This year’s International Day of the African Child has been held in Tamale, the Northern Region capital, with a call on African heads of state to implement child-friendly laws in order to improve children’s access to justice. Despite the fact that child-rights have been recognised in many of African states, their implementation requires more effort.
The team leader of Children’s Christian Fund of Canada (CCFC), a child-centred international development organisation, William Anim-Darkwa – who spoke on behalf of the CCFC Regional Director for West Africa – made the appeal at the Day of the African Child 2020 commemoration.
According to him, there have been many inconsistent legal approaches in dealing with children in the domestic child justice systems of some countries, while others have legislations which provide mechanisms for dealing with children in times of conflict.
This year’s event, on the theme ‘Access to Child-Friendly Justice in Africa’, brought together non-governmental organisations and other stakeholders working in the space of children’s rights – like Department of Children, World Vision, Right to Play, Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED), Regional Advisory Information and Network Systems (RAINS), and Plan Ghana to celebrate the children of Africa and call for serious introspection and commitment toward addressing the challenges children face in Africa.
It aims to examine the elements of a child-friendly justice system, including the application of a child rights-based approach and use of the four principles of child-rights as a tool for realising access to a child-friendly justice system in Africa.
According to him, a safe environment is an asset for children to grow and live their dreams, so that when their time comes they will be ready to manage affairs of the country.
“Let us keep the children, our future leaders, in mind in all that we do before, during and after the general election,” Mr. Anim-Darkwa said, adding: “We encourage political parties to desist from using children to their advantage during this period of COVID-19 pandemic.
“There are inadequate child justice laws which do not adequately deal with children and have led to children being dealt with like adults. This is exacerbated where there is the existence of humanitarian crises, armed conflicts, tension and strife,” he added.
He stressed that adequate access to justice for children is also an important strategy for protecting the rights of vulnerable groups, and thus for fighting poverty and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Northern Region Director for Department of Children, Iddrisu Sanday, appealed for a juvenile court and cells in the northern part of the country. He also appealed for Domestic, Violence and Victim Support Units (DOVVSU) in various police stations at the district level.
The Northern Region Acting Operations Manager for World Vision, Felix Apeti, stressed the need to prioritize children in decision-making, adding that over 3.4 million children go through various forms of abuse in Ghana according to research by his outfit. “If it is true that children are the future leaders of the country and we continue to expose them to all forms of danger, then we are not doing them any good,” he said.