The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child
While many children in Africa are able to grow, learn and thrive as part of loving families and communities, others suffer due to issues like poverty, conflict, natural disasters, and harmful practices suchas early marriage. Many children in Africa are affected by different types of abuse, including economic and sexual exploitation, gender discrimination in education, and their involvement in armed conflict. Worldwide, UNICEF estimates that 150 million children aged 5-14 years work. The problem is most common in sub-Saharan Africa, where more than a third of children are engaged in child labour.
Like the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC) was created to protect children. The Charter spells out the rights that African countries must ensure for their children, and it is the main instrument of the African human rights system for promoting and protecting child rights.
The Charter, which was adopted by the Organisation of African Unity (now the African Union) in July 1990, was entered into force in November 1999. It was the first regional treaty to address child rights, and was created partly to complement the CRC, but also because African countries were under-represented in the drafting process of the CRC, and many felt another treaty was needed to address the specific realities of children in Africa.
The ACRWC and the CRC are the only international and regional human rights treaties that cover the whole spectrum of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. Like the CRC, the ACRWC talks about the same principles of non-discrimination and participation. Some of the other issues that African States wanted the Charter to address were: children living under apartheid, harmful practices against the girl child, such as female genital mutilation (FGM), internal conflicts and displacement, the definition of a child, the rights of children of imprisoned mothers, poor and unsanitary living conditions, the African conception of communities’ responsibilities and duties, weak enforcement and monitoring mechanisms, role of the family in adoption and fostering, and the duties and responsibilities of the child towards the family and community.
In the Eastern and Southern Africa region, almost all countries have ratified the African Charter, with the exception of Somalia and Zambia, both have signed but not yet ratified it.
The ACRWC is divided into two parts. Part one deals with the rights, freedoms and duties of the child and has 31 articles. Part two deals with States’ obligations to adopt laws to enforce the provisions of the Charter, and has 18 articles.