The African Contexts of Children’s Rights Seminar Report


The African Contexts of Children’s Rights

Seminar Report


A collaboration between
Childwatch International (Indicators for Children’s Rights Zimbabwe Country Case Study),
Redd Barna-Zimbabwe

12-14 January, Harare, Zimbabwe


Summary and recommendations

1. Introduction

2. Background

3. Proceedings

3.1. Welcomes and introductions

3.2. Scientific programme

3.2.1. Economic contexts
3.2.2. Social interrelationships
3.2.3. Abuse and exploitation
3.2.4. Conflicts
3.2.5. Rights, participation and democracy
3.2.6. Fundamentalisms and identity

3.3. Issues of the implementation of international and regional children’s rights instruments in Africa

4. Key issues emerging from the Seminar discussions

5. Follow-up and recommendations

Appendix 1: List of participants
Appendix 2: Seminar Programme

This Seminar was sponsored by Redd Barna-Zimbabwe and organised by ANPPCAN Zimbabwe Chapter, the Childwatch International Monitoring Childrenís Rights Project, and CODESRIA. The opinions expressed in this Report are the responsibility of the authors, as are any unintentional factural errors.


Summary and recommendations

The African Contexts of Children’s Rights Seminar was the result of a collaboration between four agencies with specific interests in children’s rights and was intended to address the relative lack of awareness in African countries of both the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as to stimulate multidisciplinary intellectual debate that will further children’s rights in African contexts. Among the specific objectives of the Seminar were the examination of problematic concepts in both instruments and a contribution to the process of ratification of the Charter, so that it can come into force.

The Seminar took place in Harare between 12 and 14 January, 1998. It was hosted and funded by Redd Barna-Zimbabwe and organised by ANPPCAN Zimbabwe, Childwatch International and CODESRIA. Seventeen established African scholars were invited to make presentations covering six inter-related themes relevant to the current contexts of children’s rights in Africa: economic contexts; conflicts; abuse and exploitation; social inter-relationships; rights, participation and democracy; and fundamentalisms and identity. These scholars came from Zimbabwe, Kenya, Senegal, Tanzania, Zambia, Congo, Cameroon, Ethiopia, South Africa and Nigeria, and represented the disciplines of political science, history, social policy, demography, psychology, sociology, social anthropology, education and economics. In addition, presentations were made from the perspective of a number of organisations including the African Commission for Human Rights, UNICEF, The Afronet Trust, ANPPCAN, Childwatch International, CODESRIA and Redd Barna. A number of observers also attended, from policy-making and advocacy agencies, including governmental and non-governmental organisations both from within Zimbabwe and elsewhere.

The Seminar was structured to encourage discussion and debate as well as to begin to broaden the discourse on children and children’s rights in Africa beyond the disciplines of law and social welfare. Papers were sought from scholars who had already carried out research relevant to one of the themes, whether or not they normally focus on children and children’s rights. Presentations were designed to be brief and the Seminar was structured so as to stimulate wider discussion. It was characterised by high quality presentations and debate. As anticipated, not all the topics and themes set out by the organisers could be addressed within the space of three days. Nevertheless, the Seminar represented the beginning of a process, in which a critical mass of scholars can take forward a debate that is of crucial importance to the future of all African societies. In addition to the scientific programme, the Seminar ended with presentations and discussions that considered the implications of academic research and theoretical debate for the implementation of international and regional children’s rights instruments in Africa.

The expected outcomes will include progress towards the development of an informed culture of children’s rights in African countries; development of a core group of interdisciplinary scholars who can carry the debate forward; and a publication, based on presentations at the Seminar, through which the discussions can reach a wider audience. After exchange of ideas, the closing session took into account the wider perspective of how to improve theoretical research and to take the research outcomes to practical levels.

The discussion of follow-up to the Seminar included proposals for publication of results and appears. It is intended that this Report should be widely disseminated within a variety of circles, including the Save the Children Alliance, Childwatch International network, CODESRIA and ANPPCAN. Furthermore a high quality, academic publication should be planned, in both French and English, including not only the papers from this Seminar but also some others that would address some of the issues identified by the planning committee that could not be included in the Seminar Programme. Publication plans will be discussed with CODESRIA, which publishes a wide range of titles, and the academic publishers, Dartmouth, has also made a commitment to publish Seminar papers within the multidisciplinary series entitled ‘Programme on the International Rights of the Child’.

It was also strongly suggested that there should be further Seminars of this kind, based on the framework used in Harare, and addressing some of the issues that could not be included, most notably ‘Fundamentalisms and identity’. It should be noted that the Seminar raised widespread interests and there is considerable potential for attracting further established African scholars, as well as resources for future events. However, the organisers would like to underline the importance of maintaining the rule that limited opportunities to give scholarly presentations to nationals of African countries.

A final general recommendation is for training in and disseminating information about children’s rights. This is crucial in African countries in order to raise awareness at local and national levels, within state and civil society and lay the groundwork for Implementation of both the African Charter and the CRC.

A number of specific recommendations were made, including:

  • Continuing the networking activities begun in the context of the Seminar;
  • Using established and new networks to build a children’s rights research agenda that:

Establishes research on childhood, children and children’s rights in Africa as an integral part of mainstream African social science research ;

Celebrates the diversity of African cultures;

Identifies and includes those who are custodians of ‘traditions’;

Develops research capacity in the area of childhood, children and children’s rights particularly at local level;

Explores and maintains an appropriate balance and interrelationship between theoretical research and action research;

  • Disseminating widely the results of research relevant to children’s rights issues;
  • Ensuring that children’s rights research in Africa is supported by adequate financial and material resources;
  • Exploring the possibility of developing a network of African researchers that might act in an advisory capacity to the monitoring body of the OAU African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, once that instrument enters into force.

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1. Introduction

The African Contexts of Children’s Rights Seminar was the result of a collaboration between four agencies with specific interests in children’s rights and was intended to address the relative lack of awareness in African countries of both the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as to stimulate multidisciplinary intellectual debate that will further children’s rights in African contexts. Among the specific objectives of the Seminar were the examination of problematic concepts in both instruments and a contribution to the process of ratification of the Charter, so that it can come into force.

The Seminar took place in the Mandel Training Centre, Harare, between 12 and 14 January, 1998 and was attended by a total of 45 participants. It was hosted and funded by Redd Barna-Zimbabwe and organised by ANPPCAN Zimbabwe, Childwatch International and CODESRIA. This collaboration was the outcome of several processes stimulated by the new international interest in the rights of children, itself a result of global and regional human rights instruments. The idea for the Seminar arose in the context of a country case study in Zimbabwe, which is part of the Childwatch International Monitoring Children’s Rights Project and was funded in Zimbabwe by Redd Barna. One of the central issues for the Zimbabwe country case study research team and reference group was how to reconcile the provisions of the UN Convention and the OAU Charter in the context of developing a national system for monitoring children’s rights. Given that Zimbabwe has ratified both instruments and that the African Charter requires only two more ratifications to come into force, it is clear that a unified monitoring system for reporting to the monitoring committees of both these international treaties would soon be required. While it is clear that the two instruments are complementary, there are a number of issues of interpretation and harmonisation that remain unresolved. The Seminar was conceived as a tool in the process of understanding, and thus being able to implement and monitor, the provisions of both the Convention and the Charter, within the diverse social, economic, political and cultural contexts of African societies.

CODESRIA and ANPPCAN were the natural partners in this process and were involved in the planning process from the beginning. CODESRIA (Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa) is about to begin a Programme of Child Research in Africa with the objectives of building research capacity in this area, and is a Key Institution within the Childwatch International network. ANPPCAN (African Network for the Protection and Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect) has long been involved in research and advocacy in the area of child abuse and exploitation and the Chair of the Zimbabwe Chapter also chaired the Country Case Study Reference Group. ANPPCAN, Childwatch International and CODESRIA were represented on the planning committee, and the Seminar was funded by Redd Barna-Zimbabwe. The Seminar Secretariat was drawn from the Zimbabwe country case study research team and worked closely with the planning committee and Redd Barna-Zimbabwe.

The planning committee members identified the need for high level academic debate on the topic of children’s rights in Africa, in order to found the implementation of both the Convention and the Charter on sound theoretical and empirical work. The Seminar was designed as the first step in a process of developing an interdisciplinary discourse on childhood, children and children’s rights in Africa among African scholars representing all major areas and language groups. It was also felt necessary to attract scholars who do not normally focus their work on children’s issues, in order to strengthen, widen and inform the current debates on children’s rights, which take place largely within the disciplines of law and social welfare.

The objectives of the Seminar were:

  • To improve the situation of African children through raising awareness of children’s rights in diverse African contexts;
  • To base awareness and use of both Charter and Convention on high-level, inter-disciplinary, intellectual debate, that will provide conceptual and theoretical underpinning for current discussions about children’s rights in African contexts;
  • To examine problematic concepts, and ambiguous phrases, such as ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ African values and practices, and ‘the best interests of the child’, in both the Charter and the Convention;
  • To work towards the development of a critical mass of academics, capable of promoting child research within the framework of children’s rights.
  • To contribute towards the ratification and eventual coming into force of the OAU African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.

To this end, papers were sought from scholars who had already carried out research relevant to one of six main themes identified by the planning committee as particularly pertinent to the implementation of children’s rights in Africa. These themes framed the scientific programme of the Seminar. As stated above, presenters were not invited only because they normally focus on children and children’s rights. Presentations were designed to be brief and the Seminar was structured so as to stimulate wider discussion. It is worth noting that one inviolable criterion used by the planning committee for selecting presenters was that they should all be nationals of African countries.

The invited scholars came from Zimbabwe, Kenya, Senegal, Tanzania, Zambia, Congo, Cameroon, Ethiopia, South Africa and Nigeria and represented the disciplines of political science, history, social policy, demography, psychology, sociology, social anthropology, education and economics. In addition, presentations were made from the perspective of a number of organisations including the African Commission for Human Rights, UNICEF, The Afronet Trust, ANPPCAN, Childwatch International, CODESRIA and Redd Barna. The Seminar also benefited from the presence of a number of observers who attended from policy-making and advocacy agencies, including governmental and non-governmental organisations, both from within Zimbabwe and elsewhere (Appendix 1: list of participants).

The Seminar was structured in order to encourage debate and discussion. Presentations within the session on each theme were brief and referred to specific research results. A discussant then responded to each set of papers, drawing out the general issues of the African contexts in which children’s rights must be implemented and also relating them to specific themes and debates in the social sciences in Africa. A particular feature of the debate was that, although both French and English were used as the languages of the Seminar and the majority of participants were more-or-less monolingual, recourse was not made to simultaneous translation. Bilingual Chairs, goodwill and good humour facilitated both discussion in the sessions and inter-communication throughout the entire three days in which the Seminar took place. It was notable that the participants did not separate into Francophone and Anglophone groups either in the sessions or between sessions. The effort made to communicate ideas across language barriers very quickly broke those barriers down. It is worth remembering that, in African contexts, European languages such as French, English and Portugese are frequently not the mother tongues of scholars and may often be their third or fourth langauages. They should thus be regarded as linguae francae that have a practical use for communication between the huge variety of African languages, rather than as established barriers between groups.

Nevertheless, the organisers noted that, for ease of bilingual communication some prior planning by speakers is required. As well as having bilingual Chairs, the use of overhead transparencies and other visual aids promotes understanding between language groups (particularly if these can be prepared in advance in both languages). In future events it would also be worthwhile encouraging presenters to provide papers in advance so that translations can be provided to monolingual participants.

In the event, the Seminar was characterised by high quality presentations and debate. As anticipated, not all the topics and themes set out by the organisers could be addressed within the space of three days. Nevertheless, the Seminar represented the beginning of a process, in which a critical mass of scholars can take forward a debate that is of crucial importance to the future of all African societies. The immediate outcomes of the Seminar are:

Progress towards increased ratification and the eventual coming into force of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child;

Progress towards the development of an informed culture of children’s rights in African countries;

Development of a core group of interdisciplinary African scholars, on the basis of which a critical mass of academics can be established, capable of promoting child research within the framework of children’s rights;

A high-quality publication (in French and English versions), probably by CODESRIA in collaboration with Dartmouth Publishers, based on presentations and discussions at the Seminar.

