As we celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child 2017 on the theme “ EmPOWER Girls: Before, during and after crises” , we have to be reminded that half of the victims of conflicts and crises in the world are children. The Committee is particularly concerned about the perverse effects of conflicts and crises on the girl child in Africa due to her vulnerable situation even in time of peace. The recently concluded Study on the impact of conflicts and crises on children in Africa conducted by the Committee reveals that sexual violence is widespread among girls during conflict situations. In some countries as the study shows, rape is so rampant that it is referred to as “normal”. This violence is even trivialized by law enforcement officials and the community as survivors are often forced to marry perpetrators as a remedy.
Accountability for violations in conflict situations remains a serious problem. Accountability extends to States, which have not been effective in preventing, stopping or managing conflicts and crisis situations in a manner sufficient to reduce their impact on children. No lessons seem to have been learned from earlier conflicts; the same violations continue and States remain aloof to the plight of their children. Many children are being uprooted from their homes due to violence, search for better opportunities, harmful practices such as child marriage exposing them to other risks like sexual exploitation, child labour, abuse, and military recruitment. For children on the move, especially girls, the movement confronts them with particular challenges and confers to them certain vulnerabilities including lack of access to basic social services such as health; risks associated with sexual and reproductive health just to mention a few. “The conflict drove us from our land, killing some men. I am here with my grandmother. I don”t know the whereabouts of my parents. My senior sister is in town. I was in primary 3. I feel very bad and I don’t talk to anyone about my feelings” stated a 10 year-old girl from Maiduguri, Nigeria.
Well aware of this particular situation the Committee has embarked to undertake a study on children on the move to bring attention on this phenomenon and take action on the challenges of children affected. The movement of children—voluntary or forced, legal or undocumented, within or beyond borders—constitutes a complex process, presenting some of the most intricate inter-relationships of policy concerns for governments. With the support of its partners, the study is expected to map the situation of children in this context and assess the AU Member States responses to the challenges of children on the move. The International Day of the Girl thus gives us the opportunity to renew our commitment to create an Africa fit for our girls, an Africa fit our children.
The Committee believes in an Africa driven by its people, relying on the potential of its women and youth and who cares for children as endowed in aspiration 6 of the continental development framework known as Agenda 2063. In line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – Agenda 2063 rightly describes children as “agents of change, whose potential should be unleashed to contribute to the development of Africa. In the same vein, Agenda 2040 for children’s rights adopted by the Committee encourages Member States to facilitate equity, address discrimination, increase accountability, and strengthen collaboration among various stakeholders for the realization of children’s rights in Africa. Beyond the celebration of the Day, the Committee urges member states to contextualize the SDGs to their individual circumstances and needs, with the active participation of children in the planning and implementation of activities. For instance, States can assess their national development plans with a view to prioritizing children’s rights in accordance with the African Children’s Charter, the SDGs, the AU’s Continental Agenda 2063 and Agenda 2040 for children’s rights. The Committee also calls on other partners to complement state efforts in their implementation efforts.
Happy Celebration of the International Day of the Girl.