Every Child Every Right

November 20th marks the anniversary of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959 and the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989. Today marks 34 years since this groundbreaking milestone convention.

Universal rights of children and Children in Africa

The Convention on the Rights of the Child sets children’s rights to be protected against discrimination or punishment based on the status, activities, expressed opinions, or beliefs of the child’s parents, legal guardians, or family members. It declared that children’s best interests must always be the primary consideration when dealing with a child. The child has the right to life and development, name, identity, parents and nationality, and not to be separated from their parents. The children also have rights to freedom of expression, thought, religion and conscience, association, privacy and information.

Nonetheless, the children’s rights report card in Africa paints a bleak picture. According to estimates, 40% of child soldiers (40% of whom are girls) are in Africa. Furthermore, about 30 million children in Africa work and live on the streets. Almost half of children in Africa are not registered at birth; some even proceed to school without birth registrations. Moreover, nearly one-third (32%) of Africa’s female children get married before age 18. An estimated 90% of children with disabilities across Africa have not accessed any form of education in their lives, and half of the world’s out-of-school children are based on the continent. 20% of the total population of children in Africa are in child labour. Africa has the most significant numbers in child labour, while about 59 million children aged five to 17 years are involved in hazardous work, and one in five children are employed against their will in mines, farms and stone quarries.

World Children’s Day 2023 and the Sustainable Development Goals

World Children’s Day 2023 uniquely aligns with the SDGs to build an environment where every child can enjoy their rights and thrive. The SDGs aim for a world of peace and prosperity, while the day seeks to uphold children’s rights unconditionally. The 17 interlinked objectives serve as a “shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future.” That goal is gloomily drifting out of reach for children in Africa. Specific SDGs like Ending Poverty (Goal 1), Ending Hunger (Goal 2), Quality Education (Goal 4) and Reduced Inequalities (Goal 10) directly affect children and influence their present and future well-being with a significant effect on their enjoyment of their rights.

A bleak global economy, the haunting impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, war and the climate crisis hinder Africa’s efforts to achieve the SDGs. Armed conflicts, poor research efforts, corruption by the elite and harmful practices such as domestic violence, child marriages and genital mutilation are also worsening the plight of the continent’s children. Africa is struggling to meet most SDG targets. Without deliberate policies to accelerate progress towards the SDGs, by 2030, at least 492 million people will be left in extreme poverty and at least 350 million people by 2050. There will be 305 million African children – two in every five – who will be wallowing in extreme poverty by 2030, accounting for over half of all global poverty.

SDG 2: Ending Hunger

A deadly combination of factors within and without Africa has pushed millions of people, including vulnerable children, across Africa into an acute hunger crisis.

November 20th marks the anniversary of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959 and the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989. Today marks 34 years since this groundbreaking milestone convention.

Unfortunately, the WHO laments that undernutrition is associated with 45% of child deaths in Africa. Around 60 million children in Africa are food insecure. The UN Sustainable Development Goal 2 recognises the urgency to end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition for children as a foundational imperative for child wellbeing. Sadly, Africa is the continent with the most extensive arable land, but she is failing to feed herself and her children.

SDG 4: Quality Education

Africa has made slow progress in the provision of quality education for all. Despite considerable improvement in enrolment, some 288 million school-age children are not in school. Education infrastructure, especially for pre-primary and primary education, increased training of teachers, and digital connectivity are in dire need. Africa has the highest out-of-school rates and the highest rates of exclusion. Millions of children face social, discriminatory and financial barriers to accessing quality education – especially girls, children with disabilities, children from low-income households, and those living in areas affected by armed conflict.

Education, Children’s Rights and the SDGs

Education is the key to unlocking the rights of every child in Africa. Education not only makes children aware of their rights but also guarantees the enjoyment of those rights. Education helps them to rise above poverty. Children can access birth registrations, school feeding schemes, vaccinations, and secure future careers through education. Education changes the political, religious and economic lives of individuals and families. The child’s right to well-being and social participation can be actualised through education.


The Future Africa Research Leader Fellowship (FAR-LeaF) is a fellowship programme, focussed on developing transdisciplinary research and leadership skills, to address the complex, inter-linked challenges of health, well-being, and environmental risks in Africa.