This Report provides a description of the Seminar proceedings. It takes its structure from the framework of the Seminar Programme (Appendix 2), which was built around the six themes identified by the planning committee and referred to above. Each section of the Report thus begins with the relevant section from the planning documents that were circulated to the presenters in order to orient the preparation of their papers. The Report then records the final sessions in which the implementation of children’s rights in Africa, and the next steps to be taken in the process begun in the Seminar were discussed. Finally it reflects on key ideas and issues that arose during the course of the three days events and makes some recommendations for future action.

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2. Background

The planning committee for the Seminar began by examining whether or not a culture of children’s rights had developed in Africa since the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (African Charter) had been adopted by the intergovernmental organisations that had overseen their drafting. They came to the conclusion that, to the extent that there is any international culture of children’s rights, this is a recent, Western phenomenon. With the exception of Senegal and Algeria, few African countries participated consistently in the drafting process for the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child , although all African countries except Somalia have ratified the Convention and African countries were among the first to submit reports to the Committee on the Rights of the Child. In contrast, the African Charter, adopted by the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1990, still lacks six of the 15 ratifications necessary for it to come into force. It can be, and is, argued by some that the Charter is unnecessary. Yet the OAU considered that a complementary instrument would be important in order to ensure the implementation of the CRC in African countries, in the face of ‘certain local conditions’ such as:

severely depressed economic situations, shortage of basic social amenities, widespread occurrence of armed conflict, and resultant displacement of populations.

The African Charter, drafted by the OAU and the African Network on Prevention and Protection Against Child Abuse and Neglect (ANPPCAN) with the assistance of UNICEF, as a result of the First Regional Meeting to examine one of the final drafts of the Convention in 1988, is designed to ‘retain the spirit as well as the substance of [the] letter’ of the CRC while making ‘special provisions guided by the ground situation in Africa’.

Despite this, it can still be argued that there is no general culture of children’s rights in Africa. For some, the very idea of children’s rights is threatening, and there is much misunderstanding of what children’s rights mean, even though there is considerable willingness to promote the fulfilment of children’s needs. In many countries over 50% of the population is under the age of 18, which has implications for the development of democracy, in view of the ‘participation’ articles in the Convention (Articles 12-15). Youth, the group of population between 15 and 18 years of age, remains an excluded category in terms of policies, services and participation.

In general there is a lack of awareness of both the Convention and the Charter, and a notable lack of intellectual debate, particularly between academic disciplines. Moreover, both instruments contain loosely-worded provisions, which means that those debates that have taken place in Africa have tended to focus on issues of legal ambiguity and interpretation, rather than on the substantive meanings of children’s rights for African children today. The Seminar was thus designed to address these problems.

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3. Proceedings

3.1. Welcomes and Introductions:

The first session of welcomes and introductions was chaired by Patricia Phiri, Programme Advisor for Redd Barna-Zimbabwe. The participants were given a warm welcome by Petter Myhren, Resident Representative for Redd Barna-Zimbabwe, who stressed the connection between the Seminar and the collaboration with Childwatch International’s Monitoring Children’s Rights project. This had established the basis and further need for cooperation and alliance between agencies of different types for the development of better understanding of children’s rights in Africa. Mr Myhren also emphasised the long term aims of the Seminar and the process it has begun. Better understanding of what children’s rights mean in the rich variety of African cultures has the objective of providing tools for implementing children’s rights instruments and ultimately for monitoring the effects of policy and programme interventions.

All the presenters in this first session welcomed participants on behalf of their organisations as well as addressing the interface between the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (AC). They all stressed the increasing importance of these human rights instruments for framing and informing their work.

First, Justin Maeda, Country Representative of UNICEF in Zimbabwe, spoke of the need for collective efforts to understand and implement international instruments for children’s rights. The CRC, he stated, provides an ethical and practical framework as well as a global vision for the future, which is ‘the foundation and justification for the policies and programmes which our countries are expected to pursue in order to ensure a stable future’. Implementation depends on external and internal factors in any country, which is why the Organisation of African Unity adopted the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child: ‘to present the rights of the child in a manner that reflects the African situation and concerns’. He suggested that the particular challenges of children’s rights in Africa include:

The cultural context, including positive and negative values and practices, with respect to women as well as children;

The socio-economic situation, which refers not only to poverty, but also especially to legal provision and budgetary allocation;

Socio-political conflicts at many levels;

The fact that children in Africa are so often viewed as objects, and treated with lack of tolerance.

The main challenge identified by Dr Maeda lies at the level of operationalising the CRC, of making rights real, which is precisely the point at which specific African contexts have their effects. For UNICEF the main question is what is the appropriate strategy mix for addressing these issues and the Seminar represents one step towards a better understanding of children’s rights.

Sally Nyandiya-Bundy, speaking as Chair of ANPPCAN Zimbabwe Chapter, picked up on the point about societal views of children. Children’s rights, she claimed, are too often interpreted as ‘children being allowed to do what they like’. Yet there are no problems when rights are expressed as ‘needs’. Unfortunately, in many cases the idea of ‘rights’ is viewed as un-African.

Per Miljeteig, Director of Childwatch International said that Childwatch recognised that the CRC had caught the imagination of researchers worldwide and that many were aware of the gaps in knowledge about children that the CRC and its implementation revealed. This Seminar, he stated ‘brings many practical issues relating to children’s rights back to academia for theoretical analyses and interpretation, in order for us to provide better protection of children’s rights’. In addition it provides an opportunity to bring new groups of scholars into the Childwatch International research network, and he pointed out that two African Key Institutions within the network, CODESRIA and the Institute for Child and Family Development at the University of the Western Cape in South Africa, were involved in the Seminar. He also directed participants to the wider implications of the event:

This seminar is important for Africa but will serve as inspiration for other regions of the world, and might spur other parts of the network to initiate similar events..’…’Even where the text of the Convention seems to be clear and firm, it might be difficult to know exactly what it means in a given context and for the individual child in a specific country or community. That is why this workshop is so important, as a step towards better understanding of what children’s rights really mean.’

NgonÈ Diop Tine, from the Research Department of CODESRIA, joined Per Miljeteig in stressing the importance of the academic contribution to implementing children’s rights. CODESRIA’s involvement in planning and organising the Seminar had been based in recognising the part this process can play not only in promoting the development of child research in Africa, to which CODESRIA is committed through its new Programme on Child Research, but also to collaboration between scholars and practitioners. Of particular importance in this respect is the pursuit of academic excellence and the involvement of the African intellectual community in general in the development of child research.

Finally, Essombe Joseph, Legal Advisor for the African Commission for Human Rights, reminded participants of the broader human rights context in which both the CRC and AC are based, which means that both instruments recognise that ‘ the child is the first manifestation of the human being’. He drew attention to the fact that there are two main aspects of children’s rights in Africa: difficult economic situations; and ‘difficult aspects of our cultures’. Even though all but one African states have ratified the CRC they lack the economic resources to fulfil their obligations. Moreover, states cannot be responsible for all actions on behalf of children. Civil society also has to play its part. Dr Joseph also stressed that economic deficiencies should not be used as an excuse for non-fulfilment of rights, reminding participants that ‘You don’t need money to make a child happy’. What states need to remember, he suggested, is that it is in their interest to ensure that the children of today become the responsible adult citizens of tomorrow. Thus it is incumbent on those who implement children’s rights instruments to ensure that the children of today learn to respect human rights, in the basic sense of respecting the dignity of others, and carry that respect into the future.

Following the introductory presentations, Judith Ennew, on behalf of the planning committee for the Seminar, reminded participants of its background, history and aims, stressing that the main purpose is to begin a process that would continue in the future. Thus the Seminar timetable had been structured to facilitate discussion and debate on general issues connected to the overall theme of the African contexts of children’s rights rather than focussing on the specific academic concerns raised by particular presentations.

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3.2. Scientific programme

The scientific programme used as a framework six interlinked themes, which were identified by the planning committee as highlighting the main issues on which debates about the African Charter and CRC have focused implicitly or explicitly: economic contexts; social interrelationships; abuse and neglect; conflict; rights, participation and democracy; and fundamentalisms and identity.

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3.2.1. Economic contexts

During the planning process, the Seminar organisers noted that one justification given for developing a regional Charter for children’s rights in Africa was the special difficulties of securing these rights in ‘severely depressed economic situations’ as referred to by Justin Maeda and Essombe Joseph in the introductory session. Nevertheless, it has been noted that the African Charter has made ‘Important progress…. by not including a provision similar to Article 4 of the UN Convention which jeopardises the implementation of all economic, social and cultural rights’ by providing that ‘States shall take implementation measures “to the maximum extent of their available resources”‘. There is, as yet, little debate among economists about the precise effects on children of economic policies, including structural adjustment and national development plans.

Given that various structural disparities in economic resources have effects on the ways in which different children experience achievement or violation of their rights, the planning committee considered it important that during the Seminar this theme should be addressed, with particular attention to the importance of obtaining reliable, disaggregated data in order to monitor children’s rights. It was thus equally essential that the emphasis passes from concentrating on the total resources available nationally to considering the allocation of resources, not only to children as a group but also to particular groups of children.

Finally a discussion of the economic contexts of childhood in Africa cannot ignore the contributions made by children to both national and household economies through the work they perform. Like the domestic work of women, the considerable economic contribution of children remains unvalorised and, unlike the case of women, is seldom even acknowledged. There is so little information available that the national economic value of children remains invisible, to the extent that children are often accounted as a net cost to national education, health and welfare budgets. This contributes to the low status of children in societies in general, and thus acts as a barrier to the achievement of their rights.

The planning committee thus sought contributions on topics such as: the maximum extent of available resources made available to children from national budgets; structural disparities between different social groups, and the effects of these on children; the effects of structural adjustment packages on children; ëchild labourí and the economic contexts of childhood, including the value of child work; distributive justice; and the political economy of childhood.

During this first session of the Seminar, the Chair was Tshikala Biaya, an Associate Researcher with CODESRIA and the discussant was Sam Moyo from the SAPES Trust in Zimbabwe, who is a member of the CODESRIA Executive Board. Presenters were NgonÈ Diop Tine, from the CODESRIA Research Department, who was also a member of the planning committee, Suleman Sumra, Professor of Education at the University of Dar es Salaam, and Shirley Robinson, from IDASA in Cape Town.

NgonÈ Diop Tine began by sketching the broader picture of a twenty year crisis in African economies, brought about both by the effects of global economic change and by internal social and economic policies. As is well documented, this crisis has led to the imposition of various structural adjustment packages, the effects of which are frequently analysed at the macro-economic level, but seldom examined for their micro-social effects, which have particular impact on the least favoured social groups – women and children. A volume edited by Cornia, Jolly & Stewart established more than a decade ago that children are the principal victims of structural adjustment.

Ms Tine’s paper was designed to study the impact of structural adjustment on Senegalese children, most particularly on their health and education, and to analyse the ways in which their rights have been flouted in the years since the application of different structural adjustment packages, specifically by lowering the level of nutrition and the quality of their education, with particular reference to the poorest of the poor. She pointed out that, during all three periods of application of structural adjustment in Senegal, the average income of the population had decreased considerably. Many families had been plunged into relative or absolute poverty and children of poor families had paid the heaviest price:

according to UNICEF (1993) between 2,000 and 3,000 children live in the streets. Around 100,000 children beg in the streets. Worse than that, the number of child beggars increases from year to year. In 1997 there were 6,300 children begging in the streets of Dakar, compared to 1,000 in 1991. And more than 60% of these children are between seven and 12 years old.

There are so many Senegalese children who cannot satisfy their nutritional needs that 33% suffer from malnutrition in rural areas, and 22.4% in urban areas. If these children fall sick they have no access to either curative or preventative medicine and there are budgetary restrictions on the provision of qualified medical personnel.

