MWAPE MWENYA, Lusaka
THERE are a number of commemorations which if not marked on the calendar can go unnoticed and uncelebrated as people deem them to be of little importance and yet they are very cardinal in any society.
One such event is the Day of an African Child, which is commemorated every year on June 16.
Questions one needs to ask are. How important is this day to the rest of the African continent and the world at large? What is the significance behind the commemoration? And how did this day come about?
This day is very important in the calendar of the year as it honours people who were cruelly killed for demanding quality education and also to be taught in their local language.
This day came into being after a massacre that took place in Soweto, South Africa, where about 10,000 black children took to the streets to protest against the poor quality of education and also to demand to be taught in a language they were able to understand.
Countless numbers of innocent lives were lost as a result of this protest, which was meant to improve their education standards.
It is against this background that several African states, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other stakeholders have taken this date to be very special which should be commemorated annually.
Today, Zambia is among several African states that are commemorating this day under the local theme: Protecting childrenâ€™s rights, our collective responsibility: while the continental theme is Conflict and crisis in Africa: Protecting all childrenâ€™s rights.
A number of activities have been lined up by different stakeholders whose core mandate is to improve the welfare of schoolchildren.
The Civil Society Network on Ending Child Marriage (CSNECH) will today host awareness campaigns in Lukata community in Mungule chiefdom in Chisamba. This will be followed by discussions with the communities and the children in particular on dangers of child marriage and the importance of staying in school to complete high school and tertiary education.
The CSNECH which has a membership of, 30 stakeholders, was launched in May this year and is being led by the Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA). It comprises traditional leaders, civil society organisations (CSOs), United Nations agencies, government ministries, the church and the private sector.
And Plan International Zambia, who are the secretariat, said despite having different mandates, the network will make significant contributions to ending child marriages in Zambia through their programmes.
Plan International Zambia country director Samuel Musyoki said the network was initiated in July 2014 during the first National Symposium on Ending Child Marriage in Zambia that was convened by Government through the Ministry of Chiefs and Traditional Affairs.
â€œTraditional leaders, NGOs, CSOs and other stakeholders met to deliberate on the issue of child marriages in the country and to strategise on how best to respond to the vice of child marriage in Zambia. It was out of this symposium that some CSOs agreed to work together in a coordinated manner to synergise their efforts to end child marriages in Zambia,â€ Mr Musyoki said.
â€œAs civil society we would like to state in the strongest terms that child marriage is a harmful practice that robs children of their right to be children, right to play, right to education, right to health and, in most severe circumstances, right to life. Together we are united and we will not relent until this scourge is eliminated in our country and the African region as a whole,â€ he added.
He said the network will ensure there is transformation of harming gender norms and cultural practices that have detrimental effects on children.
Child marriages put girls at an increased risk of physical and sexual violence throughout their lives, limits their decision-making abilities and reduces options of a desired livelihood.
Among the objectives of the network is to empower girls and boys to make informed decisions on how to avoid child marriage and how to mitigate the impact.
The other is that of being a strategic partner to Government in efforts to end child marriage by lobbying and advocating for policies and legislation on child protection.
The network also exists to coordinate programmes and projects and share best practices among members that aim at ending child marriage in Zambia.
MWAPE MWENYA, Lusaka