Southern African children rally for their rights, urging action for equal education, climate, and protection from violence

Children and young people from Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe identify priority bold solutions to issues deeply affecting them

16 November 2023
world children's day
UNICEFZimbabwe/2023/TanakaZiyavaya

Walvis Bay, Namibia, 16 November 2023 – Children from Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe have voiced the priority issues affecting them and that they want to address to their leaders for action.

This call to action emerged from a virtual gathering facilitated by UNICEF in which children and young people discussed topics that have the greatest impact on their lives. The discussions resulted in a series of calls to action that they will present to the Presidents of their countries at a regional summit taking place in Walvis Bay, Namibia, on 18-19 November, to mark World Children’s Day on 20th November, the day commemorating the signing of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The summit provides an opportunity for children to engage with their respective national leaders, working together to explore solutions for accelerating efforts to safeguard and uphold the rights of every child.

 “Children can be actor of change, we just need to be provided with the knowledge an opportunities to participate in debates and influence decisions that concern us,” said Tafadzwa 17 years old from Zimbabwe. “This week, we will call on our leaders to invest more in quality education, including climate change education, so that we can in turn raise awareness in our communities and make our voices heard across Zimbabwe.” 

“If we are to pride ourselves as members of a diverse nation, we need to ensure that children with disabilities are included and empowered to thrive in every aspect of their lives,” said 16-year-old Paulus from Namibia. “At the regional summit this week, we will ask our leaders to invest more in quality education for children with disabilities, so that they too are given the tools to fulfil their dreams and contribute to our societies.”

The calls to action children developed in the online forum speak to an urgent need to improve the quality of education and make it fit for the 21st century; ensure that children grow up and learn in an environment where they are protected from physical and emotional violence and can develop socio-emotional skills to deal effectively with the challenges of everyday life; increase understanding of climate change among children, as well as their involvement in devising climate-related strategies and programs; and guarantee equal education for all children, including children with disabilities.  

Nearly half of all people in Eastern and Southern Africa are children under the age of 18, a fast growing population segment expected to reach 375 million in 2050. While significant progress has been made in education over the past decade, 9 out of 10 children under 10 in the region cannot read or understand a simple story. Young people aged 15–24 account for 60 per cent of all unemployed Africans.

Data emerging from a combination of U-Report polls and qualitative research among 9-17 year-olds from the four countries showed that children and adolescents share a number of common concerns, including: exclusion and discrimination facing children with disabilities who are not offered quality education tailored to their needs; low-quality education and skills training; high levels of corporal punishment and violence against children in schools and at home; lack of access to age-appropriate reproductive health information; insufficient understanding of the social and economic impact of climate change on children; high levels of teenage pregnancy.

The regional virtual consultation represents the final stage of the year-long national discussions held in the four countries during 2023.

The calls to action emerging from this year’s regional consultation will be put forward by the children themselves to their leaders on Saturday 18 November in Walvis Bay. This will be an opportunity for the presidents of Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe to include children’s views and recommendations in future policies and programs directly impacting the lives and future of the children of these four nations.

Media contacts

Yves Willemot
Chief of Communications
UNICEF Zimbabwe
Tel: +263772124268

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