This presentation argued that there is a close, and incontrovertible, relationship between poverty, health and education. Children of poor families are more likely to be sent out to work or beg than to be sent to school. The priorities of family survival strategies are clear: according to the 1995 World Bank evaluation of living conditions in Senegal, 70% of the income of poor families is spent on food, while only 2% is dedicated to education. Likewise the state budget for education, while it has not actually diminished during the years of structural adjustment, is in fact insufficient in view of population growth and educational demand. Even those children who go to school find themselves in crowded classrooms in which quality teaching is impossible. Moreover, the provision of teaching staff is insufficient to meet educational needs, because the state is not using resources to improve either staff or equipment.

The third paper in the session on economic contexts dealt with budgetary allocation for children in South Africa, Shirley Robinson argued that providing children with rights is not sufficient, states also need to pay attention to implementation of rights. This presentation was based on a recent publication about ‘The Children’s Budget’, an innovative step in children’s rights advocacy in South Africa. The new South African government’s response to the challenge of the 1990 United Nations Summit for Children was to declare that it would put children first in economic development. The Children’s Budget examines the extent to which government is prioritising children in policy planning and budget allocation. It focuses on five key areas of importance for children: health, education, welfare and justice, as well as looking at ‘what happens when the government does not provide for children’.

Ms Robinson commented that one problem in the relationships between policies and budgets is that policy-makers do not understand how to draw up budgets and that those in charge of budgetting have little comprehension of the priorities of policy-makers. Yet,

The budget reflects a country’s socio-economic policy priorities. As the most important economic instrument of the government, it translates policies and political platforms into expenditures and taxations, emphasising constraints and trade-offs in policy choices.

The South African government’s Reconstruction and Development Programme depends on reprioritising spending within both national and regional budgets, which means not only that the budget is a ‘powerful tool to redress socio-economic inequities’ but also that advocacy for particular social groups (such as children) is possible through the budget.

The paper pointed out that national level reprioritisation is a Cabinet responsibility dependent on political imperatives. More important for child welfare is reprioritisation at sub-national levels, particularly if children are specifically targetted and, in this respect, it is not the sum allocated that has the greatest effect but rather the efficiency with which it is spent. There are also crucial interrelationships between allocation between and within different departments of government.

As the Chair pointed out, the Senegal and South Africa cases presented in this session were complementary. NgonÈ Tine showed a government unable to provide for the rights of its children because of external pressures. The Children’s Budget shows how it is possible to work through macro-level information to advocate for children’s rights.

It was particularly useful to have Suleman Sumra present a micro-level study from Tanzania between these two macro-level presentations. As Tshikala Biaya stated during discussion, this reminded us of the inability of governments to supply solutions to local problems through macro-level policy decisions. Professor Sumra presented a micro-study of the reasons for school absence among children in two areas of Tanzania. He stressed that the Western notion of school timetable can have particular, regional effects on when and why children go to school, which are closely related to micro-economic considerations and the value of child work to family economic strategies.

The first area in which the study took place was a savannah region. Researchers found that children stated they could not come to school because of work at home, some of which (for both boys and girls) was caring for younger siblings, but most of which (70% for boys and 65% for girls) was to ‘guard the farm’. The researchers then asked why child work should be necessary for guarding family farms. The answer was that in savannah cultivation the crops are under constant threat. At seed time, birds and monkeys eat the seeds; during the period when the crops are growing, monkeys, baboons and pigs may raid the crops and an entire year’s harvest can be lost in a single night. Thus all family members are needed to protect the crop, and children are kept away from school particularly at those periods when crops are at greatest risk.

The second area in which this research into school absence took place was situated in a river delta, which was subject to flooding. The government solution had been to move people to the higher ground and create villages where none had been before, including schools and dispensaries. Yet, after the end of the Nyerere period of government, villagers moved back to lowland areas and became transhumant in order to cope with the seasonal periods of flooding. As schools were only available in the new villages on higher ground, children were absent from school on a seasonal basis, with attendance varying between 40% and 85%.

Sam Moyo, as discussant for this session, played a provocative role in asking for theoretical frameworks that would take into consideration fundamental issues. He stressed that ideas about policy need to be reconstructed in order to take account especially vulnerable groups and their rights. It has been observed that current macro-economic models do not work in this respect, but deconstructing these models, while interesting in a theoretical sense, does not offer practical alternatives nor offer a new theoretical framework, which might facilitate analyses. Nevertheless he pointed out that underlying all three papers was the observation that labour markets and incomes are not able to generate resources sufficient to the implementation of children’s rights, an economic explanation that he found more satisfying than psychological explanations, which tend to dominate in studies of children. Moreover the conjunction of these three papers pointed to the need for scholars to pursue macro/micro linkages and correlations.

When the discussion was opened to general participation, it immediately generated an idea that dominated the Seminar – the role of the State with respect to children’s rights, which had already been raised by Justin Maeda in the introductory session. A specific issue raised concerned the inability of states to provide effective solutions to grass roots problems.

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3.2.2. Social inter-relationships

Perhaps the most contested terrain in debates about the Charter and the CRC concerns the relationships between children, families and communities, with respect to differential rights and duties, which brings into play discussions about positive and negative African values. At one level, this is related to certain hotly debated issues within African human rights circles about the difference between individual and collective rights. At another level, it highlights the difference between the CRC, which only mentions children’s rights, and the Charter, which follows the lead of the ‘Banjul Charter’ (African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, 1981) according to which ‘all individuals have responsibilities towards their family, society and the state’ (see AC Article 31). The contradictions involved, and the links to other themes, have been well described by Geraldine Van Bueren:

The concept of children’s responsibilities helps educate others in the potential value of children’s contributions to society, a potential contribution which is often overlooked. However, there is a high risk of conditionality, particularly in relation to the responsibility of children to strengthen social and national solidarity. The African Charter….also provides that children have a responsibility to work for the cohesion of the family and to respect parents and elders at all times and assist them in times of need. Apart from the difficulties of creating such duties in international law, the responsibility to respect parents and elders at all times is too unquestioning and general. Where family members are abusing or exploiting children, to maintain that children are obliged to respect the abuser is a dangerous precedent.

Thus the Seminar planning committee considered that a series of complex links between a number of related topics, some practical, some legal, some ideological, needed to be developed into a coherent debate in the context of this theme. These topics require informed, inter-disciplinary debate and include:

Children’s experiences of their position in family and community hierarchies, both traditional and modern;

Social hierarchies, such as age sets and caste systems;

Family forms and mechanisms, such as extended family relationships, polygamous families and structures such as fostering, apprenticeship and Koranic schools.

Particular attention might be paid within this theme to what is meant by references within the Charter to African values, morals, culture and practices (Preamble, Articles 1,11) and phrases used in both instruments, such as ‘the best interests of the child’ and ‘traditional practices’ (AC Articles 4 & 21; CRC Articles 3 & 24). The papers sought for this session were on the topics of formal, non-formal and informal education; inter-generational obligations; childrenís own perceptions of their position in family and community hierarchies; varying concepts of child and adult duties; norms, positivist paradigms and praxis that have been associated in particular with notions of ‘the family’; the social and academic construction of ‘African tradition’; social hierarchies, age sets, caste systems and classes within different African societies; gender systems (both in childhood and adulthood); and changing family forms and mechanisms in different African societies.

The Chair and Discussant during the second session of the Seminar, which focused on social interrelationships continued to be Tshikala Biaya and Sam Moyo. Presenters were Penda Mbow, from the Department of History in Cheik Anta Diop University, Dakar; Annie Sampa from the Psychology Department of the University of Zambia, Lusaka; and Cuthbert Omari, Professor of Sociology in the University of Dar es Salaam. All three presenters dealt with idioms and mechanisms affecting child/adult relations in African contexts and the fundamental issues raised by the differences between African Contexts and Western contexts (which, it must be remembered, are no more unitary that African societies).

Penda Mbow’s presentation was devoted to the modern manifestations in Senegal of the historical, hierarchical mechanism of caste. She suggested that the residue of caste explains certain aspects of the current social structure of inter-relationships. Caste has not been much studied. Indeed, discussion revealed that it was little known to or understood by East African participants. Nevertheless, Ms Mbow argued that it is necessary to study caste now in order to understanding a central attitude in society that acts as a block on various kinds of development, including the options open to Senegalese youth. Like NgonÈ Tine, she drew attention to a profound crisis, in this case of social rather than economic dimensions. The positions held by both individuals and groups in Senegal do not just depend on their socio-economic status but have their roots in earlier social forms. Examining the historical manifestations of the caste system leads to understanding changes in societies, current social manipulations and social conflicts, as well as certain issues concerning ethnicity and democratization. Likewise, in a further reference to the paper presented by NgonÈ Tine, Ms Mbow suggested that practices of begging in Senegambia are not just related to the poverty of children, but also to certain mental attitudes based on historical relationships between master and slave, and the marabouts (religious teachers) in Islamic schools (Daraa) and their disciples (known as talibes in Senegal and almudos in Gambia, terms now largely associated with child beggars). This was confirmed in subsequent discussion, when Ms Tine stated that the decline of Daraa had been reversed during the period of structural adjustment.

Historically, castes were social groups related to certain craft workers and musical artists, linked to particular ethnic groups and widespread in a number of West African countries. Ms Mbow asserted that the phenomenon was actually more widespread than generally imagined. In her paper she had developed a theory of the ideology of caste, but in her presentation she concentrated on current realities:

Societies in crisis, as is the case in Africa today, live in a paradoxical situation. Money has become the only real value, but the need to beat the crisis develops an identity reflex among individuals and groups. The celebration of the values of our own traditions and culture often determines the interrelationships between individuals.

In this way, caste is one example of the idioms through which day to day life is lived and the presentation provides several concrete examples, most notably of the way the mechanisms of caste currently work with reference to marriage choices. With respect to young people, Ms Mbow claimed, caste works against democracy, by reducing the range of choices available for young people, including their options for social mobility.

Annie Sampa’s presentation began by stating that children’s rights in Zambia have a different interpretation to that given in the West, especially with respect to family, which is a core idea in both the African Charter and the CRC. Whereas the CRC assumes that children will be raised in nuclear families, the family in Zambia is understood to be extended in form. That is what family means.

The paper concentrated on acceptable interpersonal relationships between different age groups among the Bemba, who will say that ‘bad behaviour’ by children occurs because they are not aware of the good traditions. These affect modes of address, attitudes of respect, not only from children to adults but also between children and from adults towards children, in which respect Ms Sampa stressed the traditionally important role in socialisation played by grandparents, siblings of parents and neighbours. These traditional attitudes may block the understanding of children’s rights instruments such as the African Charter and CRC, which are little known in Zambia, even among teachers. In this respect Ms Sampa reiterated the point made by Dr Nyandiya-Bundy during the introductory session, that the idea of giving children rights may well be interpreted as teaching incorrect moral values.

A further aspect to which Seminar participants attention was drawn by Ms Sampa is that, in the current socio-economic situation children are now taking on roles and responsibilities previously assumed by adults. This may be interpreted in two ways, either as child abuse or as building self-reliance. Whatever the case, traditional checks and balances, which are believed to have protected children against abuse in the past, are being eroded. Traditional means of inculcating moral values have weakened: neighbours are no longer interested, adults are no longer respected and children spend little time with grandparents for economic reasons.

Like the first two presenters in this session, Cuthbert Omari addressed changes in the social fabric of African societies. Children’s rights, he claimed, can be located in two categories: socio-economic and socio-cultural. In the first case, it can be observed that, whatever the causes of economic crises, family strategies of survival affect children’s rights. In the second, it is clear that the use of the term ‘child’ cannot be related solely (if at all) to chronological age in African societies. Moreover it has specific cultural value. Children are needed not just as current economic assets for their labour power, but also as future assets for old age security. Nevertheless, in an argument that can be related to certain theories about the history of childhood outside Africa, as African family structures are breaking down children are regarded as liabilities rather than assets. This drastic change in the value ascribed to children, he suggested, may be one factor leading to child abuse. Moreover, the traditional patterns of dialogue between children and adults, which was the basis of socialisation systems described by Annie Sampa, are dissolving in the face of economic and cultural change.

