Protecting Innocence

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Though the Namibian government has, through the national programme of Action for Children, made progress in meeting the needs of every Namibian child, more needs to be done. So said President Hifikepunye Pohamba last Friday during the commemoration of the Day of the African Child that marked the 30th year since tens of thousands of black students and pupils protested after confronting the forces of apartheid in a protest to reassert their right to education in English. The day was proclaimed in 1991 by the Organisation of African Unity and draws attention to the lives of African children today. It has also created an opportunity for African leaders to examine progress made towards health, education, equality and the security of all African children as well as on the implementation of the regional African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. According to the President, all Namibian children need to be affected by the outreach activities under the national priorities programme for children. “This event should not be seen as a mere commemoration, but should serve as an occasion for re-evaluation and re-examination of our commitment to the welfare of our children, the African children”, said Pohamba. He pointed out primary health care, nutrition and household food security, water and sanitation, early childhood development, basic education and literacy, children in especially difficult circumstances such as street children and the advancement of women as the six main priority areas. The President said: “As a nation, we have a commitment and responsibility to protect the rights of children. (We have to create) an environment free from violence, crime and other dangers. Our children deserve to live in peace. They should no longer be forced to give up their childhood and their innocence”. Speaking at the occasion, UNICEF Country Representative Khin Sandi-Lwin said that violence against children in Africa in general and in Namibia in particular has not attracted the desired response compared to other matters that could be viewed as calling for a national response. “If only violence against children could receive the same response, if the country could get organised the way it is now responding to polio, then things would be different”, she said. Genital mutilation, sexual abuse and rape, among others, are common evils committed against children today. The disturbing issue, according to Lwin, is that the perpetrators are those the children confide in, their relatives and not strangers. The day was celebrated under the theme “Right to Protection: Stop Violence Against Children”.