In celebrating the day of an African child this year, we went to the Ngozi Mine slums where we screened two of our short films (Amacala 1 & 2), we spent the day with children living in that area and got to converse with them. The most disheartening fact is that they do not have clean water and sanitation which is detrimental to their health. This year’s theme is “Eliminating harmful practices against children, the children in key populations should not be left behind”.
Sustainable Development Goal 6 not being met in that area means that we have more children being vulnerable to various diseases which will then limit their growth. While some go to school, some are still looking for sponsors. Just as education is an empowerment tool, it should be of paramount importance to key populations because they are the most vulnerable.
Sexual and reproductive health services that include dissemination of information are a must because half of the teenagers there are already sexually active and even though mobile clinics frequent visit the community, there is still need for buttressing of information through different media. One of the girls said that they get bullied by their sexual partners and they are afraid of saying no to sex or even negotiate for safe sex because they will be beaten to a pulp. Another girl said the situation at their homes pushes them to indulge in sexual activity at a young age because they will be trying to fend for their families. A third girl said that they don't take pre and post prophylaxis pills because they don’t want to be judged. The three views show that there is need for advocacy and SRHR services because we cannot just watch and do nothing while their physical and mental health deteriorates. It is even more worrying when the parents in that area do not converse with their children regarding these issues.
The young women and girls in this community are victims of circumstance and socialisation and need a change of mindset. The parents are not to be blamed but they ought to be taught on how to approach their children and vice versa because in as much as different humanitarian groups can share information and make donations the children spend most of their time with parents so it becomes a problem if they are not empowered. The issue of child marriage, which I prefer to term “statutory rape” is rampant in that area. This is one of the harmful practices we are trying our best to fight. This puts the lives of children in that area at halt as they don't get to pursue their dreams of bettering their lives and breaking the shackles of poverty. They are impoverished even more because without education, the future is blurry including that of their children. Child labour continues to be a problem, instead of spending time at school, most of them will be working trying to help out at home.
As Amplifying Girls Voices, our help alone is not enough but if we could join hands, then we can help unleash their potential and make them leap to greater heights and the fight against harmful practices will be stronger than ever. Thabo Mbeki once said, “None dare challenge me when I say I am an African”, Happy international day of the African child