Children’s rights were first recognized in 1942, after the 1st World War, with the adoption of the declaration of Geneva and the process of recognition of children’s rights continue with the adoption of the declaration of children’s rights in 1959.
However, the recognition of the child’s interest and his rights became real on 20 November 1989 with the adoption of the international convention on the rights of the child (CRC), which is the first international legally binding text recognizing all the fundamental rights of the child.
In its 30 years of existence the CRC has been ratified by 159 countries, including Eritrea, which ratified the convention on 4 August 1994. Countries that have ratified the treaty pledge to protect children from economic and sexual exploitation, violence and other forms of abuse and to advance the rights of children to education, health care and a decent standard of living.
This year, international children’s day was celebrated on 20th November at Expo compound, in Asmara, in the presence of senior government and PFDJ officials, members of the Diplomatic community and representatives of UN offices in Eritrea as well as invited guests.
This year’s children’s day was remembered under the theme, “Integrated effort to ensure children’s right”, a theme emphasizing the need for ongoing concerted efforts for the welfare of children.
On the occasion, Mr. Mihreteab Fessehaye, director general of human welfare at the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare gave a speech stating that international children’s day is being celebrated for the 28th time in Eritrea and the 61st worldwide. Mr. Mihreteab said that giving priority to children was one of the principles of the EPLF even during the tough time of war for liberation. After independence, together with the signing of CRC this principle has helped plant a foundation for the Eritrean government to ensure the safety and growth of children in every area, resulting in encouraging improvements in the welfare of children.
Mr. Mihreteab stressed that although Eritrea has been able to score good results in ensuring the welfare of children in the areas of health, education, social and psychological welfare, ensuring children’s right is not a single organization’s job. He added that the key for all the success is the effort made by the government of Eritrea, non-governmental organizations, national associations, UNICEF as well as the whole society.
Praising Eritrea for the progress in ensuring the rights and welfare of children in the shared journey of CRC, Mrs. Shaheen Nilofer, representative of UNICEF in Eritrea, said that when children are healthy and immunized and grow up in loving homes, they become responsible and healthy individuals. With access to schooling and opportunities for participation, they will graduate with a degree and with life-skills to help them secure a livelihood and develop to the fullest.
Noting that UNICEF has been a trusted partner to the government of Eritrea since 1992, Mrs. Shaheen Nilofer stressed the importance of equity and the need to meet the sustainable development Goals by 2030 for children, while continuing to build on the progress for children. UNICEF has been a trusted partner to the government of Eritrea to ensure that no child is left behind, and that children’s rights are translated into reality.
Mrs. Shaheen Nilofer said that children that grow in a better environment have the potential of becoming responsible citizens. She commended the Government of Eritrea for the efforts it is making in providing educational opportunity and health services including vaccination to ensure child health and safety.
In the past three decades, Eritrea has made remarkable progress in the health sector. The coverage of health services in the country, including rural areas, is a lot better today than it was before independence. Overall, the immunization rates have increased from 14% in 1993 to above 98% in 2017. Currently, the immunization coverage of infants at national level has reached above 95%. Besides, Eritrea has maintained a polio-free status for many years now.
In education, in order to ensure more access to quality basic education for all children, including those in rural areas, the government is working to provide basic and elementary education by opening new schools and increasing the number of qualified teachers. Especially, at the basic level, by making the children learn in their mother tongue the government is diligently working on developing their knowledge and skills.
Socially, the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare has been working on child protection and social protection programs to ensure the rights and safety of children. To accomplish this, a number of government sectors and civil society have teamed up to elevate community-based work on child rights to stop harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and underage marriages, that harm girls. Also, the government is providing financial support and safe environment to orphans and children with social problems. In this way, the children will be able to lead normal lives.
Building up responsible children is not an easy task for it requires a lot of efforts and time. As Mr. Mihreteab Fessehaye said parents should invest their best effort to raise their children in the best way possible. Children are best raised in the context of a family, finding love and support from their loved ones to develop to the fullest.
International children’s day was made colorful with songs, poems and dances. A cultural dance was presented by the Capuchini Kindergarten and Fiorina groups. Also, an original composition with an inspirational song produced for the children’s day was performed by Mr. Barnabas Mebrahtu and Temesgen Stefanos and their 47- member team from the Asmara Musicians Association.