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African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child : Advantage at Service of the African Child

African Union has at its disposal several instruments that place the human person at the heart of their action. Since taking into account the human dignity and fundamental rights of each person is an essential pillar of any sustainable development, each category of person has an instrument for the promotion of his or her rights.

Children in Africa are affected by many different types of abuse, including economic and sexual exploitation, gender discrimination in education and access to health, and their involvement in armed conflict. Other factors affecting African children include migration, early marriage, differences between urban and rural areas, child-headed households, street children and poverty. Furthermore, child workers in Sub-Saharan Africa account for about 80 million children or 4 out of every 10 children under 14 years old which is the highest child labour rate in the world[1].

Regarding these dangers for children, the need of an instrument for protection against abuse and bad treatment, negative social and cultural practices, all forms of exploitation or sexual abuse, including commercial sexual exploitation, and illegal drug use. Is required. To answer this problematic, African Union has worked out a tool for children and child rights defenders in Africa, who have an instrument for the promotion and protection of the rights of the children : The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.

The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child is a regional human rights treaty adopted in 1990 and which came into force in 1999. It sets out rights and defines principles for the status of children. The African Charter can be a powerful tool to hold governments accountable for ending children rights violations around the continent.

The Children’s Charter originated because the member states of the AU believed that the CRC missed important socio-cultural and economic realities particular to Africa. It emphasises the need to include African cultural values and experiences when dealing with the rights of the child in such as: challenging traditional African views which often conflict with children’s rights such as child marriage, parental rights and obligations towards their children, and children born out of wedlock. prohibiting marriages or betrothals involving children ; tackling specific African issues that affect children. For example, it called for the confrontation and abolishment of apartheid and similar systems; and although, apartheid is now over, this provision is still applicable to children living under regimes practicing ethnic, religious or other forms of discrimination.

The Charter called for the creation of an African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (Committee of Experts). Its mission is to promote and protect the rights established by the ACRWC, to practice applying these rights, and to interpret the disposition of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child as required of party states, African Union (AU) institutions, or all other institutions recognized by AU or by a member state.

Civil society organisations and international institutions have played a significant role in the work of the Committee of Experts and they have served as the backbone of the committee’s work since inception. International non-governmental organizations have been particularly involved in the work of the committee, providing different kinds of expertise and financial support to most of the work.

Although civil society organisation involvement was minimal in the beginning, over the intervening years they have since taken a pivotal role in ensuring that the committee fulfills its mandate and in providing the necessary support needed to facilitate its work. The adoption of the guidelines for granting observer status will now also ensure that more civil society organisations are able to formally participate and contribute in the process.

This improvments and further participation of civil society in Africa is the proof that legal instruments could be useful as for children rights in Africa. Thus, we can ensure protectino and promotion of children´ rights now and for the future generations of Africa.

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