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Action Aid Liberia celebrates the Day of the African Child 2015

On 16 June 1976 in Soweto, South Africa, thousands of black schoolchildren took to the streets to protest inferior quality education and call for their right to be taught in their own language. Hundreds of them were shot down; and in the two weeks of protest that followed, more than a hundred people were killed and more than a thousand injured in we now know as the Soweto Uprising.

In 1991, the African Union (then called the Organization of African Unity) declared June 16 of each year the Day of the African Child, a day to commemorate the brave students, protesters and the dead and also to highlight the issues affecting children around Africa.

This year, the Day of the African Child coincided with the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (the African Children’s Charter or the ACRWC). Based on feedback from children across Africa, this year’s commemoration activities focused on the issue of child marriage with the theme being ‘25 Years after the Adoption of the African Children’s Charter: Accelerating our Collective Efforts to End Child Marriage in Africa’.

The recent outbreak of the Ebola virus disease (EVD) in Liberia impacted the lives of girls in Liberia. Many girls now face a higher risk of sexual abuse and early marriage due to loss of education and poverty exacerbated by the disaster.

Here in Liberia, ActionAid, in partnership with our partner Kids Educational Engagment Project (KEEP), supported the national celebration in Gbarpolu County. We engaged the children of Gbarpolu County in the commemoration activities. Commemoration activities began with a parade through the streets of Bopolu City (the administrative capital of Gbarpolu County). This was followed by an indoor program where guests and participants (drawn from five schools across Bopolu City) enjoyed musical performances and dramas as well as a key note speech which highlighted the effects of child marriage on children and society.

ActionAid held interactive sessions with students to discuss the significance of the Day of the African Child. Discussions with children centered on awareness of rights, capabilities and potential of children, including victims of child marriage (and sexual and gender based violence) and other vulnerable and marginalized children. It was an enlightening and inspiring time for all who participated with many contributing effective mechanisms and strategies for the prevention of child marriages in Liberia.