Her Majesty committed to protecting children

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Limpho Sello

LESOTHO is fully committed to supporting efforts to improve the welfare of children and observe their rights, Her Majesty, Queen ‘Masenate Mohato Seeiso has said.

She made the pledge at a recent event in Maseru to commemorate the Day of the African Child.

This year’s theme is: “Eliminating harmful practices affecting children: Progress on policy and practice since 2013.”

Speaking the commemorations, Her Majesty said, “We need to retrospect what we have done to mitigate and eliminate harmful practices against our children”.

“Each country has to seriously review whether it has developed policies or enacted legislation aimed at getting rid of all forms of practices which harm children. Our commitments as member states should be turned into actions. We should respect the rights of our children and develop actionable programmes for implementation,” she said.

She hailed initiatives such as Africa’s Agenda 2040 and Agenda 2063, saying they go a long way towards improving the status of Africa’s children.

Despite these efforts, the continent still faces many harmful practices such as child marriages, female genital mutilation, and some worst forms of child labour, she said.

“These harmful practices lead to deaths, illnesses, cycle of poverty, abuse and mostly, deprive children of their childhood.

“We just need to campaign even more for implementation of programmes, to take our campaigns to the ordinary people in the villages and all sectors of our societies including traditional leaders, faith leaders and sensitise them,” the Queen said.

For her part, Fanny Ngulube from the African Committee of the Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) said while progress has been made in coming up with laws and policies, some children still suffer from various harmful practices.

“We acknowledge that although some African countries have made progress in adopting progressive laws, policies, and national strategies towards the elimination of harmful practices, children still continue to be subjected to various harmful practices,” Ms Ngulube said.

Such practices remain a part of large pattern of gender inequality and discrimination perpetuated by families, communities and in some cases, discriminatory laws.

Ms Ngulube also warned against corporal punishment, which is often wrongly perceived as an effective disciplinary measure in many settings, particularly in schools and homes.

“Corporal punishment deprives children from enjoying their rights as tabulated in international policies.

“Countries need to recognise that harmful practices exclude children from enjoying their rights as enshrined in the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and other regional and international human rights instruments such as their rights to education, health, freedom from abuse and torture.

“We need to be mindful that despite the normative progress made at international, regional, and national levels, as well as the reduction in the rate of prevalence of some harmful practices, harmful practices affecting children are evolving with the onset of urbanisation,” Ms Ngulube said.

She also noted that children are mostly excluded from discussions and decision-making processes pertaining to the elimination of harmful practices affecting them.

“We need to be cognisant that while most African countries have taken a stance on some harmful practices, there is lack of comprehensive response to children survivors of harmful practices such as one stop centres as well as psychosocial support, their rehabilitation and reintegration services, hence the need for them to be included on issues that affect them,” she said.

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