Members of the Liberia National Children Representative Forum (LNCRF) in collaboration with the Child Protection Network of the Liberia (CPN) and the Ministry of Gender, Children & Social Protection are gearing up for the celebration of the 2023 edition of the Day of the African Child (DAC) slated for June 16, 2023.
The Day of the African Child (DAC) is an international campaign that aims at raising awareness for the situation of children in Africa, and on the need for continuing improvement in education for children.
The celebration of the Day of the African Child (DAC) arises from resolution No: CM/1290 of the Heads of States Summit of the then Organization of African Unity (OAU) held in Abuja, Nigeria in June of 1990. During this summit, it was declared that the 16th day of June every year be celebrated as the Day of the African Child to commemorate the death of hundreds of school children who were massacred in Soweto, South Africa, by the then Apartheid Regime in June of 1976. The children protested against the inferior quality of their education and demanded their rights to be taught in their own language.
Addressing the media on Monday, June 5, 2023 at the Ministry of Ministry of Gender, Children & Social Protection, the Outgoing Speaker of the Liberia National Children Representative Forum (LCNRF), Joel Gray, Jr. disclosed that this year’s DAC is being observed under the global theme: The Rights of Children in the Digital Environment, while Liberia will commemorate the day under a National Theme: Promoting digital Literacy and Security for every Liberian child.
“Let me continue by imploring all the front-liners, particularly the Child Protection Network (CPN), our local and international partners and all the hardworking staff at the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection for the overwhelming commitment, and you, who have worked tirelessly over the years making sure that we bring to an end the menace of rape and all forms of violence against children. Thank you so much and we are grateful. Please do not get weary for this is an unending engagement and we must do it together,” Speaker Gray added..
According to him, Liberia being a member of the AU, has also organized a series of activities in commemoration of the Day of the African Child 2023 which is expected to focus on the global theme that provides a platform to reflect on the digital education of children on the African Continent.
Speaker Joel Gray, Jr. indicated that this year’s DAC is being commemorated with the objectives to remind duty bearers of the significance of commitments towards amending the Children’s Law in order to reinforce adherence/compliance and affirm obligations to protect the right of children against online and other violations.
He disclosed that the DAC is being commemorated specific objectives of the DAC are to ensure the following:
• The sensitization of children on the importance of their involvement in the digital environment and how it impacts their lives both positively and negatively
• To advocate for the compilation and publication of best practices on the state of children’s rights in the digital sphere in Liberia:
• To advocate with stakeholders to pledge their commitment to support children’s right to benefit from opportunities to boost their capacities in the digital technology and applications for policies and programs for the promotion of children’s rights in the digital environment.
• To elect new corps of officials for the National Children Representative Forum for the next year June 2023-June 2024.
“Members of the PRESS, we would like to announce that this year’s DAC will witness a transition of a new leadership at the helm of the Liberia National Children Representative Forum (LNCRF). As part of activities marking the DAC, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, in collaboration with the Child Protection Network of Liberia (CPN) and the Liberia National Children Representative Forum (LNCRF) will on Wednesday, June 7-10, 2023, begin the conduct of districts and counties’ elections covering the 15 Counties,” the outgoing speaker announced.
He further said, “Thursday, June 15, will observe the hosting of the National Children Workshop on children and the digital environment. The workshop is intended to help children effectively engage policymakers as well as state actors for the implementation of Laws and policies that protect children.”
“This National Children Workshop is also intended to create equal opportunities for all children including children with disabilities, Street Children and children in institutional care as enshrined in the Liberia Children’s Law to interact physically with policymakers.”
“While in Kakata, Margibi County, the workshop will bring together children from the 15 counties, child rights advocates, and activists from around Liberia to formulate actions in protecting children from abuses including sexual gender-based violence, physical assault, neglect, and trafficking among other vices in the digital environment.”
He also said the National forum members, children with disabilities, children in orphanages, children affected by all viruses and child rights advocates as well as school’s children from the 15 counties including children from the county selected will participate in the conference.
“Members of the Media, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, the activities will continue on Thursday, Day-II, with the conduct of elections for the Liberia National Children Representative Forum (LNCRF). The elections will be held in collaboration with Child Protection Actors and will witness children representing the 15-(fifteen) political sub-divisions given the opportunity to participate in the National Elections. Positions to be occupied will include, Speaker, First Deputy Speaker, Second Deputy Speaker, Secretary, Financial Secretary, Ombudsperson, Chaplain and Physically Challenged representative.”
The DAC’s observance will be climaxed with an indoor program on Friday, June 16 at the Monrovia City Hall beginning with a parade from central Monrovia. The activities have been drawn to give children the platform to speak about issues affecting them in the 2040 agenda for sustainable development and the African children Chapter.
“Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media, As we observe this historical day commemorating the livelihood of African Children, we would like to once again highlight the UNICEF State of the World Children Report 2017, which amongst other things states that Children in the Digital world, the influence of digital technology on Children – and especially the internet – has increased whether for better or for worse as digital technology remains a fact of our lives,” he added.
“We want to use this medium to call on digital actors, social media bloggers and the Liberian media to properly screen contents, especially contents that are associated with the abuse, violation of children rights, before publishing to the internet.”
“The LNCRF detests and denounces in the strongest terms all forms of negative social media contents that are being published without proper verification. Particularly, we want to reference the recent widely-spread social media publication claiming that a 57-year-old-man married a 12-year-old-girl. While we are yet to establish the truthfulness of such online news, we take this alleged information seriously and therefore call on the National Government to everything in its power to establish the authenticity of the reported story and bring all those associated with such violation of the child’s rights to book.”
The LNCRF also condemned the action and all other inactions that are premised on violating the rights of a child.
“We see the alleged marriage as a blatant violation of the Domestic Violence Laws of Liberia, which clearly prohibits marriages of girls under the age of 18years. Chapter 2, Sub-section 2.2 of the law clearly defines the ages of consent for marriage therefore the National Government should demand those bloggers to provide the source of their information so that those in the repeated habit of initiating child marriages are prosecuted under the laws.”
Meanwhile, the Liberia Children Representative Forum is urging parents, guidance and caregivers to ensure the protection of every child and also avoid using children as breadwinners.
“LNCRF is therefore making a strong call for an end to the scourge. This is hurtful and inhumane, and we, as a people and Nation, Must put an end to this now,” Speaker Gray added.
“Finally, we want to thank the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MoGCSP), all our local and international partners for the level of cordiality and support over the years. We can only encourage you to do more, particularly in ensuring and guaranteeing the protection of children ahead of the crucial 2023 General and Presidential Elections. We call on all political actors to desist from coercing or using underage children for their selfish political gains,” he concluded.