‘Famo fights violate children’s rights’

‘Famo fights violate children’s rights’

Rose Moremoholo

MASERU

SOCIAL Development Minister Molahlehi Letlotlo says raging famo gang wars in Mafeteng have spewed more orphans and continue to violate the rights of thousands of children in the district.

In the past decade more than 100 famo gang members have been killed in what has become a vicious cycle of tit-for-tat murders.

Police seem to be failing to stop the killings that have earned Mafeteng the dubious reputation of being the murder capital of Lesotho.

Letlotlo told a press conference last week that children are the biggest victims of the wars. That is why the ministry has selected Mafeteng to host the Day of African Child commemoration on June 16, the minister said.

“This is because we are aware of many famo conflicts which have in different ways violated the rights of a child,” Letlotlo said.

“Conflicts in general centre on social, economic, political environments, cultural and religious factor”.

“Conflicts and crisis affect children psychologically especially if it results in deaths of parents and this calls for immediate action,” he said.

Last month famo gangsters threatened violence against school girls in Mafeteng because they were wearing yellow school uniform. Yellow is the colour of a blanket worn by one of the famo gangs at the centre of the wars.

“We heard that those students even have to take their uniforms in their bags to only wear them when they get to school and after school they take them off because of this harassment. This is a violation of children’s rights,” Letlotlo said, adding that the conflict has left children orphaned.

“They are terrorised for wearing their school attire, and this is totally unacceptable”.

The ministry’s reason to have the celebration in Mafeteng is to create awareness on the effects the famo fights have on children’s rights, Letlotlo said.

“The child’s first line of protection should be the family and as a result we have to ensure that every child enjoys the unique and privileged position in communities and that, for full and harmonious development of his or her personality, the child should grow up in an environment and atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding”.

The theme for this year’s celebration is: In Conflicts and Crisis Protect all Children’s Rights.

The Day of the African Child honours the memories of students who were massacred in Soweto, South Africa, in 1976 for protesting against education injustice and inequality under the Apartheid regime.

The ministry will also take advantage of the commemoration to highlight last year’s campaign to end child marriages.

Speaking about child marriage at the press conference, Director of Children’s Services ’Mantšenki Mphalane said the Ministry of Social Development together with the police, the Ministry of Health and other stakeholders have a committee to trace children who have been forced into marriages.

“We have committees set up in different districts. For example, in Qacha’s Nek we have a member of the public health sector in the Ministry of Health because we discovered that child mortality and maternal mortality are highly contributed by teenage mothering,” Mphalane said.

The campaign to end child marriages has been going on since last year.

“We started out in Thaba-Tseka and have been visiting other mountainous areas where child marriage is common,” she said.

Mphalane said the campaign targets teenage girls because some are driven into child marriage because of poverty and being orphans while the greater percentage is married by family and not by their choice.

“Concentration is on teaching children on the unlawful act of child marriage so that they know fully what they can do in case they face this challenge in life”.

“Some don’t choose willingly to get in marriage at a young age, they are forced into it because they see no other option of survival than to be married into a family that can provide for them and their siblings”.

“We want every child whose right of living looks blur(red) because of being an orphan or poverty to be reported to the ministry so that we evaluate their situation and give them help so that they cannot chose marriage over education and many other rights that are vital to their future,” she said.

10 Facts about the Day of African Child

  • It was designated as Day of the African Child in 1991 by the African Union and every year events are organised to promote children’s rights.
  • This year’s theme is: “In Conflicts and Crisis Protect all Children’s Rights”.
  • Thirty million of the world’s 57 million children out of school are in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • One in six children born in sub-Saharan Africa do not live to their fifth birthday – even though child mortality fell by 45 percent between 1990 and 2012.
  • A campaign to end child marriage across Africa was launched last May by the African Union. One in three girls in low and middle-income countries are married by the age of 18.
  • One of the aims of the Day of the African Child is to highlight harmful practices such as genital mutilation. Thirty million girls in Africa are in danger of undergoing FGM in the next decade.
  • The poorest children in sub-Saharan Africa are four and a half times more likely to be out of school than the richest children.
  • By the year 2050 almost one in three of the world’s children under 18 will be African.
  • The children of African women with at least five years of schooling have a 40 percent higher chance of survival.
  • There are wide variations in school enrolment between African countries – ranging from 37 percent for boys and 34 percent for girls in Eritrea to 98 percent for both boys and girls in Tanzania.
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