Sam Moyo began the discussion of these three presentations by pointing to the dramatically changing social context of African societies, which, he stated, is not unrelated to economic change. Consequent on these changes there is a deepening of all power structures, resulting in an increase in all forms of social stratification. Conversely, according to several examples provided by these presenters, patterns of dependence within support systems are actually reversing. Moreover he drew attention to the fact that gender relationships are also changing, a topic that merits further research.

General discussion included many questions of fact that revealed the extent to which information about the social life of different African societies tends to be localised and warns of the dangers of making generalisations about ‘African society’, ‘the African family’ and the ‘African child’. There was also a certain amount of questioning addressed to idealisations of African traditional socialisation, including, for example, discussion about whether grandparents might have been abusive in the past, or are abusive now. The Chair, on the other hand, directed participants’ attention to broader and more theoretical issues, when he stated that ‘We are calling into question the word ‘modernity’ in African society’ .

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3.2.3. Abuse and exploitation

Protection of children from abuse and exploitation in African countries has been the special concern of ANPPCAN, which was involved as an organisation in the process of drafting the African Charter. Despite a mounting body of research in the area of abuse, considerable discussion remains to take place on normative aspects of child-rearing and definitions of physical, emotional and sexual abuse in different cultural contexts, as well as ethical and methodological considerations in research carried out with vulnerable children. Cultural relativity is also an issue with respect to the economic exploitation of children, based on varying interpretations of both the Charter and the CRC (Articles 15 & 32 respectively). In the opinion of the Seminar planning committee, these rest on the one hand on:

A Eurocentric ideal of childhood, which states simply that children do not work at all in economic spheres and has developed a victimology around such constructions as ‘the street child’ and ‘child labourers’,

and on the other on:

An equally ideological position that insists that in African societies child work should be seen within its cultural context as an essential part of community and family membership as well as a means of socialisation and education.

The planning committee considered that, while cultural context must be respected, it is important to note that culture is not a ‘trump card’ in international human rights. If children are to be protected against harmful effects of work it is essential that certain kinds of work are recognised as exploitative, both in the economic sense and because of the threat to child development in the widest sense of the term. This requires not only that a balance should be struck between Eurocentric and Afrocentric perspectives, but also that the current dearth of information about the epidemiology of child labour is recognised and confronted by the academic community, so that exploitation can be combatted with exact data on the precise harmful effects of specific kinds of child work. In particular the scientific community needs to develop research methods that can find out about children’s own perceptions of work and labour. There are clear links in this area between the themes of economic contexts, social inter-relationships and participation. The papers sought by the planning committee covered the topics of : what concepts to use in an African context; childrenís perceptions of work and labour; Euro-centric and Afro-centric perspectives on abuse and exploitation; representations of African childhoods; the epidemiology of abuse; and the epidemiologies of issues related to child work.

The morning of the second day of the Seminar was devoted to this session together with the session on Conflicts. The Chair in both cases was Jibrin Ibrahim, from the Institute of Federalism at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland, and the discussant was Sally Nyandiya-Bundy, Lecturer in the Department of Psychology, University of Zimbabwe as well as being a member of the planning committee. Presenters in the session on abuse and neglect were Rose September from the Institute of Child and Family Research, University of the Western Cape in South Africa; Sidy Gueye a demographer in the Government of Senegal Department of Statistics; and Naira Khan, who is Co-coordinator of the Harare-based Child in Law Project.

Rose September’s policy-oriented presentation began with the firm statement that child abuse and exploitation are evidence that African countries are not implementing the CRC. She also took a bold approach to the role of research, which she proposed as an intervention tool involved in policy actions. The challenge, she stated, is how to use research to motivate social transformation and also to take into account both the complexity of social life at local level and global development. In order to influence policy makers to take children seriously, researchers need to:

  • Stay abreast of changes in their own society;
  • Stimulate, advance and promote needed changes;
  • Carry out continuous research, to gather information and to mobilise change.

Thus action research is a primary resource for the future of children and is best organised on the model known as Intervention Research, which,

provides systematic procedures for designing, testing, evaluating and refining needed social technology, techniques and programs for professionals. It is based on the assumption that research findings can be systematically converted into a social intervention which could be a model, a curriculum, a tool or an instrument to effect the desired change.

Ms September described the use of ‘intervention research’ in the context of child protection services in South Africa. With respect to the incidence of child abuse, she made it clear that social status is not a variable: children in every social group and class are all always vulnerable because of their dependent, powerless status, although their situation improves as they get older. They need protection, but child protection services should move beyond the desire to protect and begin to take on board new paradigms of childhood and to evaluate the impact of their interventions. In this respect, intervention research should include the participation of people for whom interventions are designed in problem analysis, knowledge development synthesis, design, early development and design testing, evaluation and dissemination. A major block on progress in this field is the lack of collaborative research, not only between research organisations but also between programming organisations and people in target groups.

In contrast to this activist approach to research, Sidy Gueye took a more traditional approach to data gathering, although his presentation ended with a similar reflection on the crucial role of research in providing information for monitoring the situation of children and evaluating the impact of programmes.

This third case study of Senegal provided information that was complementary to the economic analysis of NgonÈ Diop Tine and the historical approach of Penda Mbow. Mr Gueye began like both these presenters with the current crisis in Senegal, which of course has parallels in many other African societies. Like Ms Tine he related this directly to the economic exploitation of children. In Senegal, young people represent more than 50% of the population but they tend to live in families and communities that are disintegrating. The tasks of socialisation, previously performed by families and schools, have been taken over by other agencies, which is leading to the development of new forms of abuse and exploitation. His presentation concentrated on two main manifestations: child labour (including prostitution) and sexual abuse/exploitation, which is very little understood in Senegal and about which there is little information.

The data presented on working children were gathered during the course of a national survey of a total sample of 29,484 children carried out in 1993 by the Department of Statistics in collaboration with the International Labour Office. This research identified three main forms of child work: traditional labour exploitation, domestic service and the talibes, already referred to in Penda Mbow’s presentation, who are disciples receiving Islamic education under the supervision of a marabout.

The traditional form that causes most concern had also been referred to in Ms Mbow’s paper. Apprentices to crafts are not necessarily subjected to exploitation but, because they are often too young to be out of school, because they are frequently not taught a trade by their masters, and most particularly because of the repression to which they are subject through the master/slave relationship, many are indeed exploited. The study also showed that child agricultural workers and independent child workers (street children) are subjected to abuse and exploitation. Child domestic workers, largely female, are not only poorly paid or not paid at all because they are tied to employers by real or fictive kin relationships they are also vulnerable to sexual abuse. The situation of talibes, as seen in earlier presentations and discussions, gives cause for concern because they are increasingly forced to go out and beg in order to support both Daraa and marabout and therefore do not receive the intended Koranic education. Like apprentices their current situation has been produced by social and economic changes that alter traditional mechanisms encouraging exploitative relationships to develop.

Finally, Sidy Gueye made some points about national service provision for sexually exploited children that related to the previous presentation of Rose September, particularly with respect to the relationships between research and monitoring ans specifically with respect to the Childwatch International project for monitoring children’s rights, with which he had been researcher during the Senegal case study. Children’s rights, he concluded, once again linking with the concerns of the previous speaker, are different from adult rights because they include protection.

The focus on practical aspects of child abuse was continued by Naira Khan who concentrated on the results of a community-based, participatory research project , which, like the research reported by Suleman Sumra, produced fine-tuned, details at local level. As in the case reported by Rose September, an action programme resulted from the research.

The Child in Law project consists of a consortium of 22 different agencies, both governmental and non-governmental. It aims to improve the current situation in which 64% of child abuse cases are thrown out of court because of evidentiary problems and/or intimidation by the perpetrator and his family. It addresses the lack of awareness of child abuse among professionals, including medical staff, and also tries to work effectively in the context of behaviours that children find easier to accommodate than talk about. The project recognises that there is need for developing a preventative process through empowering children, for coordinating the actions of the many agencies involved in any one case of child abuse, and for a strong message to come from local and national authorities that, although customs and traditions should be respected, some behaviours are not acceptable.

In her discussion of these three papers, Sally Nyandiya-Bundy made several references to the role and methods of research. She stressed the need for collaboration between researchers as well as between programmers and also suggested that participatory approaches to child research, in which children are not subjected to direct questioning, might be particularly productive. Some concepts in this area, such as ‘child labour’ still remain to be defined, which acts as a block on research, especially comparative investigations.

Dr Nyandiya-Bundy also referred to the fact that ‘cultural’ forms of abuse are the most difficult to change because some cultural practices are defined as being in the best interests of the child by tradition bearers and as abuse by social workers. Who, she asked, decides what is the best interests of the child? In this context also, the idea of empowering children to say ‘No’ to abuse may well be impossible in the face of strictures about the ‘proper’ behaviours for children, such as those described by Annie Sampa.

General discussion began with some attempts to define economic exploitation as labour that is not in the best interests of children, threatening their basic needs — including participation. This then turned to a debate about the functions of Daraa under different socio-economic conditions. The following questions were asked (but not answered):

  • How were Daara expected to work economically in the traditional form?
  • How do Daara function when they function ‘well’?
  • How could Daraa work well now?

Clearly these are basic questions relating to the issue of mechanisms in modern society that operate through residues of traditional mechanisms while being justified by the full ideological force of cultural tradition.

Finally the point was made that there appears to be an over-emphasis in current debates on sexual exploitation and abuse, which is obscuring both the incidence of and research on other forms, such as physical and emotional abuse.

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3.2.4. Conflicts

The special situation of Africa with respect to armed conflicts and large-scale displacement of populations is acknowledged in several places within the African Charter, as indeed conflict and conflict resolution are the main focuses of the 1992 Consensus of Dakar devoted to Children in Especially Difficult Circumstances, which resulted from the OAU International Conference on Assistance to African Children. With respect to armed conflict there are two points of contrast between the Charter and the UN Convention.

In the first place, the Charter is unequivocal about the definition of childhood by chronological age, as under 18 years, whereas the Convention allows for recruitment to armed forces over the age of 15 years (Article 38), although neither instrument is able to deal adequately with the issue of recruitment to guerilla forces or armies of liberation;

In the second, the African Charter ‘shows a great sense of realism and insight into the nature and intricacies of the problem in Africa by providing that the standard of protection and treatment of refugee children, as laid down in Article 23, shall also apply to internally displaced children’, whatever the cause of displacement, which is particularly important given that, even with respect to populations recognised by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, the proportion in the five to 17 years age group is higher in African countries than other regions. It has also been widely noted that the processing by welfare agencies of unaccompanied children within displaced populations may violate a number of rights.

There is no doubt that children are victims of armed conflicts, be this as part of the civilian population or as combatants. Both physical and psychological health may be threatened in either case, yet there are considerable research problems involved in the use of psychological techniques from other cultures in assessing psychological trauma among African children. It has been observed specifically in the cases of Liberia, Mozambique and Uganda that reintegration of child soldiers, into education systems, for example, is far from easy.

Nevertheless, the conceptualisation of children solely as victims of war ignores or underestimates the active role children play in armed struggles and conflicts of many kinds, against injustices, for liberation and in response to felt needs and deprivations (this last linking with the theme of economic contexts). There are some examples of African children taking the initiative in some political conflicts, from the overtly political struggle against apartheid in South Africa to the set settal movement in Senegal, which was oriented towards reclaiming economic, social and cultural rights. This also raises the issue of the potential for adult manipulation of children’s political participation.

The planning committee felt that the issues of armed conflicts and political struggles do not address the total field of conflicts affecting children. In a rapidly changing world, many children find themselves involved in inter-generational conflicts over values, within both their families and their communities. More pertinent here is the developing discourse, both in academic and policy arenas, on ‘Children in Conflict with the Law’. At a Defence for Children International workshop on this topic, in Dakar January 1997, it became clear that this discourse relies to a great extent on defining groups of ‘delinquent’ children, which results in discussions of how to prevent delinquency and rehabilitate offenders. Nevertheless, in terms of both the African Charter and the UN Convention, the topic might be better expressed as ‘Law in Conflict with Children’, for the relevant articles (AC 16, 17 and 30; CRC 37 and 40), are concerned to protect children from abuses within legal systems. Thus a more appropriate debate on these issues would focus first on detention, judicial processes and sanctions with respect to children in conflict with the law, before concentrating on welfare actions concerning prevention and rehabilitation, which are related to other, more general articles on social welfare, education and protection.

