Children in Tihun, Sogbini Chiefdom, Bonthe District in Southern Sierra Leone, commemorated June 16 2009 - the Day of the African Child - with advocacy messaging on the rights of the child, role play, drama, and cultural dance.
The World Vision Area Development Programme (ADP) in Kpanda-Kemoh and Sogbini (KKS) Chiefdom, Bonthe District, supported the children to use the opportunity of the Day of the African Child to continue to raise awareness in their communities on the rights of the child.
The event was commemorated at the Tihun Community Center and it brought together children from different schools in KKS Chiefdoms. The Regent Chief of Sogbini, World Vision staff, members of the World Vision Development Management Committee for KKS Chiefdom and other members of the community were also in attendance. The day was celebrated with this theme: "Right to participate: Let the Children be seen and heard."
The ceremony started with a march through the town of Tihun. The colourful match saw children of all ages with different uniforms chanting songs reflecting the essence and theme of the day.
Lucy Kong, a pupil at Saint Joseph's Junior Secondary School in Tihun, was the Guest Speaker for the occasion. Addressing the gathering she said, "The Day of the African Child is commemorated to highlight the need to ensure that the voices of children are heard in every community."
Foday Fatorma of the National Islamic Mission Primary School in Tihun spoke about the responsibilities of parents in ensuring children live a fruitful life. He said, "Parents should respect children's rights and protect them from harmful traditional practices".
Festus Kabba, the chairperson of the World Vision Development Management Committee in Sogbini Chiefdom encouraged the children to take their education seriously, respect elders and avoid peers who will lead them astray. He also encouraged parents to show love and care to their children.
Festus thanked World Vision saying, "Never in the history of Sogbini Chiefdom have the children had the opportunity to commemorate the Day of the African Child on June 16 because they had no one to support them and teach them the importance of such a day." He prayed that God will continue to bless and multiply the efforts of World Vision as the organisation continues to raise awareness in the communities on development issues.
World Vision established an ADP in KKS Chiefdom in 2006. Since the inception of the ADP, there has been series of workshops for parents and children aimed at advocating for the rights of children. As a result of these workshops, parents now understand child rights issues and they are beginning to protect children from sexual abuse, child labour, child exploitation and other forms of abuse. Cases of this nature are reported to the chiefdom authorities as opposed to family and household settlement which was common in the past.
The children displayed various placards communicating these advocacy messages:
"Send your girl child to school".
"Children are the future leaders of tomorrow".
"Children with disabilities have a right to be educated".
"Children's rights are human rights".
"In all actions concerning children, the best interest of the child shall be a primary consideration".
"Parents should protect children from sexual abuse".
"Listen to the voices of the children".
Skits on children's rights, teenage pregnancy and its consequences, effects of child labour, child exploitation and the denial of rights to basic education were among the highlights of the occasion. The ceremony was climaxed with cultural performance by the children. The children watched a film entitled 'Sarafina' which captures the massacre of children in Soweto in 1976 who took to the streets to protest the inferior quality of their education and demanded the right to be taught in their own language.
All seventeen World Vision Area Development Programmes in Bo, Bonthe and Kono District supported children in their respective communities to commemorate this year's Day of the African Child. World Vision through its ADPs has been educating children, their families and communities to understand and apply the provisions of the Government of Sierra Leone Child Rights Act 2007 in advocating for the rights of children.