South Sudanese child has little to smile about as the world celebrates universal Children’s Day

South Sudanese pupils during a lesson in a makeshift classroom. Courtesy-UNICEF

By Paul Jimbo

As the world celebrated the Universal Children’s Day on 20th November, 2018, the South Sudanese child had very little if any achievements to boast about.

Dubbed “Universal Children’s Day”, the 29th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was marked in low tones in South Sudan.

Being a member of the fourth estate, I accuse tenants and residents of my journalism world in South Sudan for giving the all-important day a wide berth.

As a seasoned journalist, I expected the local media to shout from roof tops, flash screaming headlines on newspapers and flood electronic media (radio and Television) bulletins with stories about children.

As usual, the event was a “non-news” issue or if you like “not news worthy”.

It is my humble submission that children the world over, deserve equal treatment like any human being when it comes to human rights.

I am quiet privy that at this moment, I may be accused for assuming the devil’s advocate role. There comes a time when its’ worth paying the heavy price for standing with the truth.

My crystal ball tells me that today, the South Sudanese child remains an endangered group whose rights seem to be a favour from those charged with the responsibilities of ensuring these rights are enforced to the letter and spirit of the law.

During the celebrations, UN Child Rights experts urged Governments around the world to be united in ensuring priority attention to the realization of the rights of the child and to accelerating efforts for implementation of the Convention, the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history.

“While ratification of the Convention is nearly universal, commitments must be renewed and translated into concrete action to promote their effective enjoyment by every child. Every policy decision has an impact on children entitled to care, support and protection from neglect, abuse and exploitation, and to develop capacities and talents to reach their full potential. The best way to leave no child behind is to put children first to ensure that no child grows up in a world of fear, violence and hopelessness,” said the experts in a statement to newsrooms.

UN Child Rights experts who signed the statement include Renate Winter, Chair of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Marta Santos Pais, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Violence against Children, Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict and  Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, including child prostitution, child pornography and other child sexual abuse material.

The Convention was adopted on 20 November 1989 and much progress has been made in the protection of children’s rights through investment in children, the enactment and enforcement of legislation and public policies, and the establishment of institutions to safeguard children’s rights.

The Convention has been reinforced by three Optional Protocols: to prevent and address the involvement of children in armed conflict; to prevent and address the sale of children and their exploitation in prostitution and pornography; and, to enable children to challenge violations of their rights through a communication procedure before the Committee on the Rights of the Child.

“However, more and better work needs to be done in a changing world, which presents major challenges compromising the universal realization of children’s rights,” said the experts.

“Today, millions of vulnerable children continue to be left behind, including child victims of violence, conflict and sexual exploitation, migrant, refugee and asylum-seeking children, children living in poverty, children with disabilities, and children belonging to indigenous and minority groups.”

“Today, the principles and provisions of the Convention are as relevant as ever and they are a crucial reference for the effective implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals,” said the experts.

“For millions of children affected by discrimination, poverty, violence, conflict, sexual exploitation and abuse – for all children left behind – we must transform the continuum of violence, deprivation and discrimination that shapes their lives into a continuum of protection of their fundamental rights.”

“Children are key agents of change and their voices must be heard and their participation ensured to help address the pressing issues that they face,” said the experts. “Efforts by Governments, by non-state actors, by civil society organizations and by individuals must be urgently reinforced to always put children above politics, to safeguard their rights and to create a better world for all.”

“Today, as we head into 2019 and the 30th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, we remind all Governments of their obligations under the Convention,” said the experts.

“Inaction or measures that do not respect the rights and best interests of the child have a negative, long-term impact – not only for the child’s development and well-being – but also on society as a whole.”

“We call upon all states which have not yet done so, to put children first and above politics, by ratifying and effectively implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its three Optional Protocols,” the experts urged. “The world’s children deserve nothing less.”

A thorough examination of the situation of the South Sudanese child confirms massive violations of these rights.

A spot check in Juba city streets only confirms my growing fears that the South Sudanese child’s situation might slip off to the worse.

Woe unto you parents and policy makers who continue to conspire and disregard children’s rights.

As a few children find their way to school to fight for their future place in a competitive society, there are those whose parents still frown at education.

In South Sudan, Child rights violations take different angles starting with child labour, sexual exploitation and domestic violence.

They sell groundnuts, polish shoes, hawk sugarcane, some are employed as conductors in public service vehicles while others are engaged in bodaboda business, the common denominator for the South Sudanese child is how to earn a living.

Having tongue-lashed at my fellow comrades in the fourth estates, I’m still left with an important question for all partners and parties concerned in ensuring non-violations of children’s rights.

Who will stand up to be counted for ensuring non-violation of the rights of the South Sudanese child?

I know of a few international organizations such as UNCEF and the Norwegian People’s Aid that have been at the forefront in ensuring non-violations of children’s rights.

These are also individuals and organizations that have quietly continued to support this course; I salute you, let us not wink or blink when it comes to the rights of the South Sudanese child.

My parting shot, “If we don’t stand firm to protect the rights of the South Sudanese Child, the world will surely judge us harshly in the few coming years”.


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