|UNICEF Country REP Aichatou Diawara – Flambert|
By Abdoulie Nget
Young People in the Media have on Saturday in partnership with UNICEF celebrated the 21st anniversary of the Day of the African Child, with the theme: Altogether for Urgent Action in Favour of Street Children at the premises of Unique FM in Bakau New Town.
The celebration was to memorize 16 June 2011 - In 1976 when over hundred black school children were killed and over thousand injured on the streets of Soweto, South Africa, during their half a mile long protest claiming their right to education using their own language.
To honour the memory of those killed and the courage of all those who marched, the Day of the African Child has been celebrated on 16 June every year since 1991, initiated by the Organization of African Unity (now the African Union). The Day also draws attention to the lives of African children.
Speaking during the celebration at Bakau, the UNICEF representative to The Gambia, Mrs. Aichatou Diawara – Flambert said it is of importance on this day to address the issues affecting, young people living in Africa, who work and live in the streets.
“It is this day that allows the government, policy makers and other principal actors in development, to examine the achievements and gaps made over the past years in securing good health, education, equality and security for all African children. In addition, it creates the avenue for all stakeholders to monitor the implementation of the African Charter on the rights of the child, as well as evaluate achievements made so far in attending the MDG targets specified to the young people and children,” Diawara said.
In the Gambia, she said, streets children were normally described as Almudos, who are young Quranic learners who spend about 6 hours a day begging on the streets of the greater Banjul area, and most of these children are not up to puberty.
“Challenges of street children are many, all of which we cannot discuss in one day, but they can be overcome by using such days as today (June 15) to advocate for the protection of these street children who will be leaders of tomorrow,” Diawara added.
She further said UNICEF defined street children as any child below the age of 18 who either lives or works in the streets with particular emphasis is being placed on Africa Children, with even more emphasis on street children in sub-Saharan Africa where poverty is deeply entrenched and the children and young people are the most affected by conflict, hunger and disease.
She said The Gambia government is a step ahead as they emerged as key partners in strengthening the fight against street children, commending them together with the media for their support.
For his part, the minister for Youth and Sports Sheriff Gomez, children are the assets of any country, and they must be nurtured as they are the prominent leaders of tomorrow.
“It is not convincing to see children working and living in the streets,” confessing that they are not many but there are cases of street children in The Gambia.
The Gambia government under the leadership of president Jammeh, he said have done and will continue to do all it could to get rid of children living in the streets.
Sheikh Lewis of Child Protect Alliance stated that children have to be taken good care of, as all the children living in the streets are from families but due to poverty and others circumstances they work on the streets. He also said adults have a stake in the fight against street children phenomenon.
He commended the government of The Gambia for the tremendous effort made to protect the integrity of our children.