the rights of the child as enshrined. But generally, we are yet to embrace this reality. The society treats children as second-class citizens, the reason why their issues are usually our last things if at all they will be considered, and sometimes with minimal consideration. We solve their supposedly problem or needs without first seeking to understand them to know what is really their problem or need. They have no say on issues concerning them, we sit and decide for them. Racism to us is a western issue but it comes in shades and colours. In our families, we treat the sons of the soil different from our house helps. We look down on children of the poor, to those of the rich with admiration. Our children deserved to be educated but others are not. What is it? – Its racism.
At all level in our world today, we are talking about climate change. How much have we involved children in the discussion and action? We are facing high tech security challenges
and economic problem. Where is their place in our discussion? Have they no role to play? 2023 Nigeria election is here. Their future is at stake. Is there nothing they can do? Yes, children are not high and mighty but they can be agents of change and better society in their families. No matter how we complain of this age, they are products of our actions.
It is important for us to understand that they are not less human. We are all created equally by God. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. Human dignity is not an exclusive right to adults but to children too. Respect them. They deserved to be heard on issues that concern or will affect them and to be involved in decision making. They are part of our homes and our society, they deserved to be treated as one without discrimination or pressure. They need to be part of the agent of change. No doubt, they are in their prime age but they have much to offer especially children of this technological age.
It must be noted that the right of supervision or guidance by parents or legal guardian is not in any way taken away. It must also be noted that the clarion call for equality and inclusion of the child is not taking away the position of the parents at home and the power of the leaders at all levels. What they are talking about is sense of belonging. If we do not want to understand them, let us not expect them to understand us. If we do not want them to be part of the decision making, no one should dream of being involved in their own decision making. If we do not respect them, when they get on their feet, their respect for us will be thrown to the wind. Its natural, we learn from experience.
We really need to take off our shoes and stand in theirs to really understand them. As Robert Byrne puts it, until you walk a mile in another man’s moccasins you cannot imagine the smell. So long as we continue to look at children through the lens of age, we cannot get them to entrust their secret to us. People won’t expose their soft centers to us unless they feel genuine love and understanding. Once our children feel our genuine love and understanding, they will tell us many things in their life more than we may want to hear.
Children are calling us today to give them equal right at home, school, society, churches, mosques. They are calling on us for all-inclusive society. They are calling on us to get them involved on what concerns them and their future. They are calling on us to see them as human being with complete head and brain, as they are great minds. They are calling on us to care for their well-being, protect their rights and to always act in their best interest.
I join UNICEF to call on all and sundry to stand up this day to share a positive message of equality and inclusion for every child. They are the future and sustenance of our society.
Angela Ekwutosi Odunukwe, Prime Age Development Initiative