Children from Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe have united their voices to call on their leaders for urgent action on issues affecting their lives, in a move to assert their rights and demand change.
These issues include access to quality education, protection from violence, and effective climate change mitigation strategies.
The children’s call to action emerged from a virtual gathering facilitated by UNICEF, where they openly discussed the challenges they face and the solutions they believe can make a positive difference.
In a statement, UNICEF indicated that their discussions resulted in a series of concrete proposals that they will present to their respective Presidents at a regional summit taking place in Walvis Bay, Namibia, on November 18-19.
This summit coincides with World Children’s Day on November 20, 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,” reads the statement.
The summit also provides a crucial platform for children to engage with their leaders and work collaboratively to explore solutions for safeguarding and upholding 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.”
Data gathered through U-Report polls and qualitative research among 9-17-year-olds in the four countries revealed common concerns among children and adolescents include: “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 statement further indicated that the regional virtual consultation marks the culmination of year-long national discussions held in the four countries throughout 2023.