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Malawi Commemorates Day of the African Child

UNICEF Malawi/2011/Chagara
© UNICEF Malawi/2011/Chagara
Theressa Mwale, Minister of Gender, Child & Community Development speaks at the 2011 Day of the African Child

by Felix Malamula

Blantyre, June 18, 2011: Lunzu Primary School in Blantyre was a busy place on Saturday, 18 June, 2011 as Malawians joined the rest of Africa to commemorate the Day of the African Child. Held under the theme Together for Urgent Action in Favour of Children on the Street, the ceremony was officiated by the Minister of Gender, Children and Community Development Theresa Mwale and UNICEF Representative Carrie Auer.

On display were messages from various organisations involved in promotion of child rights in Malawi.

“Children living on the street lack basic necessities of life such as food, clothing and shelter. In addition, they also lack parental care and support. They are labelled as criminals and are discriminated against. They receive harsh treatment on the street and no one is interested to listen to them,” said Mwale.

Among the factors forcing children onto the streets, she noted, are family and marital problems as well as HIV and Aids which is rendering many children parentless. The minister said children on the street face numerous challenges, hence the need for urgent measures to ensure that they are rescued from the streets.

“Children on the street live without proper or reliable shelter, they have lost contact with their parents and as such, they do not enjoy parental protection, love and care. This is why we are here today to urgently act in favour of these children and others involved in sex work if we are to make Malawi fit for children,” she added.

UNICEF Malawi/2011/Chagara
© UNICEF Malawi/2011/Chagara
Child acrobats participate in the 2011 Day of the African Child.

UNICEF Representative Carrie Auer, in agreeing with the Minister, said despite the challenges facing children in Malawi, progress has been made on the legislative front through the enactment of the National Registration and Identification Act, the Child Care, Protection and Justice Act, the Deceased Estate, Wills and Inheritance (Act 2011), and the enforcement of the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (2006).

“These pieces of legislation provide a strong foundation for protecting children in Malawi against all forms of violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect. The challenge before us now is to ensure that they are fully resourced and implemented,” she said.

She also disclosed that a mapping exercise for the establishment of a child protection system was currently underway as well as costing the implementation of the Child Care, Protection and Justice Act.

Auer called upon the government to adopt a comprehensive children’s policy and national plan of action which she said will lead to a better framework for protecting children.

“A comprehensive children’s policy will provide an overall framework and direction for the work we do for children by bringing into policy all different intentions of the government for children that, at the moment, are in several different policies,” she said.

Chief Kapeni of Blantyre bemoaned the increased cases of incest in the country which he said is another reason driving children out of their homes onto the streets. The traditional leader urged authorities to move in quickly before the situation got out of hand.

Download the speech made by the UNICEF Representative [PDF]



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