In the light of these considerations, the planning committee sought presentations dealing with: children in guerilla armies and the processes of demilitarisation; the relevance of Western psychological models in the treatment of conflict-induced trauma; childrenís active roles in political struggles; intergenerational conflicts in the context of the globalisation of childhood, family and social mores; and the law in conflict with children.

The presenters in this session were Ousseynou Faye, a historian from Cheik Anta Diop University in Dakar; Tshikala Biaya who is currently researching conflict as an Associate Researcher with CODESRIA; and Roberta Mutiso, Director of The Institute of Development Research in Nairobi.

Ousseynou Faye’s presentation returned participants to Senegal and addressed the issue of violence between and towards youth. This was an important contribution in that it directed attention to a group that is often forgotten in discussions of children, who are defined by both the Charter and the Convention as under 18 years of age but whose rights are more usually discussed with respect to the vulnerability and need for protection of prepubertal children, particularly infants. To discuss youth within the context of a Seminar on childhood is thus a challenge to these preconceptions that brings into play issues about the participation and citizenship of older children, as well as the fear society often exhibits towards their energy and their activities. In his presentation, Dr Faye proposed a typology of violence related to young people, based on empirical data from Senegal, collected largely in Dakar:

1. Violence among young people:

Play, violent games such as karate, associated to a large extent with assertions of masculinity and virility; he drew attention to the influence of television and and cinema and related the phenomena to a school shift system, which leave children idle for much of the day, as well as a decline in parental care. This violence is often manifested in street gangs and gang warfare with knives and baseball bats, also associated with football and dance halls;

2. Social violence against young people:

Whereas the first kind of violence might be described as the product of the social life of young people themselves, societal violence against them is deeply rooted in the social structure itself:

Systems of authority and subordination within households, which set up structural inequalities between older and younger household members;

Systems of authority in social mechanisms such as apprenticeship, which are partly modelled on the subordinations of kinship and partly, as both Penda Mbow and Sidy Gueye had already pointed out, on master/slave relationships;

General social violence against ‘youth’, a group with a reputation for delinquency and violence, that raises fear in society and is thus subjected to repressive measures.

In addition to providing illustrative examples, Dr Faye also related his presentation directly to the provisions of the CRC. Eschewing the more usual connections between youth and the ‘participation’ articles (Articles 12-15) he asserted that the most important considerations in discussions of violence and youth are the right to life, given in Articles 6 and 24; to bodily integrity provided by Article 16; and the need for preventative measures that is identified by Article 17.

Finally, this presentation returned to one of the central themes of the Seminar, cultural practices including the positive practices associated with the socialisation of children and young people by older generations, Dr Faye’s description of the way such teaching customarily takes place through the use of parables being reminiscent of Annie Sampa’s paper about similar inter-generational practices in Zambia. Nevertheless, Dr Faye pointed out, it is necessary to be aware that there is also a tradition of using physical violence in discipline and problem-solving, which can be abusive. Society, he stated, has to take the decision to stop taking this easy option.

Tshikala Biaya then challenged participants, both intellectually and morally, to consider violent behaviour from a different perspective. Basing his argument on empirical, case study data from Kinshasa he asserted that violence should be regarded in certain social situations as functional, not a pathological activity but an adaptive mechanism.

Like Ousseynou Faye, this presenter distinguished between different kinds of violence, personal and structural. He drew attention to the day to day violence experienced by youth and children in the streets of Kinshasa. From three years of age, children play in the streets during the day because there is no room in the compounds. But they are also forced to develop strategies of socio-economic survival, because even little children are expected to generate the means of their own subsistence. Reminding us of Suleman Sumra’s point about inflexible, blanket government policies, which fail to provide solutions that work at local level, Dr Biaya described a colonial urban policy of sending problem communities in Kinshasa back to the villages. With independence same policy was pursued, but children were placed in the army and thus internalised violence as part of their ego development.

The case study of Kinshasa shows a state unable to provide for the development and protection of its children and young people, a value vacuum, the collapse of the economy, an inability to give children solutions and diminished authority of parents/community. In a situation of war and conflict young people have been recruited by both sides; in the transition to democracy, political parties have been recruiting young people into political struggles; and in situations of poverty, people are fighting for the food they eat.

Dr Biaya argued that violence should be differently defined in various African contexts, each having its own rationality. He compared the structured violence in Kinshasa, which targets children, to the way street children are reported to be routinely killed in Brazil. By concentrating on case study material he was able to demonstrate the different locations of the source of violence, their agents and their targets and show the extent to which violence functions as a rationality born of street life. On the one side this exposes the way state protective measures for young people can be argued to produce delinquents, and on the other it reveals the existence of direct connections between economic, political, social and cultural sectors of Kinshasa society and the production of a permanent backdrop of violence.

In contrast to the discussions of violence by the two previous presenters, Roberta Mutiso reminded participants that conflict can take many forms by describing inter-generational disagreements over values that arise in situations of social change. The data she presented were gathered in a research project carried out between 1990 and 1992 in Mombasa and Kisumu. This was action research designed to discover children’s views, using a participatory research strategy, in which children were encouraged to take the lead and identify research issues, and using methods such as drawings and role play.

One of the surprising outcomes of this research was that children complained that parents did not live up to their responsibilities. This was one of the three main problems children identified, the other two being poverty and the environment, which had been anticipated by the researchers. The topic of intergenerational obligations was not a focus of the study, but, Dr Mutiso claimed, a message from the children.

The children in this research acknowledged that children have obligations to their parents, which are of course set out in the African Charter. But they seemed to be more concerned about the obligations of parents towards children, with respect to the ‘proper behaviour’ described earlier in the Seminar in the presentation on Zambia. Children’s prescriptions for parental behaviour and adult behaviour in general, were surprisingly hard line : they should take ‘strong measures’ to ensure good child behaviour; parents should punish children, not quarrel and not get drunk; teachers also should punish children; and children should listen to their parents.

Dr Mutiso also made some suggestions about the reasons why these children should have complained about the negligence of their parents. She described a situation in which there was confusion about what the African Charter calls positive and negative African values, a complicated attitude to education and the issue of where discipline ends and abuse begins. These confusions have arisen because of changes in the nature of child rearing, in which communal support systems have broken down and nuclear families developed on Western models but without state provision of social support. Under such circumstances values are confused, it is almost impossible for parents to fulfil their obligations to children, and children are thus likely to demand clear parameters for norms and behaviours.

Before the discussion began, the Chair noted that all three presentations referred to studies of urban children. The discussant, Sally Nyandiya-Bundy, tackled issues of definition. Ousseynou Faye, she pointed out, had thrown light on a range of violent behaviours that are not always thought about with respect to the CRC. She also pointed out that is worth remembering that violence between parents or witnessed generally has an impact on children that may be as damaging as violence directed towards them. She confessed herself puzzled that the definition of violence used by Tshikala Biaya includes no consideration of the pain or harm suffered by children, and by his central argument that violence is not always pathological, and can be described as adaptive.

General discussion was split on this point between conceptual and empirical definitions. Some participants questioned whether harm, pain and ethical issues should be part of the definition, while others agreed with Dr Biaya that the question of what is violence should be treated as a pure research question, in order to arrive at a less normative definition. Looking at the way in which violence is generated by society, as in the presentations by Ousseynou Faye and Tshikala Biaya paves the way for a more objective and non-pathological (as well as non-psychological) approach to understanding the causes of violence, by creating a distance from both ethical questions and the actual violent actions of individuals and groups.

There was also much discussion about the veracity of Dr Mutiso’s data, with the Chair commenting ‘Were these African children?’ This discussion implied a difference of opinion between those who carry out conventional social science research using survey questionnaires and those who use participatory approaches. Thus there were many references to the suggestibility of children, who will ‘give the answer researchers want’ on the one hand, and on the other to the expectations of adults that children will have particular, antisocial attitudes. Several participants drew attention to the low expectations most adults have of children’s capacity, behaviour and attitudes. Questions such as ‘Are these African children’, Sally Nyandiya-Bundy remarked forcefully in conclusion, show low expectations not only of children but also internalised low expectations of ourselves as Africans. Adults need to re-evaluate their own behaviour and expectations of children. ‘What does it mean to be African?’ she asked rhetorically, ‘To be ignorant and out of control?’

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3.2.5. Rights, participation and democracy

What have been called ‘participation rights’ are ‘formulated slightly more weakly in the African Charter than in the UN Convention’ (AC Article 7; CRC Articles 12-15). The exact meaning of participation is often obscure in international debate and there are no international parameters that can be used to frame the discussion.

In African countries the issue of participation takes on a particular texture. Children make up at least half the population of several African nations. Yet this demographic reality is not reflected in current state policies. As noted earlier, children actually played a major role in the struggle against Apartheid in South Africa and in the set settal movement in Senegal, participation that has been echoed by youth involvement in student movements of Mali, CÙte d’Ivoire and Togo. If democracy is defined as the rule of the majority, this becomes paradoxical in countries where children and young people constitute the numerical majority, as is the case in most African countries. Their participation in the political life of nations as citizens whose voices matter is therefore crucial. This is implicit in both the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter, as well as various national children’s charters. Article Three/4 of the Children’s Charter of South Africa, for instance, states that:

All children have the right to participate in the government of the country and special attention should be given to consultations with children on their rights and situation.

In addition, the more wide-ranging provisions for implementation and monitoring of the African Charter once it has come into force (Articles 32 to 45) will entail a novel form of participation of children in human rights activities:

Once the treaty is in effect children will be able to petition the Committee on alleged violations of their economic, social and cultural rights. This is an exciting development, and how the Committee will approach such communications will have great influence on future human rights developments in this field.

Despite these innovations, it can be argued that it is in this field that a culture of children’s rights is most lacking in African countries. Social scientists, psychologists and lawyers need to engage in debates about the meaning of participation in various social contexts; social variables such as age and maturity with respect to making decisions; and the roles of parents and other adults in guiding or directing children’s choices and means of expression.

For this session of the Seminar, the planning committee sought papers on: citizenship in childhood; discourses on African youth including the historical change in attitude towards their social role from ëleaders in waitingí to ëthe uncertainties of tomorrowí; struggles within education (the relevance of curricula and the use of indigenous languages as the media of instruction); children’s roles in formal politics; the importance/relevance of the age group 12-15 years; and the paradox of democracy in view of the bottom-heavy structure of demographic age pyramids.

The Chair for this and the following session was Suleman Sumra and the Discussant for the whole of this second afternoon of the Seminar was Iheoma Obibi, from the Afronet Trust. Presenters on the topic of rights, participation and democracy were Jibrin Ibrahim, of the Institute of Federalism at the University of Fribourg, and Gertrude Mwape, lecturer in the Department of Psychology, University of Zambia.

Jibrin Ibrahim, brought the perspective of political science to bear on the topic of children’s rights in Africa. The African Charter and CRC, he stated, are ‘great documents’ that complete a long historical process of the extension of democracy and human rights from gradual inclusion of different groups of men, to the incorporation of women and finally children. He began by pointing out that the state is the first aspect of the enforcement of rights as well as the main instrument for the exercise of democracy. Yet, in Africa, the argument can be made that there are forces struggling for rights but not necessarily a state to enforce or implement them. Three quarters of the states in Africa have collapsed, there is no rule of law and the state no longer has the monopoly over the legitimate use of violence. The crisis of the state is one aspect of the general crisis in Africa societies referred to by many previous presenters. Just as the state cannot perform its functions so the family is also becoming incapable of performing its role especially with respect to the care and socialisation of future citizens. Dr Ibrahim pointed out that, as far as the text of the African Charter is concerned, the core of a state’s obligation to children is the protection and support of families so that they can secure children’s rights. If the state and the family have both collapsed, he asked, what are we talking about with respect to the implementation of rights?

