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Last 16th June, the Terre des hommes Burkina Faso delegation in Pabre commemorated the Day of the African Child together with refugee children from Mali. There were recreational activities as well as talks on certain social and cultural practices harmful to the rights of the child.
The Day of the African Child takes place each 16th June, by way of respect for and commemoration of the massacre of some hundred children by the apartheid forces in South Africa on 16th June 1976, as they marched in the Soweto Uprising to demonstrate for their rights.
Initiated in 1991 by the Organisation of African Unity, this day has been celebrated in Africa every year since then to draw the rulers’ attention to the present situation of children.
In 2013, the theme was: ‘Eliminate the harmful social and cultural practices affecting children’.
In the heart of a refugee camp for Malians
In the Malian refugee camp of Sag-Nioniogo in the rural community of Pabre, situated some twenty kilometres from Ouagadougou, Tdh organized the commemorative ceremony, where other partners of Tdh also participated.*
According to David Kerespars, Tdh’s delegate to Burkina Faso , the day was an opportunity to tackle practices like female circumcision, forced marriage and other forms of violence suffered by children in the refugee camps and the host communities. As regards early marriage, Azèta Belem, an administrator of CONAREF, explains that “the community considers it to be a normal practice”, reinforcing the law of silence and making any action hard to accomplish.
Heightening awareness, the principal instrument
During the whole day, the children themselves made their parents aware of the dangers and the consequences of practices like female circumcision. Brutally torn from their homes and often separated from their nearest and dearest, the children from Mali also joined in this special day by taking part in the events, showing their integration and the solidarity of the Burkina Faso people towards them. A representative of the Mayor of Pabre, Jules Ilboudo, joined his voice to that of the protagonists to condemn practices contravening child rights.
In addition to the awareness making, a fête was organized for the 800 children who were present (500 from the camp and 300 from neighbouring villages), where they were given games and many gifts. For David Kerespars, this day was simply a chance to ‘see happy children’.
- HCR (High Commission for Refugees), UNICEF, the Red Cross, the IEDA (International Emergency and Development Aid) and the CONAREF (National Commission for Refugees).