GIS - June 18, 2012: Parents and children gathered at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Indian Culture, Phoenix, last Saturday, to mark the International Day of the African Child and for the closing of the 16 Days 16 Rights Campaign. The event was organised by the Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare and the National Children’s Council. It aimed at raising awareness on the roles and rights of children in society.
The International Day of the African Child is commemorated each year on 16 June. It was first initiated by the Organisation of African Unity, now the African Union, in 1991, to honour the memory of the hundreds of young boys and girls who were shot down by security forces during a march in 1976. The march was held by thousands of black school children who took to the streets of Soweto, South Africa, to protest against the inferior quality of their education and demand their right to be taught in their own language. The theme for 2012 was The Rights of Children with Disabilities: The Duty to Protect, Respect, Promote and Fulfill.
In Mauritius, the focus was on the right of children to be heard. Activities to mark the event include the 16 Days 16 Rights Campaign to sensitise children and parents on children’s rights, an interactive forum discussion on Actively listening to our children, an inter-generational session from the different Ecoles des Parents as well as a television programme on Let us listen to our Children.
The celebration held in Phoenix on Saturday comprised a presentation on Let’s Listen to our Children by secondary school students and a live Show Zenfan Moris, Zenfan Le Monde (Children of Mauritius, Children of the World). In her address for the occasion, the Minister of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare, Mrs M. Martin, recalled the collective responsibility of parents and adults to ensure that children have the opportunity to grow up in a healthy, caring, safe and secure environment for them to become responsible adults. ‘We are duty bound to safeguard children’s welfare, giving them the right space and guidance to develop at their own individual pace’, she said.
According to the Minister, teenagers have to deal with a lot of issues and problems such as suicide; drugs, alcohol and cigarettes; early pregnancies; parental conflict; lack of communication at home; school violence and physical as well as verbal abuses. ‘It is therefore crucial to listen to the children to learn of their needs, wants, thoughts as well as aspirations’, she stressed. For Mrs Martin, love, support, understand, assistance, guidance are the key ingredients to promote complete child development.