Turning to the theme of the interpretation of the references to African traditions, culture and values in the African Charter, Dr Ibrahim reflected on what might be positive and useful elements of tradition. He proposed the following:

  • Popular participation in decision-making and representation (through mechanisms of clans, age sets and so on);
  • The principle of seeking consensus;
  • A clear notion of public law that limits the power of rulers;
  • Decentralised power.

Since 1900 and the indirect rule of colonialism these positive elements have been replaced by what Mahmoud Mamdani has recently called ‘decentralised despotism’. This means that, over the last 100 years these mechanisms have not been in place. Moreover, many traditional societies were also despotic, gerontocratic and patriarchal, aspects that have been reinforced by the political realities of this century.

Against this background, Dr Ibrahim’s presentation examined the role education might play in teaching values, new and old, particularly with respect to rights and democracy He argued that civility was a central value in most traditional African societies. It now seems to have been lost both as a value and in practice, yet for civil society to exist at all ‘the conduct of members of society towards each other must be characterised by civility’. Moreover, civility cannot be exercised in the face of terrorism and violence and the current crises and conflicts of many African societies have entailed that young people’s ideas about democracy, rights and politics, based on their own observations, are associated with violence. To combat this, he concluded,

For a democratic future for the African child, the crafting of democracy must be given a significant place on the African agenda…education in general and civic education in particular must be given a major role in African society.

This presentation was complemented by the one that followed, which concentrated on a specific example of civic education in which Gertrude Mwape presented information about the school and participation rights in Zambia. She began by stating that the usual classification of the rights provided in the CRC, into provision, protection and participation, has particular import in African societies. Whereas full provision cannot be achieved within current sparse economic resources, it is possible, given the political will, to achieve protection and participation rights.

Participation, Dr Mwape emphasised, is a learning process and Zambia has included teaching about democracy and human rights in the school curriculum. At Grade 8 there is a standard text book that provides learning material on the rights of school children. In this process, the role of teacher is particularly important. Classroom democracy entails more than rote learning. It involves a democratisation of classroom organisation; children-centred learning rather than teacher-centred teaching; giving children the skills to improve what they can do through group work, supportive, mixed-ability classes, discussion and the experience of reaching consensus; as well as the evaluation of teacher performance. She reported that Zambian teachers now believe that this is the only way to prepare children for a democratic future.

In her discussion of these two papers, Iheoma Obibi commented that they represent a challenge to our understanding of rights, which are not often regarded as part of the responsibilities of young people. If children and youth are to be able to participate actively and positively in the democratic processes of their societies they need leadership skills, but a re-evaluation of their place in and contribution to society is also required. She referred back to earlier discussions of the catastrophic effects on children’s rights of the breakdown of democracy, of structural adjustment programmes and of conflict. Finally she drew participants’ attention to the meanings of democracy in Africa, which are often the result of external influences as varied as the commercial sector and democracy movements.

General discussion of the papers in this section focused on the lack of role models for young people and the paradox of trying to deliver civic education in countries where state authority has collapsed. This also raised the question of the relationship between state and civil society. Finally the discussion led back to the central theme of African values and the question was once again raised ‘How can we be African and modern?’

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3.2.6. Fundamentalisms and identity.

The final theme identified by the planning committee took its starting point from observations of phenomena within current African contexts that are not specifically referred to in the OAU justification for drafting an African Charter but which, none-the-less, affect or threaten to affect children’s rights and freedoms.

The term ‘fundamentalisms’ was used by the planning committee to denote a broad range of social manifestations, with ethnic, ideological and political appearances, as well as the more widely debated Islamic and Christian religious fundamentalisms. They considered that all such phenomena are basically expressions of identity, which have a crucial bearing on all aspects of child development. They sought presentations within this theme that would aim to:

Increase scientific knowledge in this area by examining specific instances of fundamentalism that bear on children’s development and on children’s rights and freedoms;

Generalise the analysis of fundamentalisms within the human rights sphere.

A particular focus of concern for the planning committee was the restrictions on choices available to children consequent on the limitation of intellectual life within particular social groups or polities. This not only has a bearing on freedoms of choice of religion but, more profoundly, on the right to education and intellectual development in the broader sense implied by Article 11(d) of the African Charter, which provides for:

the preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, tolerance, dialogue, mutual respect and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, tribal and religious groups;

sentiments that echo and widen the scope of the concerns of Article 29 of the UN Convention. Thus papers were sought on: restriction of choice(s); the right to education and intellectual development; ‘fundamentalisms’ and gender in childhood; and the way different doctrines — be they religious, political or ideological — produce different constructions of childhood.

It was anticipated that this would probably be a difficult area in which to stimulate quality presentations. In the event, several interesting papers were offered, but because of illness and teaching commitments, the presenters were unable to attend the Seminar. Rather than omit it from the Seminar structure, the organisers decided to throw the topic open to group discussion in order to develop further this relatively new theme. The participants divided into three groups, all of which spontaneously included both Francophones and Anglophones. Although time was short, the debates were lively and the following points were made in final plenary feedback and discussion.

A primary concern was the definition of the term ‘fundamentalism’ (which had in any case been pluralised and placed between quotation marks by the planning committee). This was linked to the need to break the frequent, but incorrect, association with a single religion – Islam. In this context, and with reference to earlier discussions in the Seminar, it was suggested that Islamic fundamentalism may be a response to the collapse of the state, a search for values and a new identity. Nevertheless, the general opinion of participants was that all religions have their fundamentalist or radical interpretations, often linked to exegetical interpretations of sacred texts and containing elements of extremism, group identity and inability to cope with difference. All religions produce plural interpretations, between which there are often powerful internal battles, which may have even greater effects on children’s rights than fundamentalist interpretations.

It was stressed that all fundamentalisms, by not allowing other interpretations, are at variance with children’s rights because they socialise children into thinking they are right and others are wrong. This leads to discrimination, to being unable to associate with certain other children as well as to denial of freedom of choice and expression. It is essentially anti-individual.

The groups agreed with the planning committee that fundamentalisms are not only religious, they may be social and political. It was also pointed out that economic fundamentalism exists. Currently neo-liberal economic policies are being imposed on African states, against the rights of peoples and, as various presentations had made clear, having negative impacts on children’s rights. On a broader scenario, this also contributes to the collapse of the state by removing fiscal control from governments and therefore prevents states from implementing human rights instruments.

Throughout this debate it was notable that there were two basic approaches to the topic of fundamentalism. On the one hand it was asserted that for this topic to be discussed meaningfully in an academic context, a clear concept was required, although it was by no means certain that a definition could be agreed. On the other hand it was suggested that definitions of fundamentalism are contextual, a properly constructed concept cannot be achieved but operational definitions for empirical research purposes could be possible. A related approach, which was not mentioned in discussion, might be to deconstruct appearances and representations of ‘fundamentalisms’, which would be closer to the intention of the planning committee, who were careful to use the plural form and did not envisage a single, academically-satisfactory concept. Some of those who took the second position stressed that, because ‘fundamentalism’ is an entirely problematic concept, one research strategy would be to ‘avoid the concept and go for the issues’, or to look at contexts in which fundamentalisms arise and the social functions they perform.

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3.3. Issues of implementation of international and regional children’s rights instruments in African contexts

Once the scientific programme was over, the final session of the second day returned to the issues of implementation identified by all introductory speeches and laid the basis for the feedback from policy and programme organisations that would occupy most of the final sessions the following day. For this presentation, the Chair was Roberta Mutiso, while the discussant continued to be Iheoma Obibi. The presenter was Admassu Tadesse, who is a Programme Officer with UNICEF South Africa, and was acting as a Resource Person for the Seminar.

The presentation focused on the concrete process of trying to change the CRC into systematic actions by state and civil society. A supplementary aim was to demystifying the apparent clash, and frequent confusion, between the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted in 1989, and the relatively limited goals of National Plans of Action (NPAs) that resulted from the UNICEF-organised meeting of Heads of State held in New York in 1990 and known as the World Summit for Children.

In the case of South Africa, Mr Tadesse pointed out that mainstreaming children’s rights has been the point of departure for CRC implementation. The CRC has been taken as one framework, among others, to ground policy decisions and develop children’s rights goals that can be monitored. In South Africa, the process of development and implementation of child development programmes has been greatly enriched by the integration of children’s rights into sectoral development plans and programmes, as well as by integrating the principle of ‘the best interets of the child (CRC Article 3) into economic and social objectives. Furthermore, CRC implementation processes have helped to develop action plans in the area of child protection, with respect for instance to juvenile justice, child labour and the commercial sexual exploitation of children.

A recent review of progress in South Africa identified two specific areas that need to be strengthened in the implementation process:

  • Implementation of the NPA at sub-national level;
  • Mobilisation of non-state actors in the process of implementation.

With these considerations in mind, the presentation then turned to a case study of the process of achieving children’s rights at local level, focussing on the case of Johannesburg. The presentation discussed the Child Friendly Johannesburg Initiative that has been evolving in Greater Johannesburg in relation to the Mayors as defenders of children mobilisation effort as well as the process of developing metropolitan programmes of action for children. These initiatives represent a collaboration between UNICEF, local government and some NGOs and are taking place in several urban areas around the world. The aim is to develop a sustainable, local programme.

Important features of CRC implementation in Johannesburg have been the formal recognition of children’s rights as a priority at metropolitan and municipal levels, as well as attempts to encourage and support child participation in the processes involved. Mr Tadesse commented on the richness of non-governmental organisations and civil society in South Africa in general. This had developed prior to the rule of the present government because of the readily available external funding to NGOs, in addition to the other serious political and social conditions and struggles that gave rise to the mobilisation of the mass democratic movement. Now that official international development assistance has to go through, and be negotiated with, the legitimate, representative government, there is considerably less funding available to NGOs, which has had effects on both their numbers and their capacity. One major challenge facing South Africa, with respect to children’s rights and human rights in general, is how to operationalise systems of governance as opposed to systems of government; in other words how to strengthen the interface between government and civil society and harness the energies and resources of various stakeholders. Key actors in this process of governance are not only non-governmental organisations, including community based organisations, but also traditional and religious leaders, the commercial sector and the media.

The Johannesburg experience has led to the identification of six action points to be considered when implementing children’s rights at local level:

  • Mapping social exclusions to identify vulnerable groups, which should be part of a broader local situation analysis on the situation of children at local level;
  • Making an inventory of on-going local actions to facilitate better coordination and augmentation of local actions;
  • Setting ‘do-able’ local goals for children, based on World Summit and CRC goals and encapsulated in a local plan of action;
  • Disaggregating local level, child-focussed indicators (for example by gender, tribe, ethnicity or race) to ensure that local disparities are monitored between different locations and action is taken;
  • Preparing an official Annual Child Development Report at local level to evaluate actions and to chart progress toward fulfilling child rights at local level;
  • Establishing a local level Child Policy Coordination Team charged with following up overall results for children across sectors. This team would ideally complement a Local Forum for children in which the wider local public could participate and influence local actions to create a child friendly locality. These two complementary bodies should be separate from the various local line/sectoral implementation institutions/actors.

In her discussion of this presentation, Iheoma Obibi stressed the importance of monitoring in protecting children’s rights at local level. She emphasised the requirement to delineate the roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders in the process of implementing children’s rights and the overall responsibility of civil society to put children’s rights issues on local and national agendas.

Even though this was the last presentation in a very full day, the discussion was lively. Participants in general stressed that local awareness of children’s rights is an important element in implementation and called for information to be available in local languages. Nevertheless, they acknowledged that local level initiatives may be undermined by human resource capacity. One example that was given was that widespread illiteracy may mean that local people may not be able to read the relevant information.


On the final day of the Seminar, representatives of some of the organisations present were invited to give feedback on their experience of the Seminar, particularly with respect to future actions that might be taken by their organisation or others. This session was chaired by Sally Nyandiya-Bundy and included general discussion and suggestions for the future of the process begun by the Seminar.

