16 June 2013-- In 1976, thousands of black school children took to the streets of Soweto, South Africa. In a march more than half a mile long, they protested the inferior quality of their education and demanded their right to be taught in their own language. Hundreds of young boys and girls were shot down by security forces. In the two weeks of protest that followed, more than a hundred people were killed and more than a thousand were injured.
To honour the memory of those killed and the courage of all those who marched, the Day of the African Child has been celebrated on 16 June every year since 1991, when it was first initiated by the Organization of African Unity (now the African Union).
The Day also draws attention to the lives of African children today. The theme for this year's event is Eliminating Harmful Social and Cultural Practices Affecting Children: Our Collective Responsibility. In their concept note on this year's celebration, the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child selected this theme to "call attention to harmful social and cultural practices against children, and highlight the roles and responsibilities of various stakeholders." Aims of the Day include:
- highlighting the negative consequences of harmful practices (such as female genital mutilation) on the various rights of children;
- urging the review of existing legislative and policy frameworks and practices at the national level to combat and eliminate harmful practices against children;
- undertaking advocacy with African governments, civil society organizations including faith based organizations, the media, and other role players for greater mobilization for the realization of the rights of children against harmful practices; and
- considering effective strategies for the prevention of harmful practices against children.