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International Children's Rights Movement Celebrates 20th Anniversary

For Immediate Release: 19 November 2009

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), adopted on 20 November 1989, celebrates its 20th anniversary this week. As part of this milestone, the Legal Assistance Centre, with support from UNICEF, will launch a children’s cartoon simplifying these rights in child-friendly language.

The What Are Children’s Rights? booklet is illustrated by 15-year-old Christine Shikuma, a secondary-school student, who depicted various articles in the CRC and applied them to the Namibian situation.

“By drawing, I began to learn my rights,” says Shikuma, who won a contest to illustrate the publication. “My hope is that other young people who read this also get to know about their rights.”

The CRC incorporates 54 articles and is designed to promote appropriate government services for children and to fully protect children from harm. It is an international promise to children to give them the best opportunities to fulfil their potential. Namibia, which signed the agreement on 28 September 1990, is signatory to all the provisions in the CRC.

To paint a better picture of the need for children’s rights, it should be noted that Namibia’s children are:

  • Half of the population. 49.9 per cent of the population is below the age of 20 (Namibia Demographic and Health Survey 2006-2007).
  • Increasingly orphaned or vulnerable. An estimated 250,000 children (28 per cent of all children) under the age of 18, have lost a parent or are vulnerable* (Namibia Demographic and Health Survey 2006-2007).
  • Largely fail to complete Grade 12. 13.1 per cent of the adult population have completed secondary education (Namibia Demographic and Health Survey 2006-2007).
  • Growing up in a society that is violent. 42 per cent of children reported they experienced physical violence in the last 12 months while 23 per cent of children have been exposed to sexual violence in their lifetime (World Health Organisation 2009**).
  • Malnourished. 17 per cent of children under 5 are underweight (Namibia Demographic and Health Survey 2006-2007).
  • Without basic necessities. 50 per cent of orphans and vulnerable children aged between 5-17 have access to basic material needs; a pair of shoes, two sets of clothes and a blanket. (Namibia Demographic and Health Survey 2007-2007).

To better protect children and address some of the needs they face, government and law makers in Namibia have enacted key pieces of legislation. The country’s Constitution enshrines the rights of children to life, health and education. Namibia has also signed several other international agreements that further protect children including the:

  • African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child
  • International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention on the Prohibition and Immediate Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour.
  • Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict.
  • Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.
  • Protocol to the Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime, 2000 to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, 2000.

Furthermore, in response to the HIV epidemic, and the thousands of children that are being orphaned due to the disease, government has put a number of policies in place, including the 2005 National Policy on Orphans and Other Vulnerable Children, the 2006 National Plan of Action for Orphans and Vulnerable Children and the 2008 Education Sector Policy on Orphans and Vulnerable Children. To address school drop outs related to pregnancy, the Ministry of Education recently reformed their Learner Pregnancy Policy.

But is it enough?

“Children are our most valuable resource but we do not see a sufficient energy being accorded to them,” reflects Norman Tjombe, director of the Legal Assistance Centre. ”We must make education, health care for children and children’s safety – through laws, policies and practices, a priority.”

To inspire progress towards a Namibia fit for all children, the Legal Assistance Centre is calling for:

  • All Namibian children to have their rights to an entity realised through the accessible provision of national documents at birth.
  • Affordable quality and relevant education for all.
  • Children to be listened to in all matters that concern them.
  • Respect for the dignity of all children.
  • The elimination of the worst forms of child labour including sexual exploitation.
  • Discrimination on the grounds of poverty, HIV-status, ethnicity, religion and gender to be addressed and dealt with accordingly.
  • End violence, especially against the girl-child.

“Without these basic building blocks, too many children are at risk of having their rights violated,” Tjombe says.

A major step forward for the protection of children has been the redrafting of the Child Care and Protection Bill, a process led by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, facilitated by the Legal Assistance Centre and supported by UNICEF.

“As the Convention on the Rights of the Child enters its 21st year, the Legal Assistance Centre looks forward to the tabling of this bill in Parliament, a piece of legislation that will help to improve and protect the lives of many children in Namibia,” Tjombe concludes.

For more information please contact:

Mark Nonkes
Communication Consultant
Legal Assistance Centre
4 Korner Street, Windhoek
Tel: 061-223-356
Mobile: 081-389-1566
Email: marknonkes@lac.org.na

Rachel Coomer
Public Outreach Manager
Gender, Research & Advocacy Project
Legal Assistance Centre
4 Korner Street, Windhoek
Tel: 061-223-356
Email: rcoomer@lac.org.na

William Magenya
OVC Rights Legal Protection
AIDS Law Unit
Legal Assistance Centre
4 Korner Street, Windhoek
Tel: 061-223-356
Email: wmagenya@lac.org.na

* Vulnerable has been quantified as a child who lives in a home where a caregiver is chronically ill or where an adult in the home, who is not the parent, has passed away in the past 12 months.

** Data pooled from Namibia, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe

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