By Vatican News
The date was chosen to celebrate the bravery of thousands of South African children who took to the streets in the Johannesburg township of Soweto on 16 June 1976, to peacefully protest the inferior education accorded to them by the apartheid government. Hundreds of them were shot dead by the police.
Today, it is an observance that celebrates all the children of Africa and calls for commitment towards addressing the numerous challenges they face.
The theme chosen for the 2020 International Day is “Access to a Child-Friendly Justice System in Africa”. Due to the current Covid-19 crisis, commemorations and discussions at a continental level are taking place through a webinar.
The theme aims to examine various aspects of a child-friendly justice system, but the pandemic has highlighted the need to address a series of faultlines and frailties that have exposed increased dangers and risks for the most vulnerable, including children.
Experts warn that the current crisis might undo decades of progress in child rights, putting millions of girls at great risk of violence, abuse and exploitation.
They note that besides losing out on education, girls – particularly in poor and marginalised communities in Africa – are facing heightened risks of hunger, child labour, trafficking, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.
On a continent already battling food insecurity, climate change, conflicts and economic downturn, the virus is amplifying existing inequalities and affecting the long-term environment in which African children will grow up.
The far-reaching effects of Covid-19 are putting top-level scientists, economists and policy-makers to task in a concerted effort to save the system. Here’s hoping that they will remember that a whole generation of African children is at risk of being left behind.