Children are Right Holders

The UNCRC clearly spelt out that childhood is entitled to special care and assistance. Convinced that the family, as the fundamental group of society and the natural environment for the growth and well-being of all its members and particularly children, should be afforded the necessary protection and assistance so that it can fully assume its responsibilities within the community.

It is not acceptable to treat children as less than humans. Children are full humans. Children have the rights to be treated like humans and to enjoy their inalienable human rights. In the course of history, children have suffered much abuse, neglect, maltreatment and exploitation.

For this reason, Eglantyne Jebb, the founder of Save the Children, initiated the very first child rights declaration in 1923 followed by subsequent child rights declarations.

The most recent and popular child rights legislative instrument is the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (the UNCRC) developed by the United Nations and opened for signature and ratification in 1989 and adopted in 1090.

The UNCRC recognizes that the child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding.

The UNCRC spelt out the many rights of children and called on States, child care institutions and all persons/organizations dealing with children, to treat children as rights holders. This international instrument is signed and ratified by UN State members. Thirty years after its ratification, the conditions of children remain worrisome.

In some of our African cultures, the mention of child right is considered a near abomination. To some, it is anti-cultural and to others, it is a borrowed idea. While African cultures claim to cherish children, respect for children is considered stupidity and so is child rights.

A child is expected to obey instructions, not to speak or argue with adults. A child is expected to express gratitude when provided with basic needs and to accept it without complaint when the basic needs are not provided. A child is not expected to have or express an opinion, or argue with adults, or disagree, or expose the truth where it implicates the adults.

In the African context, a child does not have a choice if the parents say they cannot afford to send the child to school, for medical treatment, to feed, clothe or shelter a child.

The child is expected to accept the conditions and even excuse the parents. It is not unusual in some parts of Africa that the same child deprived of basic needs is expected to start taking responsibility for themself and their family. Worse still, when a child is an abuse, the interest of the adult abuser is considered more important than that of the child.

It is far beyond time to shake off these outmoded mentalities around children and childhood and wake up to the dawn of children as right holders. Children are entitled to certain rights and deserve to enjoy these rights. Adults have a responsibility to ensure children enjoy their rights. When children are allowed to enjoy their rights, they are most likely to grow up into responsible adults who respect the rights and dignity of others. Every adult has a responsibility to ensure children within your care enjoy their basic rights.


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