Delivered by Beatrice Nassanga, Senior 5, Aga Khan High school
and Simon Kuteesa, Senior 2, Migyera UWESO Training Institute
ALL human beings are born free and equal in dignity and in rights.
Aware that children make up 52% of the 53 Commonwealth countries which have a combined population of 1.8b people;
Aware of the critical challenges befalling us the children in many ways including:
High child mortality rates
Each year, about 4.6m children in Africa die before their 5th birthday; the African continent accounts for 44% of the worldâ€™s under-5 mortality. The majority of under-5 child deaths continue to be caused by common, preventable and treatable conditions.
There are an estimated 133m children who are orphans (children aged 0â€“17 who have lost one or both parents) world wide. Uganda estimates over 2.2m orphans
In Uganda, the 2005/06 UDHS reports that there are 41, 600 child-headed households, many of them girls
15m children have lost one or more parents to HIVNearly 1,800 children under 15 are infected by the virus every day Only 1 in 10 children needing antiretroviral treatment receive it; the others face a bleak and short-lived future.
Wide spread violence against children:
An estimated 300m children worldwide, with the Commonwealth making one third of that total, are subjected to violence, exploitation and abuse.
These include the worst forms of child labor in communities, schools and institutions; during armed conflict; and to harmful practices such as female genital mutilation/cutting and child marriage. It is estimated that more than 130m women and girls alive today have been subjected to female genital mutilation
According to the coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, at least 300,000 children, many as young as 10 years of age, are currently participating as â€œchild soldiersâ€ in armed conflicts around the world
The majority of the world's 27.3m refugees and internally displaced persons are children and women.
Children have no identity
In 2003 UNICEF estimated that nearly 50m births go unregistered every year. In sub-Saharan Africa, 55 per cent of children under five have not been registered.
Many children are subjected to harmful work and exploited
ILO estimated that 5.7m children are trapped into forced or bonded labour. ILO also estimates that more girls under age 16 are in domestic service than in any other category of child labour. Children working in the home of a third party or â€˜employerâ€™ are extremely vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.
Children are trafficked, married off early and are without parental care
According to UNICEF estimates for 2002, some 1.2m children are trafficked worldwide every year.
Most of these are from developing countries.An estimated 14m adolescents between 15 and 19 give birth each year Marriage of young girls is most common in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia and in Uganda
Of the 1.39m people involved in forced commercial sexual exploitation and 40â€“50 per cent are children.
An estimated 150m girls under 18 have experienced forced sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual violence involving physical contact.
More than 1m children worldwide are detained by law enforcement officials
Up to 8m children in Uganda are vulnerable.
(A vulnerable child here is: a child laborer, an orphan, a child not in school, an idle child â€” no work no school â€” a married child, a child living in a child-headed house, a child heading a household, a child living in a household headed by an older person, a non-orphaned child not living with parents, or a child with a disability).
We are appreciative of what Governments of Commonwealth member states are doing for children especially in aspects of life like education and health, in spite of significant challenges.
For example here in Uganda, the
Government is supporting both Universal Primary and Secondary Education. While education is free, one in every three children does not complete primary school education.
Recognizing that we are the young people of tomorrow, the future of the Commonwealth, it is important that our voices are heard at this special occasion.
1 A Commonwealth plan of action for child rights be put in place to provide a framework in which the Commonwealth will advance its commitment to children by ensuring â€œsafe-places and enabling environmentâ€ for children at all levels of society:
To thrive, and feel emotionally and physically secure,
To be respected by both peers and other members of the community,
To be guided and learn positive skills to take good decisions, that will lead to social stability and ethical development,
To fully develop individual capacities regardless of sex, race or age that empower them to participate in and contribute to their communities
To nurture our best minds, to learn and think critically, and form new ideas and become the best of our inspirations.
The Action Plan should be able to hold the international institutions, regional institutions and Governments to:
Mobilise and commit resources for child survival
Effectively investigate and hold accountable all that violate human rights and particularly those of children.
Promote and monitor the protection of children from acts of violence, abuse, discrimination and exploitation.
Create solutions that allow girls and boys from varying backgrounds to come together locally, nationally and globally â€“ connecting the â€œinvisibleâ€ children with the â€œvisibleâ€ children.
2. A permanent official Childrenâ€™s Desk be created at the Commonwealth Secretariat to facilitate and ensure that this Action Plan is followed through.
The desk would play a strong advocacy role in policy reform, inform member states and regional bodies in the formulation of national and regional children policies, and act as a knowledge-based network for the sharing of ideas, good practices and lessons learned.
3. Last but not least, an official Commonwealth Childrenâ€™s Forum to be institutionalised just like it is with other existing forums e.g. youth, women, business among others.
This forum would facilitate us present our views, promote Commonwealth values, cultures and learning.
It will also help put our issues on the national agendas; and promote networking among children so we can sustain the values, principles and traditions of the Commonwealth.
We ask that you our President of Uganda incorporate this in your communication to Her Majesty the Queen and all the Commonwealth Heads of Government.
We ask that Your Excellency the Secretary General of the Commonwealth put in place a forum for children in the Commonwealth.
I thank you for your attention and wish you very fruitful deliberations. We are the future of the Commonwealth, â€œHear our voices tooâ€.
This statement was drawn from a memorandum signed by 180 children at the Pre-Chogm Childrenâ€™s Forum in September, facilitated by the National Council for children and a number of child-focussed organisations