|© UNICEF South Sudan/2008/Giacomo|
|Girls during a learning session in Bandar Girl's Primary school in Malakal, South Sudan. Girls in South Sudan face several forms of violence such as early marriage exposing to greater pregnancy related complications that can lead to death.|
Juba, South Sudan, Dec 01-During the commemoration of the 22nd Anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), UNICEF, and representatives from the Sudan Council of Churches, and the South Sudan Legislative Assembly made a call for an end to all forms of violence against children in South Sudan.
During a talk show on Miraya FM, the UN Radio station in South Sudan, the UNICEF Representative, Dr. Yasmin Haque said the best interest of the child should be considered in all circumstances so as to guarantee children’s rights.
“During a consultation with children in Juba recently, education and protection from violence were some of the issues that were on top of the needs identified by the children”, said Dr. Haque. “ Everybody including the Government and media have a role to advocate and ensure that children are protected and their rights to life, birth registration and access to basic social services are provided”, she added.
Nov 20 this year is the International Day for Prayer and Action for Children and also the 22nd Anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which is being commemorated for the first time in the Republic of South Sudan which gained independence, July 9.
In South Sudan, children are subjected to different forms of both physical and psychological violence such as abductions, child labour, recruitment by armed groups, child marriage and sexual abuse among others.
About one million children in South Sudan are out of school most of who are girls. 7 percent of girls in South Sudan are married off before the age of 15 and another 45 percent are married off between the age of 16 and 18 thereby exposing them to greater risk of pregnancy related complications which may cause death.
Gatwich Lam Pouch, member of the South Sudan Legislative Assembly emphasized that the best place for the child to grow and develop is the family and this is where the support should focus. He decried the negative cultural practices that perpetuate some of the forms of violence against children such as early marriage and abductions among others.
Role by institutions
“As Parliamentarians, we will continue to advocate for the rights of the child and work towards the development of social protective policies that focus on children”, said Gatwich.
The CRC which was adopted 22 years ago on 20th November, sets out rights that children enjoy as human beings and also identifies special rights and protection they require during this vulnerable phase of their lives.
World Day of Prayer and Action for Children is a movement that harnesses the powerful role religious communities can play in keeping children safer by promoting affirmative measures such as birth registration and positive parenting, and discouraging potentially harmful actions such as child marriage.
“As religious institutions, our role is to preach good values within the family and society so that no violence is meted on children”, said Bishop Michael Taban of the Sudan Council of Churches. “Children are the core of our family which is ordained by God and they should be nourished and grow to be responsible citizens that can contribute to nation building”, he added.
During prayer services from Friday, Nov 18, mosques and churches all across the country sent out key messages urging the government, community leaders and all citizens to protect children from all forms of violence and work towards the realization of child Rights.
In 2008, South Sudan enacted the Child Act which is based on the principles of the CRC and sets out clear responsibilities for the protection of children. If the provisions of the Child Act are effectively implemented by Law enforcement organs, communities and all other relevant authorities, violence against children can be prevented.
While some progress has been made since the signing of the Comprehensive peace Agreement in 2005, the Republic of South Sudan now has a unique opportunity to make a better start for the children who are the future of the country. According to the 2008 Population census, over 50 percent of the population is under the age of 18.
UNICEF believes that collective efforts must be made by the government, the UN and its partners, the international community and South Sudanese communities to invest in the necessary systems, structures and human resources to enable the progress being made for children to accelerate.
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