African Child Day
June 16 2015
By Abdifatah Hassan Ali
Information & Communication Officer
Somali Women Development Center (SWDC)
It is quite difficult growing up Somalia as a child, political instability, poverty, malnutrition and several uncounted obstacles have left millions of Somali children to suffer from what we call “endless plight”. Somalia is one of the countries in the world, perhaps the worst, where the rights of the children are not protected both at community and at national level. Children in IDP camps are the most vulnerable groups in terms of food, health and shelter. Displaced by droughts and fighting in other regions of the country there are over 1.1 million IDPs in Somalia as of today, children make up nearly 60% of those IDP population.
According to the statistics 60% of Somali families live under poverty-line forcing children to work in order to help their families. Child labor is common violations practiced in Somalia, children do shoe policing, fetching water, washing cars, and in some cases helping illegal checkpoints (child soldier). Young girls start working as maid/servant as early as 6 years old and below for families undertaking difficult jobs and sometimes violated by their employers, cases of sexual abuses are reported committed by their employers, their small salary are even denied with excessive torture and emotional abuse.
The infant mortality rate is especially high in Somalia, with an average of 180 deaths for every thousand births. Somali children typically die of dehydration and diseases like diarrhea, malaria, and pneumonia (or other respiratory infections). Cholera epidemics occur every year. Newly born babies suffer low birth weight as the prenatal and postnatal care is very poor in Somalia, only 9% of the children receive proper breastfeeding.
According to a new United Nations report, AMISOM, the Somali National Army and militias allied with it had a combined total of 223 children in their ranks as of 2013, while the opposition groups included 908 children as members.
What does the day of African Child mean to Somali child?
The Day of the African Child has been celebrated on June 16 every year since 1991, when it was first initiated by the OAU Organization of African Unity known as today African Union (AU). It honors those who participated in the Soweto Uprising in 1976 on that day. It also raises awareness of the continuing need for improvement of the education provided to African children. However, Somali children are still suffering from what, children of Soweto children have once suffered during that uprising of 1976. Even though Somalia has ratified the UN Child Rights Convention “a move which many considered as step forward of promoting and protecting the rights of the youngest citizens” early this year, yet the situation of the children is very far from what is written the convention. On the commemoration of this day, I have selected one of the most painful stories of children, stories that has never been reported. I personally met this girl and here is her story.
In below story the name of the individual has been changed for confidentiality purpose
“My name is Asha(not her real name) I am 14 years old, the eldest of my family, I am a domestic worker I have been working from 5am to 10pam for three years for rich family, they pay me 400ShSo around $20 per month. in the morning, when I wake up I do the whole cleaning of the house, I wash all dishes and then I prepare breakfast for all family members, I prepare food for children like my age who go to school every day , I wash clothes of boys and girls who are older than me, I have been suffering extreme violations since I came to this family but I have nowhere to run because they know my mother, every time I try to resist they call my mum and say “your daughter is indiscipline, we will deduct her salary this month otherwise talk to her to behave in a good manner”. When I see my mum crying for the fact that they threatened her to cut my salary I decide to accept the situation as we are from poor family, I have 2 sisters and 2 brothers younger than me, the youngest was just born January this year. Ever since I joined this family, I thought I was helping my family but I realized that I was losing hope in live after so many days, months and years of suffering. I never told my story to anyone because I was afraid of losing my job, when I see other children, going to school, enjoying with their parents tears fall from eyes, I have only one day in a month to visit my parents and I immediately come back to workplace still longing for their accompany. I never heard about this day (Day of African Child) until I met this lady who said she was she was working for women organization. That was when I decided to share my story, in this house, I am not considered a child, sometimes I heard them saying “this girl has reached the martial age, we have to find husband for her” despite the fact that they don’t marry girls from our clan because we from “No one cries for them” clan.
I have a dream of going to school no matter what my age is, I believe age is not limitation, I am always and have been determined to be sitting in class with students, that was my dream, I want to became businesswoman so that I can create career opportunities for the mothers whose children would work like me, whose children wouldn’t have that opportunity of going to school”
Stories like that of Asha and many others till remain unreported and the hope of Somali children still lies in the hand of the people who are responsible for the destruction of this country, a generation of violence and weak government that, let alone protecting the rights of their youngest citizens, but locked themselves inside armored vehicle to protect their own selves.