The first speaker was Essombe Joseph, on behalf of the African Human Rights Commission, who drew attention to the drafting process for the African Charter, as well as to the monitoring mechanisms that would be in place once it comes into force, making comparisons with similar mechanisms set up under the provisions of the CRC. He ended with the caveat that states party reports to the monitoring body for the African Charter will have to be submitted to the General Assembly of the Organisation of African Unity for adoption, and that this might mean some reports could be blocked and the recommendations not implemented. Subsequent discussion from the floor revealed that the processes associated with the drafting, adoption, entering into force and monitoring of children’s rights instruments are generally not well understood.

Justin Maeda, the Country Representative of UNICEF in Zimbabwe, addressed the Seminar again on the challenges of implementation. Signing conventions, he stated is not a problem for heads of state. Referring to debates about the state throughout the Seminar he said that it is characteristic of some or even many African states that:

Constitutions do not mean much to us. Unlike Latin American states, constitutions are not guidelines, nor are they sacred. They can be overthrown in five minutes by groups of five soldiers.

After this sobering thought, Dr Maeda identified some key actions that should result from the Seminar:

  • Foster debates on the meaning of children’s rights in African societies, so that we have a correct understanding and interpretation of the issues;
  • Create a framework for adapting international instruments for the purpose of implementation;
  • In order to do this, build on existing positive traditional cultural practices that are still relevant;
  • Foster debate on the subject of children’s rights, to produce a vision to guide actions on their behalf, preceded by an intensive campaign of advocacy at all levels, and leading to a common understanding among all stakeholders;
  • Establish mechanisms for monitoring interventions designed to bring about the achievement of children’s rights;
  • Set a legal framework in place, because ‘law is the guiding principle’ for children’s rights;
  • Establish and strengthen mechanisms for enforcement of children’s rights at several levels:

Through legal measures;

Through setting moral and ethical standards, which might be more important than legal standards in African contexts;

By creating a demand for action, a groundswell of public opinion from parents and communities to governments.

  • Explore and utilise mechanisms for effective child participation in decisions made on their behalf or for their welfare, creating a ‘culture of responsibility and consultation’;
  • At programme level, advocate for greater mainstreaming of children’s issues, further inter-sectoral coordination and an integrated, people-centred approach.
  • Combine this with monitoring, which means examining the kind of data that should be collected for use in programme design, linked to grass-roots realities with a community focus and community involvement.

The next two presenters, Rose September and Per Miljeteig, provided feedback from Childwatch International from the points of view of an African Key Institute and the global Secretariat.

Rose September began by identifying underlying lessons learned from the Seminar, listing the following:

  • The evidence from the Seminar proceedings of the ‘wonderful diversity’ of African cultures;
  • The fact that focusing on children serves to mobilise individuals and organisations with enormous potential for Africa;
  • That there are important convergent areas and issues that should be topics for collaboration;
  • The urgent need for structural networks, such as those of Childwatch International ad CODESRIA;
  • That linkages and networks need to be effective and productive in order to have impacts on children’s lives;
  • The need for a clearing house for information sharing and for implementing common goals.

Ms September then turned to specific trends and themes she had noted during the Seminar:

  • Recognition that issues within childhood and child research are complex, which points to the need to mainstream children’s issues as well as to link macro and supra-political debates to children’s voices and ensure that children’s concerns are on larger agendas;
  • Recognition of the progress made towards and commitment to children’s rights in Africa;
  • Identification of urgent gaps for research and action, including;

The need to get children’s issues on political agendas;

The need for a research agenda for child research that would be integrated with action;

The need to develop mechanisms and structures for collective engagement in continuing the process begun by the Seminar;

Recognition of emerging challenges, such as HIV/AIDS, not only as research themes but also in terms of who is controlling the debate;

In her concluding remarks, Ms September asked participants to consider how concrete linkages might be established and maintained between agencies such as Childwatch, African Human Rights Committee, CODESRIA, NPAs and the OAU.

Following this Africa-based presentation, Per Miljeteig once again drew attention to the global implications of the Seminar. He began by stating that being an observer had been for him personally an enriching learning experience. His remarks should be interpreted as immediate reactions rather than firm proposals. Nevertheless he said that Childwatch International would be available to help disseminate the Seminar Report and conclusions, which he said would be of interest to child researchers throughout the world. He would inform other Key Institutions and also place information in the Children’s House in Cyberspace. The Seminar might provide a model for similar regional or inter-regional collaborations.

One point stressed by Mr Miljeteig was that the Seminar had underlined the importance of obtaining the most accurate information in order to implement successful programmes and that it had identified several areas where further research is needed:

  • The collapse or disintegration of family and state forms, resulting in families’ inability to care for their children;
  • Children’s participation, associated with studies of their resilience and competence;
  • Mainstreaming child research by including other groups of scholars who do not normally see themselves as child researchers.

Mr Miljeteig also commented that there is a need for stronger African involvement within the Childwatch network. He referred to the collaboration between CODESRIA and Childwatch International with respect to the ‘Child Research in Africa Programme’ and informed participants that the next Childwatch Advisory Board would take place in Cape Town, hosted by the Institute for Child and Family Development.

Finally he drew the Seminar’s attention to two relevant global research initiatives within the Childwatch network:

  • The impact on children of political and economic transitions;
  • The application of research results to international programming and policy-making.

Following this presentation, there were two speakers from Redd Barna: Josphat Mathe on behalf of the Zimbabwe office and Jon Johnson, who is currently representing Redd Barna in Nepal but will be taking up a regional research and documentation post in Southern Africa in May 1998. Both referred to the importance of children’s rights instruments for the work of Redd Barna as an organisation. They also emphasised that it is necessary to base programmes on good, updated research and to find ways of bridging the gap between research and programme implementation.

General discussion on follow-up to the Seminar covered issues such as the importance of disseminating the results and presentations as widely as possible within the academic sphere. It was stressed that the connection between the Seminar process and the CODESRIA Child Research in Africa Programme should be made explicit. One firm proposal was the development of a research agenda for children’s rights in Africa, and there was some discussion of the resources required to bring the ‘critical mass’ of scholars together for this purpose and maintain momentum. Several participants mentioned the value of and need for local-level research so that the specific contexts in which children’s rights must be implemented could both be better understood and linked to continent-wide debates.

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4. Key issues emerging from the Seminar discussions

The Seminar programme, as intended, went well beyond the conventional survival, development and provision issues that are normally the focus of discussions of the implementation of international children’s rights instruments. These and other issues of protection and participation were contextualised in empirically-based presentations and discussions and brought into focus within the broader frameworks of social science research, in economics, political science, history and demography as well as the more individualised, and commonly used, paradigms of psychology and pedagogy. The presentations and ensuing debates were refreshingly free of discussions about ‘what is a child?’; assumptions about the indissolubility of the mother-child unit; and the reiteration of deconstructivist debates about ‘childhood as a social phenomenon’ that are currently acting as a block on progress in European child research. There was also an unusually strong link between theory and practice. One phrase that kept coming up in discussion – ‘taking children seriously’ – sums up the spirit that permeated the entire Seminar.

Although many interesting discussions took place on the basis of the presentations, and the framework developed by the planning committee worked in practice, there were three major themes that were the subject of debate and comment throughout and which, in a sense, held the Seminar together:


1. Systems of authority and the issue of securing children’s rights

Throughout the Seminar presenters, discussants and other participants made frequent reference to the state, ‘the family’; and ‘civil society’ in African contexts. In his introductory speech, Justin Maeda, made a point that echoed throughout the three days of debate:

In spite of the names of instruments, there exists an obligation to respect, protect, facilitate and secure the realisation of children’s rights. These obligations are held by duty-bearers at different levels of society. The level of setting the legislative and institutional framework for the implementation and monitoring of treaties is at national and international level. States are usually identified as the principal actors on fulfilling these obligations. The second level is that of the parents and other duty-bearers at all levels of society ( i.e. the family, society, schools, health facilities etc).

This second level represents the child’s environment, the point at which the rights of the child should become a reality. It represents the movement from setting frameworks to actually operationalising those frameworks. It is at this level that the real challenges lie. It is at this level that the specific aspects unique to Africa come into play.

The Seminar was constantly reminded of the crises in African societies and the disintegration or collapse of states, families and institutions. Although there was some debate about the extent to which it can be argued that most African states have collapsed, there was no argument with Jibrin Ibrahim’s fundamental statement that ‘you need a state that maintains the rule of law in order to implement rights’. Nor was there any disagreement that within the general crisis in African societies the authority of the family is being eroded. Just as the state cannot perform its functions, so ‘the family’ is becoming incapable of performing its function, especially with respect to the future of its citizens. It was also recognised that, if both stat and family have collapsed or are collapsing, the reconstruction of both can only come about with and through children – the next generation of citizens. An important feature of these debates was the emphasis on the role of informal education (socialisation) and formal education systems in teaching citizenship and developing civil society. There is a clear link here with CODESRIA’s current major programme on civil society.


2. African values

The Seminar went a long way towards its objective of clarifying the references in the African Charter to positive and negative African values and practices. The core of this issue was identified by Tshikala Biaya when he stated that the key question is ‘How can we be African and modern?’ The answer, from several participants, was to build on existing positive traditional and cultural practices that are still relevant rather than indulging in politically-motivated rescue ethnography. Meanwhile, as Penda Mbow and Sidy Gueye’s papers demonstrated, changes are taking place anyway – leading to new mechanisms of abuse that are rooted in the residues of old traditions. ‘Culture’ and ‘tradition’ are being used as the justification for new forms of exploitation. It is not a question of values and traditions and practices being intrinsically either positive or negative. Rules and practices are, in a certain sense, neutral or at least ambiguous. They are social mechanisms that are themselves subject to change and reinterpretation. They are socially embedded and, like all other forms of culture, they are social products, the result of social interaction and praxis. With respect to children’s rights, mainstreaming was the key word. As Iheoma Obibi stated, a re-evaluation of society and a valuation of children’s contributions are urgently needed .


3. Pure and applied research

There was a productive tension throughout the Seminar between the advocates of pure research and those who stress that research should always be oriented towards, and based in, actions or interventions. Rose September made a straightforward plea for action research:

to seek solutions to the practical problems experienced by practitioners in their management of instances or suspected instances of child abuse.

To which Jibrin Ibrahim’s immediate response was that pure research also perhaps has its uses, in for example raising the conceptual problems, the issues, looking at the larger picture – in other words the contexts to which the Seminar was principally addressed. This issue was also raised during the debate between Sally Niyandiya-Bundy and Tshikala Biaya on the question of the definition of ‘violence’ and the difference between definitions made at conceptual and empirical levels of social science activity.

Sam Moyo’s discussion of the presentations in the session on economic contexts stressed the need for a theoretical framework. Such a goal cannot be met by developing a typology from practical case study evidence, which leads only to ‘butterfly collection’, middle level theory, What is needed is a process of theoretical deconstruction and reconstruction at a conceptual level dealing with fundamental issues, whether these be policy itself or current empirical models.

From the practical point of view it was interesting to note that some programmers at the Seminar, such as Jon Johnson of Redd Barna, acknowledged that they do not make sufficient use of research. Among the other organisations that collaborated in the Seminar, it can be noted that ANPPCAN tends to have an advocacy-oriented approach to research; that Per Miljeteig of Childwatch International referred to programmers ‘going back to the academics with problems that might be solved through further research’; and that CODESRIA takes the position that African researchers can easily build a substantial body of literature that can inform social policies while adding to the understanding of social phenomena.

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5. Follow-up and recommendations

The discussion of follow-up to the Seminar included proposals for publication of results and papers. It is intended that the Seminar Report should be widely disseminated within a variety of circles, including the Save the Children Alliance, Childwatch International network, CODESRIA and ANPPCAN. Furthermore a high quality, academic publication should be planned, in both French and English, including not only the papers from this Seminar but also others that would address some of the issues identified by the planning committee but that could not be included in the Seminar Programme. Publication plans will be discussed with CODESRIA, which publishes a wide range of titles. The academic publishers, Dartmouth, has also made a commitment to publish Seminar papers within the multidisciplinary series entitled ‘Programme on the International Rights of the Child’.

It was also strongly suggested that there should be further Seminars of this kind, based on the framework used in Harare, and addressing some of the issues that could not be included, most notably ‘Fundamentalisms and identity’. It should be noted that the Seminar raised widespread interests and there is considerable potential for attracting further established African scholars, as well as resources for future events. However, the organisers would like to underline the importance of maintaining the criterion that limits opportunities to give scholarly presentations to nationals of African countries.

