On 13th November, over 40 gallant U-Reporters of the over 270,000 members from across the country joined the great team at UNICEF Uganda on the majestic Namirembe Hill to celebrate 3 years of amazing success the project had registered. At the Namirembe Guest House, participants were to further discuss the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
But first, we had the glowing reigning Miss Uganda Leah Kalanguka in the house. I have written a critical blog post about the Miss Uganda competition and this was a great opportunity to meet her and learn more not only about the beauty pageant or the controversial agriculture debate, but exactly how she intends to harness the clout of her crown to positively invest in lives of Ugandan children out there in the countryside. I can tell you, she did not disappoint. She has the cards.
Uganda ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child way back in 1991 and as it joins the rest of the World to celebrate 25 years since the inception of the Convention, we take stock of achievements and challenges encountered by Uganda’s children in enjoying their rights unimpeded.
During a lively and very engaging conference, it was humbling to learn quite a lot from the individual U-Reporters about how they use the SMS platform to report incidences of rights violations involving children which are then followed up by authorities.
Perhaps the most compelling presentation was by a deaf U-Reporter, the amazing Simon Eroku. With the aid of an interpreter, he ably recounted how U-Report has empowered him to share local stories about children despite his disabilities. Before leaving the stage, he was kind enough to teach us how to say many interesting words in sign language.
It is awesome to observe how UNICEF Uganda has harnessed the abilities of new media to reach youth and children from hard to reach areas of rural Uganda. With an average of three messages per week, U-Reporters recounted receiving text messages on a wide range of issues such as child labour, child marriage, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), issues of equal access to education and vaccination health drives. These messages are typically tailored to communicate a certain message and the feedback is used to generate follow up dialogue or statistics.
For UNICEF Uganda, this is not a first at making a difference in the lives of children.
Recently, UNICEF Uganda partnered with other stakeholders and the Private Sector Foundation Uganda to launch the Children’s Rights and Business Principles in Uganda. Uganda officially became the 41st country in the world to take concrete steps to get the private sector to respect and promote rights of children.
From this conference, I left with several questions which I seek to answer and I implore you to indulge yourself too if we are to re-imagine the future to provide an opportunity for innovation for every child.
Article 12 of the Convention provides that children have a right to give an opinion, and for adults to listen and take it seriously. How much do we listen to children? How much do we consider their opinions when the decisions to be taken concern them? How seriously do we value the opinions of children?
Article 13 of the Convention provides that children have the right to get and to share information, as long as the information is not damaging to them or to others.
How much do we honestly share information with children? How often do we genuinely answer their concerns? How much do we allow the children freedom to freely interact with their peers to share information and exchange experiences? How much do we protect them from pornographic and other graphic materials in this age of tabloid newspapers and the digital age?
We need to answer these and other rights-violations questions honestly and comprehensively if we are to empower our children to competently claim their bright futures.
All woes plaguing efforts to give every child a bright future are foes of the human rights movement. It goes without saying, if we really want to face these challenges head-on and ably re-imagine the future for every child, the answer lies in adopting a child rights-centered approach to all interventions.
I imagine a world where all rights of children are respected and promoted without any form of discrimination to give every child a fair chance at their dreams. To achieve this, we all need to make an effort to invest in Ugandan children.