Day of the African Child: Listen to your Auntie!

Grace Nyambura is seasoned media practitioner, writer, professional skills trainer and champion for women and youth empowerment.

Grace Nyambura

I am yet to experience the joys of motherhood, but being an aunt has given me just as much fulfilment, after all they say aunties are like moms, but only cooler. My nephew will be celebrating his fourth birthday this June which makes this years' Day of the African Child more significant to me. 

As an Aunt, my primary role is storytelling and I look forward to the day my nephew will be able to understand why we celebrate him twice in June. I hope he draws courage from the story of the brave students who marched for their right to an education in South Africa during the 1991 Soweto Uprising.

My nephew's life experiences will be very different growing up in an era of technological acceleration. His parents are aware of how the world is changing and work hard to make sure that he has every opportunity to maximise his full potential.

There is no denying that being a boy will also play a part in how my nephew's life unfolds. Despite some progress, there is still no country in Africa that has achieved gender equality and the gaps have been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

My work in both mainstream media and the development world has given me a broadened understanding of the injustices in the world and those meant to protect the interests of the most vulnerable in society seem to be slumbering at the helms.

I was mortified to listen to a statement made by a Kenyan government official shaming four young girls he sponsored who got pregnant during the lockdown, citing negligence on the part of the parents yet these families live in the slums. This made me question just how much our public officials know about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG's) and the factors that lead to early pregnancies.

The closure of schools has impacted girls and young women disproportionately, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Schools are more than a place of learning but offer a haven for most girls to get meals, menstrual hygiene products and contraceptives. With the lockdown also impacting people’s livelihoods, the domestic care burden has fallen on girls and some may be forced into compromising situations to lighten the family’s financial burden.

“Each year of secondary education reduces the likelihood of marrying as a child and a child whose mother can read is more likely to live past the age of five.” (Equal Measures 2030 Gender Index).

As we celebrate different events while still in lockdown, everything feels heightened, and there is deep sense of gratitude for things that we had previously taken for granted. Which makes me empathise even more for peoples whose whole life has been riddled by disadvantages.

This year’s Day of the African Child should be a time to reflect on how far we have come as a society, and just how far we are yet to go in achieving equality for all people regardless of their age, gender, race, tribe or religion.

This quote by Nelson Mandela captures my sentiments exactly:

“The children must, at last, play in the open veld, no longer tortured by the pangs of hunger or ravaged by the disease or threatened with the scourge of ignorance, molestation and abuse, and no longer required to engage in deeds whose gravity exceeds the demands of their tender years.” (10 December 1993)