A picture of Mbuyisa Makhubo with a face contorted in shock carrying the lifeless body of Soweto June 16 1976 students uprising victim, Hector Peterson has become a global icon of the Day of the African Child.
While Makhubo skipped South Africa, sought refuge in Botswana and fathered a son in Mochudi, Botswana has not had the kind of violence and bloodshed that inspired The Day of the African Child.
Botswana however is going through a conflict of its own that resonates with this year’s June 16 theme ÔÇô Conflict and Crisis: children’s rights in Africa. ‘It could be said that Botswana has not been through a physical and hazardous conflict situation as other African countries have experienced” but none the less Botswana is going through a conflict and crisis with regards to child rights Cindy Kelemi (Director of Botswana Network on Ethics Laws and HIV/AIDS) said.
She pointed out that Botswana is going through a cultural conflict, where culture often times conflicts with the rights of children. Further disheartening, “there is disintegration between culture and children’s rights. Children in Botswana are still offered to old men for marriage out of the prime purpose to fulfill cultural traditions. Therefore, despite how much society has evolved lack of acknowledging children’s rights have disintegrated our society”, she said.
Kelemi also highlighted the conflict between the law and children’s rights: “children are supposed to be protected by the law”. But the very law conflict with children’s rights. Traditionally and historically in Botswana, children’s rights are not upheld as the utmost value. Customary law and practice impedes children from speaking out against abuse.
Kelemi and Salim Kegodile observed that “due to recent multiple reports of child abuse, it has now come to our attention that child abuse exists and the safety of our children is at risk.”
Salim Kegodile (Bona Naledi Youth) shared his experience of how social background is not an impediment to success. “I have lived almost all my life in Old Naledi, and there is a stereotype that children from this neighborhood are less likely to amount to anything”. He emphasized that if the youth put their minds and dedication to their dreams anything is possible.
Gaborone City Council hosted the continental event at Old Naledi community hall which was graced by an array of dignitaries, politicians and children representing various schools in Botswana. The pomp and ceremony of the day it did not drown the object of the occasion ÔÇô empowerment of the youth.