Celebrating 25 years of child rights
By Blessing Mushohwe
The adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1989 was a milestone achievement in the struggle for children’s rights. The CRC, which this year marks 25 years of existence, contains norms and standards for the protection and advancement of children’s rights by all member states and equally holds member states accountable for violations of the various child rights mentioned therein.
The CRC was designed to serve as a springboard for the development of more concrete and advanced international and national norms on the rights of children.
Zimbabwe, as a signatory, has taken a giant step in this direction with the adoption of the Constitution of Zimbabwe 2013, which has two sections dedicated to children’s rights in sections 19 and 81.
Important as the CRC and the constitutional provisions may be, they risk remaining mere intentions on paper if measures are not taken to widely publicise their existence.
Articles 4 and 42 of the CRC enjoin State Parties to undertake all measures necessary to implement the Convention and to widely raise awareness about it to children and adults alike. Zimbabwe thus needs widespread awareness and education on children’s rights to the general public and targeted specialised training on child rights to those that are involved in governance and programming at different levels of government so as to ensure that child rights are properly mainstreamed.
Among other activities, widespread education on child rights could possibly be achieved through its integration in the primary and secondary school curriculum, training for relevant professionals both in government and development sector, and training of Members of Parliament.
The school environment no doubt is the most convenient and appropriate channel for education on child rights mainly to children as rights holders.
Schools bring a lot of children to the same place to learn using an organised uniform school curriculum.
Child rights education therefore becomes national and sets the foundation for a future cadre of professionals that are conscious of child rights and mainstream them into their work.
This approach, however, needs to be complemented by targeted training of relevant professionals currently working on child rights or related areas.
This will ensure a steady flow of national experts committed to child rights, equipped with necessary tools and argumentation, and that are able to ultimately mainstream this knowledge in the design, implementation and monitoring of their policies and programmes.
The Women’s University in Africa in partnership with UNICEF has begun offering an intensive post-graduate diploma in child-sensitive social policies which aims at developing national professional expertise on child rights and child-sensitive policies.
The skills being acquired by students will cascade into mainstreaming of child rights into their work, thereby improving child sensitivity and friendliness in their programming.
Another crucial stakeholder in the mainstreaming of child rights in policies, governance and programmes is the Parliament of Zimbabwe, which is mandated with legislating for the nation, overseeing government implementation of programmes and representing their constituencies in parliament.
MPs, however, have no training on child rights which weakens mainstreaming of child rights in their work.
There is therefore a need to extensively build their capacity through training on child rights and policies so that they meaningfully participate in the preparation, monitoring and strengthening of the country’s laws and action plans on children’s rights.
There is no better time than the CRC at 25 to start giving serious thought to raising awareness, education and training on child rights as a way of empowering both our children and the various professionals involved in child-related work.
As they say, knowledge is power. Child rights education may be the foundation for powerful child rights mainstreaming into current policy and programming and for future generations.