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2019: A crucial year for child rights

The poem took just two

minutes and 17 seconds

to read. Nobel laureate

Wole Soyinka had written it

to commemorate the 30th

anniversary of the Convention on

the Rights of the Child.

He titled it “The child before a

mirror of strangers” and dedicated

it to “children of the world and

future generations”.

“As if you were never here

before,” Soyinka begins to read.

It touches on facets of childhood

today-cherished, neglected,

endangered.

The year 2019 is a milestone

for the CRC. Next year is the 30th

anniversary of the African Charter

on the Rights and Welfare of the

Child-and there are only 10 years

left before the world can assess

whether targets of the Sustainable

Development Goals have been

met.

But not many children have

fared well since last year. Nigeria’s

population is growing, and young

people are quickly filling up the

country.

Schools and health facilities are

crowding up, unable to cope with

population growth, and young

people have to fight to find work.

And childhood is bearing the

brunt.

Nigeria still ranks second after

India among countries with the

highest number of children who

die before they turn􀀂􀁊􀁍􀁚􀁉.

Despite response to HIV/AIDs,

some 140,000 children and 120,000

adolescents still live with the virus.

Only 35% of children and 34% of

adolescents are on antiretroviral

treatment.

Just about three in 10 infants are

get breastfeeding initiated early at

birth. Only a quarter of infants are

exclusively fed on breastmilk for

their first six months of their life.

As they grow toward the age

of four, 44 in 100 of them face

moderate to severe stuntingwhere

they are too short for their

age, a condition that impacts

their immediate health, cognitive

development and potential future.

From ages five to 19, almost 10 in

100 children will be thin or severely

thin and eight in 100 overweight

and obese.

Between 2010 and last year, only

36 in 100 children are ever enrolled

in early childhood education.

Three in 10 Nigerian children

are subjected to child labour; 18

in 100 girls are married off before

they turn 15 years; nearly 85 in

100 children face violent discipline

and four in 100 girls suffer sexual

violence.

“There is one common bond

among all of us – and that bond is

childhood,” says Soyinka., at the

reading of his poem.

“We have the responsibility to

protect and preserve the integrity

of that sole common bond, which

is pertinent to all humanity.”

The reading, a collaboration

between UNICEF and the British

Deputy High Commission, also

explores how the private sector

and entertainment industry can

help advance the SDGs and realize

children’s rights.

“Both will only be achieved

if all sectors of business are fully

engaged. Child rights and the SDGs

need to be integrated into business

principles, strategies, and plans,

which, in turn, can contribute

to more robust and inclusive

economic growth and improved

employment of young people,”

said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF

Nigeria Representative.

Artistes Cobhams Asuquo,

Niniola, Timi Dakolo, 2Baba,

Umar Sheriff and Chidinma have

released a music video, “For every

child”-pushing for respect for and

recognition of children’s rights.

Ten more years before the SDGs,

said Harriet Thompson, British

Deputy High Commissioner in

Nigeria, “We must work together

and with urgency to scale-up

solutions in Nigeria that will

improve our planet and all people’s

lives, especially our children.”

Soyinka’s poem begins and ends

with the same words drifting into

silence. “As if, as if.”

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