By Ijuka Agnes Barongo
KAMPALA, Uganda, 22 November, 2011—Florence Hadija Nalwooga, 13, walked quietly to the podium on November 19 to address the first-ever National Day of Prayer and Action for Children in Uganda.
|VIDEO: 19 November 2011- UNICEF correspondent Karin Bridger reports on a national day of prayer in Uganda. Watch in RealPlayer|
“Children are a photocopy of their parents’ character,” she began. “You are the hydropower dams from which they can tap the power of living light, but if the dams are empty of values, and the water levels are too low, what will they tap? Only darkness. Many parents are suffering from T.B, Too Busy!”
The audience laughed, but as she went on to discuss the problem of violence against children in Uganda, a more serious mood took over the room. Young Florence finished her appeal to parents and leaders to work together for zero violence against children, and the participants, including young people from across the country, stood in ovation.
World Day of Prayer
UNICEF joined the Uganda Parliamentary Fellowship and the Uganda Child Rights NGO Network (UCRNN) to organize the event, which commemorated the 22nd anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) under the theme ‘Creating a Safe Future for Children: Zero Violence Against Children in Schools.’
The message focused on putting individual differences and prejudices aside to pray for all children, and to challenge leaders at all levels to ensure children in Uganda grow up in a violence-free environment.
Uganda’s prayer day also corresponded with the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children’s launch of a new three-year initiative in more than 30 countries to protect children from violence.
|© UNICEF Uganda/2011/Barongo|
|Young people from across Uganda gather at the first-ever National Day of Prayer and Action for Children in Uganda which focused on the issue of violence against children.|
Changing societal behaviour
The participation of religious leadership from all faiths in Uganda in the National Day of Prayer and Action for Children drove home the point that UNICEF’s partnerships with faith-based organizations are an important way to spread the message about upholding children’s rights.
“The faith-based organizations have the presence, the credibility, and a relationship with the community in every single part of the country,” said Dr. Sharad Sapra, UNICEF Uganda Country Representative. “This is especially the case in Uganda, where almost 85 to 90 per cent of the population go to the place of worship every week, I think the faith-based organizations have a critical role to play in establishing and changing societal behaviour.”
Leaders pledge their support
Representatives from Uganda’s Parliament, Judiciary, diplomatic corps, religious and cultural leaders were also in attendance.
Attorney General Peter Nyombi, who presided over the day, pledged to support Parliament to expedite the passing of the revised Children’s Act 2010, to ensure that all children in Uganda are legally protected from violence, abuse and neglect.
“As leaders we must ensure that children are protected and provided the opportunities that make them progress to lead this nation in the future,” Attorney General Nyombi said.