Do more to protect  rights of children

What you need to know:

The issue: 

Our view:  
Investing in the welfare of our children is an investment in our nation’s future.

On this day in 1954, was established of the World Children’s Day before it was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1959. November 20 is commemorated each year as a way of promoting international unity, raising awareness, and improving the welfare of children. This year’s theme is “For every child, every right”.

Uganda has made significant progress in terms of providing legal safeguards to protect our children.   We have an arsenal of laws, policies, and guidelines, such as the Children (Amendment) Act 2016, National Child Policy, National Orphans and Other Vulnerable Children Policy, National Social Protection Policy, and National Parenting Guidelines, among others.

Government also introduced the 24-hour toll-free national child helpline, 116, to enhance children’s protection. However, there is a discrepancy between policy and practice. According to Save the Children, 40 percent of girls in Uganda are married before they turn 18 and that one in four teenage girls over 15 years have already given birth or are pregnant. These rob young girls of their right to choose their future and often lead to health and socio-economic issues.

Unicef also reports that “59 percent of girls and 68 percent of boys” in Uganda have experienced physical violence at some point in their lives that in the end halts their holistic and positive development. Other child protection reports indicate that “between 2016 and 2021, the Uganda Police Force recorded 169,632 cases of violence, abuse, and neglect involving children”, not to forget child labour.

In terms of education, while Uganda has made commendable efforts to improve its access for the children, disparities still exist, particularly in rural areas. Insufficient infrastructure, a shortage of qualified teachers, and cultural barriers hinder educational opportunities for many children. All these and more challenges not only hamper children’s personal development but also perpetuates a cycle of poverty, hindering our nation’s overall progress.

While the government has taken steps to address these challenges, there is a need for more sustained efforts from both within and outside of the government. Collaboration between communities, civil society organisations, and international partners is essential to create a holistic approach that addresses the multi-faceted nature of children’s needs and welfare.

Investing in the welfare of our children is an investment in our nation’s future. By prioritising their health, education, and protection, we can unlock the full potential of our children and youth, paving the way for a more prosperous and equitable society. As we commemorate World Children’s Day, it is also a reminder for a collective commitment to ensuring that every child in Uganda is given the opportunity to thrive, contribute, and shape our destiny.