Children are a part of our lives. In one way or another we all have attachments to children. If you are not a parent, you have children in your neighbourhood, you have siblings, relatives and we meet children everyday in our lives. We were also all children before we grew into adults.
Young people make up to more than half of Uganda’s population and it is time to prioritise, listen and guide this young population if we need a better generation.
The international children day of broadcasting is here, and we are asking, where are the children voices especially at such a time when the world is going through a tough time battling COVID 19.
Although Uganda has nearly 300 licensed radio stations and 30 TV stations serving an estimated population of 34.6 million people majority of whom are below 18 years, little attention is directed to issues of children and we continue to see limited meaningful child participation.
The media is a mirror of what happens in society and that means that even in the communities where we stay or schools where children spend most of the time, there is limited opportunity to speak out.
The media has made tremendous change in having children programs on both radio and Television and we see young people taking part but how do we spread to have children even speaking out on pertinent issues?
As the children speak out, how do we protect them, how do we provide platforms for them to create their content? There are all questions that can only be answered if we acknowledge the gaps and agree on how best to cover them.
Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child recognises that children have a right to be heard. The application of this right has been broadly conceptualised as ‘participation.’
We know that children have participated in many things at school and community level however their involvement in decision making and matters that affect them has been minimal.
This also translates into the limited content on children in the media. Children have only been given the opportunity to speak through arts and this is evident when you watch the Television shows or radio shows where children are featured.
This is not bad at all and a good start, but it is also time for children to be given the opportunity to speak on all matters that concern them. Issues to do with their welfare, education, health, among others.
As we all grapple with the effects of the COVID 19 pandemic, we need to think about the children and have their voices out in the media for wider sharing.
We have children stuck in homes for the longest time ever, with the phased reopening of schools and the pressure to catch up, are we listening to the children, are we allowing them to speak from home and school? Have we paid attention to both the boys and girls who won’t be returning to school? How is this affecting them?
The day is an opportunity for us to cast a torch unto the work we do as journalists, as parents, caretakers, policy makers, and government in general to encourage child participation in all that we do and decision we take because the effects are on them.
This is very crucial because it will translate into better policies on children and better conditions for our children.
Let us give children an opportunity to participate not only where we want them to but also in key matters that touch their lives.
As the media, this is an opportunity to amplify voices of children and young people in general. To the children, lets shy away from speak out but rather seek for safeguards so we are protected as we speak.