An open letter to Niger’s children, by Félicité Tchibindat, UNICEF Representative in Niger, on the occasion of the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child
By Félicité Tchibindat
20th November 1989 – 20th November 2019. Thirty years ago, world leaders made a historic commitment to the world’s children by adopting the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child – an international agreement on childhood. It’s become the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history and has helped transform children’s lives around the world. Niger has ratified the Convention in 1990.
Beyond the historical dimension of this day, it is time to take stock of the situation of children in Niger. It is an opportunity to reflect on their realities and to propose appropriate strategies and interventions to accelerate efforts.
The past years have been an exceptional journey for children in Niger. The country has made progress in advancing children’s and women’s rights. Today, children in Niger have a greater chance of reaching their fifth birthday than ever before. Being able to go to school is now a reality for many more children.
Substantial development in legislations, policies, strategies and national programming have been achieved over the past years – in the elimination of child marriage, in promoting girls’ education, in the sectors of health, water, sanitation and hygiene, education and child protection.
However, much more needs to be done to create a supportive and protective environment for children and future generations. Not every child gets to enjoy a full childhood. Still, too many childhoods are cut short. The journey from a mother’s womb to the vulnerable adolescent years is fraught with risk and challenges.
Niger has a low vaccination rate for children and low access to sanitation. School attendance rates in primary and secondary education remain low, child marriage is widespread, and early childhood care and feeding practices are sometimes inadequate, contributing to high rates of malnutrition and disease.
Niger continues to face simultaneous emergencies that are stretching the capacities of the government and humanitarian partners to respond adequately. Children in Niger face malnutrition, recurrent disease epidemics and outbreaks, cyclical floods, drought and displacement. The situation is exacerbated by instability in neighboring countries, resulting in an influx of thousands of refugees, returnees, internal displaced persons and migrants, all needing access to basic social services for survival.
The celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Convention provides us with a platform to honor our responsibilities and renew our promises to children. It is a moment to reaffirm our commitment to upholding and protecting the rights and principles enshrined within the Convention, to identifying and taking concrete, actionable and time-bound steps towards its full implementation, to implementing meaningful child-centred policies, and to enhancing investments and allocating the necessary resources for the advancement of children’s rights, and to strengthening multi-stakeholder partnerships, including with private sector, civil society, youth and children for this purpose. It is crucial to include children’s perspectives in the development and assessment of strategies and programmes that are designed to realize their rights and meet their specific and evolving needs.
As we look back on 30 years of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, we should also look ahead, to the next 30 years. We must listen to you – today’s children and young people – about the issues of greatest concern to you now and offer you the opportunity to find your own solutions, to make sure you shape your own future and you are the artisans of a prosperous Niger where every daughter and every son contributes to its development.
Every day should be World Children’s Day. Our commitments to children must be translated into daily action. Now is the time to set child rights in our agenda. Now is the time to make children’s rights a top priority.
In Niger, UNICEF is not alone in advocating for the rights of the child. The Convention on the Rights of the Child could rely on a wide range of champions, organizations and individuals, including children themselves. The more they will be, the better will be the chance that the ideal described thirty years ago will become a reality for all future generations.
For every child, a childhood