At exactly 7.30 p.m. on a seemingly dreary Tuesday evening, the flick of a switch at the Black Star Gate that lit it blue brought alive a pomp to signify support and advocate children’s rights.
The luminous blue Black Star Gate at the Black Star Square radiated its beauty in perfect contrast to the dark skies.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) organised the radiant ceremony on the eve of the World Children’s Day.
This year, the day marks 30 years of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Across the world, iconic buildings were lit blue to raise awareness of children’s rights.
“We are reminded that every girl and boy is an important stakeholder of our planet, that their rights must be fulfilled, respected and protected, and that we as adults should not rest until each and every child everywhere, at all times, enjoys a safe and happy childhood,” said UNICEF’s West and Central Africa Regional Director, Ms Marie Pierre Poirier.
Ghana has made gains
Ghana was the first country to ratify the convention and Ms Poirier said since its ratification, the country had made significant progress.
For instance, she said, under-five mortality rate had reduced by 60 per cent, life expectancy increased by over six years on the average, poverty had been halved, while the country had also developed a robust social protection programme.
Furthermore, the country had boosted immunisation coverage to more than 90 per cent and achieved universal primary enrolment with gender parity, Ms Poirier said.
In spite of the gains made, she said there were still some challenges because “progress has not as yet reached every child.”
Ms Poirier said 28 per cent of children lived in poverty and there was a decline in the rate of exclusive breastfeeding for all babies from zero to six months.
Additionally, she mentioned that many children still faced inequalities, particularly with regard to where they lived, whether they were girls or boys and personal characteristics.
She said many children with disabilities remained the most vulnerable and were often invisible in society.
She commended the government and other partners for the progress so far achieved and also for the President to have agreed to the lighting of one of the country’s iconic landmarks.
Ms Poirier gave an assurance that UNICEF would continue to partner governments and other key stakeholders, including children, to realise the rights of every child in the country, Africa and across the world.
The Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Mrs Cynthia Morrison, said the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the CRC was extra special for children in Ghana because it marked 40 years of the government machinery for child rights implementation in the country.
She said Ghanaians were proud to associate 30 years of CRC with such an iconic monument because the Black Star Gate represented the courage, blood and toil of the forefathers of a free country.
Mrs Morrison said the lighting of the monument also provided an opportunity for everyone to renew his or her “commitment towards the protection of all children and to ensure that all rights due them are fully implemented.”
Protect us from abuse
A 13-year-old pupil of the St Barnabas Anglican Basic School, Prince Addey Clark, said in spite of the adoption of the CRC and the passage of the Children's Act, 1998 (Act 560), there were still issues of inadequate access to food, safe drinking water, health and education.
He said children continued to be subjected to physical, emotional sexual abuse, corporal punishment, abandonment, abduction, intentional neglect and domestic exploitation, among others.
Therefore, he said, there was the need for more effort and commitment from stakeholders to protect children to enable them to grow up and realise their full potential.