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'Sudan stands at critical juncture' for children's rights

June 20 - 2021 LONDON / NEW YORK
Girl begins first day of school in Kuma Garadayat in North Darfur (File photo)
Girl begins first day of school in Kuma Garadayat in North Darfur (File photo)

UK-based child rights and child focused agencies Save the Children International, Plan International, and World Vision International, along with the United Nations International Children's Fund (UNICEF), called for "more to be done to actualise laws and policies that are meant to protect children" on Wednesday, the Day of the African Child 2021.

"Thirty years after the adoption of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC), Sudan stands at a critical juncture towards being able to fully respect, protect and fulfil children’s rights," reads the statement.

In 2020, the Sudanese government lifted three reservations previously placed in the Constitutional Charter, concerning children’s privacy, child marriage, and pregnant girls’ continuation of education. In addition, Article 141 was passed in the Sudanese Criminal Law by Sudan’s Transitional Government, effectively criminalising the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

"Unfortunately, despite the fact that FGM practice is now criminalised and penalised under the new law, it is still commonly practiced in Sudan, as witnessed by Save the Children International, UNICEF, Plan International and World Vision in communities where we work." 87 per cent of Sudanese girls and/or women aged between 14 and 49 have already undergone some form of FGM, and 32 per cent of girls under the age of 14 are affected, and girls under 10 at risk.

Steps taken to improve the welfare of children in Sudan are in a positive direction that can and should result in a better and healthier future, according to the statement.

"They should and encourage the development of better policies and strategies and ensure that more action is taken to stop the practice of FGM/C which is a grave violation, that has severe physical, psychological, sexual and reproductive health effects on girls and women at different stages of their lives. With this in mind, we urgently call upon government actors, donors, civil society, and the international community to do more towards ending FGM and all other violations against children."

The international organisations recommend strengthening activation and enforcement of the new criminal law regarding FGM, and advocating for it on many levels to ensure demand and acceptance of the law. In addition, the organisations demanded investment in quality education for girls.

In an interview with 12-year-old school student Deima El Haj on Wednesday, Daniel Weiss, the Charge de Affaires of the Delegation of the European Union to Sudan, said that there are around 3 million Sudanese children who are out of education at the moment. He stressed that, for the EU, “investing in education is investing in the future”.

History of celebration

International Day of the African Child has been celebrated on June 16 since 1991. The day honours those who participated in the Soweto Student Uprising in 1976, 45 years ago, when over 10,000 school students marched to protest against the poor quality of their education in South Africa and the introduction of Afrikaans as an official language of instruction during apartheid.

During the uprising, heavily armed police shot directly at the children, killing an estimated 700 students of which many were in their early teens.

Today many countries and International organisations celebrate this day to raise awareness of the continuing need for improvement of the education provided to African children.

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