This year’s Day of the African Child (DAC) commemoration scheduled for Tuesday under the theme: ‘Access to a Child-Friendly Justice System in Africa’ calls for serious introspection and commitment towards addressing the numerous challenges facing African children namely rape, child detention and labour, thus the urgent need for creating a balance child-friendly justice system across the continent.
On June 16, 1976 in Soweto, South Africa, thousands of unarmed black school children took to the streets to protest the inferior quality of their education and to demand their right to be taught in their own language, as a result of which more than one hundred of them were shot to death. To honour the courage of the students and in memory of those killed, the Organisation of African Unity (now the African Union) established the Day of the African Child, in 1991.
The AU defines a child-friendly justice system as a “justice system which guarantees the respect and the effective implementation of all children’s rights at the highest attainable level taking into consideration the child’s level of maturity and understanding and the circumstances of the case”. The AU says the child-friendly justice system must be accessible, age appropriate, speedy, diligent, adaptable to and focused on the needs and rights child; treated in a child sensitive manner, and should be offered a free legal aid
The African continent is home to the youngest population in the world, according to estimates, by 2050, one in three of the world’s children under 18 will be African. According to projections by African Economic Outlook, children below the age of 15 account for 41% of Africa’s population, which is expected to increase by more than double and reach 2.5 billion by 2050. This figures shows that the current and future lives of the African child is of key importance to the development of the continent.
In 2001, the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) was founded by the AU and designated to coordinate the annual celebration of the Day of African Child across Member States of the AU through various activities. The ACERWC’s mandate is to promote and protect the rights established by the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC). Like the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the ACRWC also known as the Children’s Charter, is a comprehensive instrument that sets out rights and defines universal principles and norms for the status of children.
However, due to the current COVID19 global pandemic, the ACERWC, in collaboration with its partner organizations, will be organizing a webinar, which will examine the elements of a child-friendly justice system, including the application of a child rights-based approach and use the four principles of children’s right as a tool for realising access to a child-friendly justice system in Africa. The webinar will be a platform for dialogue among children, policymakers, organizations working on children’s rights, and academics on the major challenges in ensuring equal access to child-friendly justice to all groups of children in Africa.
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