UNCRC@30: A time to celebrate, but also to call for more action

World Children’s Day is celebrated on 20 November each year to promote the rights and well-being of children. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). In these 30 years, the UNCRC has become the most widely ratified human rights treaty in the world. Much has been achieved in safeguarding children’s rights, but there are still too many children whose rights are violated on a daily basis.

Kenya - focus on child sexual exploitation and child trafficking

Kenya became a signatory to the UNCRC in 1990 and was the 20th UN member state to ratify the instrument. While a lot of milestones have been made towards protection and fulfilment of children's rights in the country, a large proportion of children continue to face violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect.

Terre des Hommes Netherlands has primarily prioritised addressing the commercial sexual exploitation of children, and child trafficking and unsafe migration in Kenya. Studies reveal a worsening trend and subsequent increase in children's engagement in commercial sexual exploitation. Child sexual exploitation in Kenya thrives because of the complicity of a broad section of the local community that promotes transactional sex, partly due to high poverty rates, pushing children and particularly girls into this form of exploitation. This happens not only offline but also on the internet, which is progressively used by both local and foreign predators to recruit children for online child sexual exploitation. At the same time, Kenya is a source, transit and destination country for human trafficking. One third of all trafficking victims is a child, mostly trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation.

Terre des Hommes Netherlands has made remarkable strides in stopping child exploitation in Kenya. We support victims with education, psychosocial support, legal assistance, shelter, job opportunities and medical care; while at the same time targeting highly vulnerable children, who are at risk of being exploited, in our prevention activities. We launch public and media campaigns to create awareness on our focus issues and carry out local research into the extent and nature of abuse and exploitation of children. 

Uganda - progress, challenges and aspirations

As a signatory to the UNCRC, Uganda has over the years put in place various child related laws and policies to ensure, protect and guarantee the rights of the child. These laws include the Uganda Constitution of 1995, the Domestic Violence Act, 2010; the Education Act 2008, Chapter 127; the Penal Code Act, Chapter 120; the Orphans and other Vulnerable Children policy; the Births and Deaths Registration Act, Chapter 309; and the National Council for Children Act, Chapter 60; to mention but a few. 

While the laws are in place, their implementation is below average mainly due to poor resourcing, lack of technical knowhow and to some extent emerging issues like child trafficking. Moreover, the laws are too many and occasionally make contradicting provisions.

Together with our local civil society partners in Uganda, Terre des Hommes Netherlands contributes to the ongoing efforts to consolidate all child related laws into one single document to avoid parallel and sometimes contradicting provisions on the same child related issues. Once this is completed and if it can be followed with the required resourcing to effectively implement the consolidated child related law, the UNCRC will be on its way to becoming a reality in Uganda.

Tanzania - Protecting children from violence, abuse and exploitation

Realisation of child rights is not possible without children. Children account for 51% of the population in Tanzania. In the Ajenda ya watoto, Tanzanian children prioritised the Top 10 investments they feel are needed to realise their rights. These include investing to protect children from violence, abuse and exploitation; and investing in quality education for all children.

Protecting children from violence, abuse and exploitation remains a priority for Terre des Hommes Netherlands in Tanzania, particularly from child marriage and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Although Tanzania outlawed FGM in 1989, its practice is still rampant within some communities; in Mara region for instance, FGM prevalence stands at 32%. 

Terre des Hommes Netherlands has been working with children and their communities in Tarime District (Mara region) to dialogue on the impact of FGM and child marriage on girls’ health and education. The future of children, particularly girls, can only be guaranteed if their education and health rights are prioritised.  

This year, 20 November marks 30 years since the UNCRC was adopted. Are children fully enjoying their rights? We call upon the Tanzanian government to continue investing in the rights of children; let all children stay in school, and let girls enjoy good reproductive health to guarantee a bright future.

Ethiopia - Improving the lives of child victims and children at risk of exploitation

Ethiopia ratified the UNCRC in May 1991. The country has recently achieved noteworthy progress, in fields such as monetary poverty reduction, infrastructure improvement (roads, schools, health facilities), and high school enrolment of children. However, these successes are not yet occurring at a fast enough pace and large enough scale to achieve national and global goals.

Children in present-day Ethiopia bear a greater poverty burden than adults: 32.4 percent of children under 18 are monetarily poor, compared to 29.6 percent of all adults. Recurrent hazards (climate, economic, socio-political) and incomplete implementation and enforcement of policies and legislation, persistent social and cultural beliefs and norms that compromise children’s welfare, are still factors that perpetuate children’s vulnerabilities in Ethiopia. Rapid population growth (2.85%) and growing urbanisation driven largely by rural-urban migration are contributing demographic factors.

Terre des Hommes Netherlands is working in Ethiopia to improve the lives of victims and children at risk of commercial sexual exploitation, child trafficking and unsafe child migration. In a multi-stakeholder setting, we focus on both preventive and protective measures. We raise public awareness, lobby and advocate against these issues, as well as against gender based violence.

Congratulations UNCRC - not only for reaching 30 years, but also for being the most widely ratified human rights treaty in the world. Unfortunately, recognising rights is not the same as compliance with them. Terre des Hommes Netherlands remains committed to ensuring the rights of all children are safeguarded. We call upon the public and their governments to join us in the fight against violations of children's rights. Together we can accomplish a world free of child exploitation.

(Raphael Kariuki, interim Head of Region for East Africa, Terre des Hommes Netherlands)


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