A final general recommendation is for training in and disseminating information about children’s rights. This is crucial in African countries in order to raise awareness at local and national levels, within state and civil society and lay the groundwork for implementation of both the African Charter and the CRC.

A number of specific recommendations were made, including:

  • Continuing the networking activities begun in the context of the Seminar;
  • Using established and new networks to build a children’s rights research agenda that:

Establishes research on childhood, children and children’s rights in Africa as an integral part of mainstream African social science research ;

Celebrates the diversity of African cultures;

Identifies and includes those who are custodians of ‘traditions’;

Develops research capacity in the area of childhood, children and children’s rights particularly at local level;

Explores and maintains an appropriate balance and interrelationship between theoretical research and action research;

  • Disseminating widely the results of research relevant to children’s rights issues;
  • Ensuring that children’s rights research in Africa is supported by adequate financial and material resources;
  • Exploring the possibility of developing a network of African researchers that might act in an advisory capacity to the monitoring body of the OAU African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, once that instrument enters into force.



NgonÈ Diop Tine
Box 3304
Dakar, Senegal
Telephone: +221-8- 259822/3
Fax: +221-8-241289
E-mail: [email protected]
Judith Ennew
Childwatch International
Monitoring Children’s Rights Project
Centre for Family Research
University of Cambridge
Free School Lane,
Cambridge CB2 3RF
Tel: +44-1223-334516
Fax: +44-1223-330574
E-mail: [email protected]

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Appendix 1: List of Participants

Tshikala Biaya
BP 3304
T: 221-8-259822/3
F: 221-8-241289
e-mail: [email protected]
Robert Bundy
Department of Psychology
University of Zimbabwe
PO Box MP 167
Mount Pleasant
Harare, Zimbabwe
T: 263-4-303211
F: 263-4-333407
Jennifer Chikowore
Department of Social Welfare
Private Bag 7707
Harare, Zimbabwe
Inviolata Chinyangarara
Programme Advisor
Redd Barna Zimbabwe
PO Box 4581
184, Fife Avenue
Harare, Zimbabwe
T: +263-4-721541/795472
F: +263-4-796535
Israel Chokuwenga
Seminar Secretariat
c/o Redd Barna Zimbabwe
PO Box 4581
184, Fife Avenue
Harare, Zimbabwe
T: +263-4-721541/795472
F: +263-4-796535
e-mail: [email protected]
Rosalyn Dete
National Programme of Action
Ministry of Health & Child Welfare
Box CY 1122
Harare, Zimbabwe
Linda Dube
Seminar Secretariat
c/o Redd Barna Zimbabwe
PO Box 4581
184, Fife Avenue
Harare, Zimbabwe
T: +263-4-721541/795472
F: +263-4-796535
e-mail: [email protected]
Judith Ennew
Centre for Family Research
University of Cambridge
Free School Lane
Cambridge CB2 3RF UK
T: 44-1223-334516
e-mail: [email protected]
Ousseynou Faye
Department d’Histoire
Faculte des Lettres et Sciences Humaines
Universite Cheik Anta Diop
T: +221-8-372621 (Home)
e-mail: [email protected]
Sidy Gueye
Direction Nationale des Statistiques
Point E
T: 221-8-246853/24632
e-mail: [email protected]
Emmah Gweshe
Zimbabwe Council for the Welfare of Children
Box CY2800
Harare, Zimbabwe
T: 263-4-728181
Nigel Hall
School of Social Work
Private Bag 66022
T: 263-4-752965/7
Jibrin Ibrahim
Institute of Federalism
Route d’Englisberg 7,
CH 1763 Granges Paccot
T: 41-26-300-8162
e-mail: [email protected]
Jon Johnson
Redd Barna
c/o Redd Barna Zimbabwe
PO Box 4581
184, Fife Avenue Harare, Zimbabwe
T: +263-4-721541/795472
F: +263-4-796535
Essombe Edimo Joseph
Legal Advisor
African Commission on Human and People’s Rights
PO Box 673,
The Gambia
T: 220-392962, 220-997175
F: 220-390764
e-mail: [email protected]
Naira Khan
Child in Law Project
47 Praagh Avenue
Milton Park
Harare, Zimbabwe
T: 263-4-705108
Justin Maeda
UNICEF Zimbabwe
PO Box 1250
T: 263-4-703941/2, 731840,721692
F: 263-4-731849
Effie S.M. Malianga
UNICEF Zimbabwe
PO Box 1250
T: 263-4-703941/2, 731840,721692
F: 263-4-731849
e-mail: [email protected]
Charity Manyau
Save the Children UK
PO Box 4689
T: 263-4-793198/9708200
F: 263-4-727508
Josphat Mathe
Programme Director
Redd Barna Zimbabwe
PO Box 4581
184, Fife Avenue
Harare, Zimbabwe
T: +263-4-721541/795472
F: +263-4-796535
Penda Mbow
Department d’Histoire
Faculte des Lettres et Sciences Humaines
Universite Cheik Anta Diop
T: 221-8-247757
F: 221-8-255684
e-mail: [email protected]
Per Miljeteig
Childwatch International
PO Box 1132
N-0317 Oslo
T: 47-22-854350
F: 47-22-855028
e-mail: [email protected]
Heli Mikkola
UNICEF Zimbabwe
PO Box 1250
T: 263-4-703941/2, 731840,721692
F: 263-4-731849
e-mail: [email protected]
Sam Moyo
T: 263-4-702882
F: 263-4-731869
e-mail: [email protected]
Mrs Msika
Ministry of Justice, Legal & Parliamentary Affairs
Private Bag 7704
Harare, Zimbabwe
T. 263-4-774620
Celani Mutetwa
Terre des Hommes
356 Herbert Chitepo
Box 1539
T: 263-4-707236/707338/794342
F: 263-4-727681
e-mail: [email protected]
Lois Mushonga
Redd Barna Zimbabwe
PO Box 4581
T: 263-4-721541/795472
F: 263-4-796535
Roberta Mutiso
Institute for Development Policy & Practice
PO Box 39266
T: 254-2-250-1780
F: 254-2-860-771
Gertrude Mwape
Department of Psychology
University of Zambia
T:260-1-235162 (home)
F: 260-125-3952
e-mail: [email protected]
Petter Myhren
Redd Barna Zimbabwe
PO Box 4581
184, Fife Avenue
Harare, Zimbabwe
T: +263-4-721541/795472
F: +263-4-796535
e-mail:[email protected]
Sally Nyandiya-Bundy
Department of Psychology
University of Zimbabwe
PO Box MP 167
Mount Pleasant
Harare, Zimbabwe
T: 263-4-303211
F: 263-4-333407
Iheoma Obibi
Aberdeen House
Unit 301A
22, Highbury Grove
London N5 2DG
T: 44-171-359-1181
F: 44-171-354-4900
e-mail: [email protected]
Cuthbert Omari
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
University of Dar es Salaam
PO Box 35029
Dar es Saalam
T: 255-51-410395
F: 255-51-43016/43395
Patricia Phiri
Redd Barna Zimbabwe
PO Box 4581
184, Fife Avenue
Harare, Zimbabwe
T: +263-4-721541/795472
F: +263-4-796535
Shirley Robinson
Cape Town
South Africa
T: 27-21-461-2559
F: 27-21-462-0162
e-mail: [email protected]
Annie Sampa
Department of Psychology
University of Zambia
T: 260-1-292008 (Home)
260-1-293580/293058 (ext 2332) (Work)
F: 260-125-3952
e-mail: [email protected]
Rose September
Institute for Child and Family Development
University of the Western Cape
PVT Bag X17
Bellville 7735
Cape Town
South Africa
T: 27-21-959-2605/2721
F: 27-21-959-2606
e-mail: [email protected]
Suleman Sumra
Faculty of Education
University of Dar es Salaam
PO Box 35048
Dar es Saalam
T: 255-51-49181
F: 255-51-43016/43395
e-mail: [email protected]
NgonÈ Diop Tine
BP 3304
T: 221-8-259822/3
F: 221-8-241289
e-mail: [email protected]
Admassu Tadesse
Box 4884
0001 Pretoria
South Africa
T: 27-12-388-5245
F: 27-12-320-4085/6

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Appendix 2: Seminar Programme


Monday 12 January

09.30-10.30: Registration: Tea and Coffee

10.30-12.00: Welcomes and introductions

Chair for the morning: Mrs Patricia Phiri, Programme Advisor, Redd Barna-Zimbabwe


Petter Myhren: Resident Representative, Redd Barna-Zimbabwe

Justin Maeda: Country Representative, UNICEF-Zimbabwe

Sally Nyandiya-Bundy: Chair, African Network for the Preventionand Protection of Child Abuse and Neglect (ANPPCAN)-Zimbabwe Chapter

Per Miljeteig: Director, Childwatch International

NgonÈ Diop Tine: Research Department, Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA)

Essombe Joseph: Legal Advisor, The African Commission for Human Rights

12.00-13.00: Objectives and methods

Judith Ennew: Member of Seminar Planning Committee

13.00-14.00: Lunch


Scientific Programme

Chair for the afternoon: Tshikala Biaya

Discussant for the afternoon: Sam Moyo

14.00-16.00: Economic contexts

NgonÈ Diop Tine: Impact of Structural Adjustment on the rights of children in Africa

Shirley Robinson: Public expenditure on children: First Call for South African children

Suleman Sumra: Child work and schooling: The case of Tanzania

16.00-16.30 Tea

16.30-18.30 Social inter-relationships

Penda Mbow: Systèmes des castes – ideologie et veÁu: L’example du Sènègal (Ideology and reality of caste systems: The case of Senegal)

Annie Sampa: Interpersonal relationships in an African context: the Zambian context and children’s rights

Cuthbert Omari: Contextualization of child abuse and exploitation in Tanzania

19.30-21.00 Reception in the Courtney Hotel

Address: Sam Moyo, Executive Board, CODESRIA


Tuesday 13 January:

Scientific Programme continued

Chair for the morning: Jibrin Ibrahim

Discussant for the morning: Sally Nyandiya-Bundy

08.30-10.30: Abuse and exploitation

Rose September: Towards a comprehensive, integrated response to child abuse and neglect

Sidy Gueye: Economic exploitation of children and abuse

Naira Khan: Child abuse and exploitation: research and action trends

10.30-11.00: Coffee/tea

11.00-13.00: Conflict

Oussenyou Faye: Violence des jeunes et les droits de l’enfant en Afrique: L’example du SÈnÈgal (Youth violence and children’s rights in Africa: The case of Senegal)

Tshikala Biaya: Enfance, conflictualité et pouvoir d’Etat au Congo-Za re: Entendre, comprendre, décrire (Childhood, conflict and State power in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaire): Hearing, understanding, describing)

Roberta Mutiso: Intergenerational obligations: children’s perceptions, suggestions and initiatives, Mombasa and Kisumu, Kenya

13.00-14.00 Lunch

Discussant for the afternoon: Iheoma Obibi

14.00-15.30 Rights, participation and democracy

Chair: Suleman Sumra

Jibrin Ibrahim: Democracy and the crisis of education: What future for the African child?

Gertrude Mwape: Zambian schools and the right to participate

15.30 – 16.30: Fundamentalisms and identity

Chair: Suleman Sumra

Group Discussion

16.30-17.00: Tea/coffee

17.00-18.00: Issues of implementation of international and regional children’s rights instruments in Africa

Chair: Roberta Mutiso

Admassu Tadesse: Towards fulfilling children’s rights at local level: the case of Johannesburg


Wednesday 14 January:

09.30-12.30: Issues of implementation of international and regional children’s rights instruments in Africa

Feedback from and discussion of programme and policy perspectives

Chair: Sally Nyandiya-Bundy


African Commission for Human Rights:Essombe Joseph

UNICEF: Justin Maeda

Childwatch International: Per Miljeteig & Rose September

Redd Barna: Josphat Mathe & Jon Johnson

General discussion on the future of the process

12.30 Closure

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