What you need to know:
- In 1991, the OAU instituted the Day of the African Child to commemorate the student uprising, as well as to call for introspection and commitment towards addressing the numerous challenges facing children across the continent.
- This year’s theme, ‘Access to a Child-Friendly Justice System in Africa,’ underscores the importance of a justice system that guarantees children dignified, expeditious and fair processes of justice.
On June 16, 1976, a group of about 10,000 children took to the streets of Soweto in protest of their poor quality of education, demanding to learn in their language. More than a 100 people died in that protest, dubbed the Soweto Uprising, as the children marched in a column more than half a mile long for their rights.
In 1991, the OAU instituted the Day of the African Child to commemorate the student uprising, as well as to call for introspection and commitment towards addressing the numerous challenges facing children across the continent.
This year’s theme, ‘Access to a Child-Friendly Justice System in Africa,’ underscores the importance of a justice system that guarantees children dignified, expeditious and fair processes of justice. To that effect, the National Assembly has been urged to fast-track the enactment of the Children’s Bill 2019, which seeks to align the Children’s Act with the Kenyan constitution. This comes amid growing concern on the safety of children during the course of the pandemic, as reports of violence meted against them both at home and as a result of police brutality are said to be on the rise.
Speaking during the launch of the Day of the African Child 2020 celebrations in Nairobi, Chairperson of the National Council on Administrative Justice, Honourable Lady Justice Martha Koome, urged parliament to ensure the enactment of the Children's Act aligns with the 2010 constitution.
“We further call upon the Director of Public Prosecutions to avail recording devices for timely collection of evidence from victims of sexual violence, and reduce the need of victims testifying again in court,” she said.
In addition, she called for the Kenya Prison Service to ensure that the children accompanying mothers in jail are safeguarded from the risks of Covid -19, as the disease poses a significant risk to their livelihood. Pertaining to legal representation, she affirmed that the Law Society of Kenya should ensure that children have an advocate assigned to them for all cases.
“This gives us a chance to alert the Kenya judiciary to be more sensitive on how children issues are handled in court, the handling of cases,” said Dr Joyce Ngugi, chairperson of the National Council Children's Services. She added that many areas need improvement, including time taken to handle cases reported by children, privacy, and protection of children. She further reiterated the Council’s commitment to ensuring that service delivery is achieved as far as children's rights are concerned. calling upon partners to join hands in fighting for the rights of children, especially during the course of the pandemic
State Department of Social Protection, Principal Secretary Nelson Marwa proclaimed that the government is in the process of developing a new statute for children that is aligned with the provisions of the Constitution. Speaking at the celebrations, he said that it will seek to address emerging issues in the children’s rights sphere, adding that the day will give the country an opportunity to consolidate effort towards overcoming challenges faced by children in their quest to access timely justice. “This is a fundamental right and a foundation for the promotion of all other human rights” Marwa noted.