Media and the Rights of the Child in Africa: The Context and the Future Pathways

Media and the Rights of the Child in Africa: The Context and the Future Pathways

Olusola Samuel Oyero (Covenant University, Nigeria)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0329-4.ch001
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The journey to realising the rights of the child could be traced back to almost a century ago with the Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1924. But the most significant and most impactful event for children took place 30 years ago with the declaration of the United Nations: the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in 1989. It is this convention that has recognised and specified the important role that the media can play in supporting the rights of the child. This chapter thus tries to place media role in child rights promotion and protection with an historical context for the purpose of knowledge flow on the subject. It further discusses the theoretical basis for media intervention in child rights issues while at the same time it attempts to assess how the media has performed in the task assigned to it in the UNCRC. It offers some suggestions on better media performance to galvanise the effort at realising child rights for sustainable development.
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Historical Antecedents To Child Rights

In order to comprehend and appreciate the efforts that have gone into child rights preservation and promotiom, it is important to place it in a historical context. Appreciation of the overall connection between instruments concerning human rights and international organisations that regulate the special position of children over time are thus presented. According to Mahkonen (n. d.), the situation, in terms of years, is as follows:

  • 1.

    = Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child (1924 GDR)

  • 2.

    = Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948 UDHR)

  • 3.

    = Declaration of the Rights of the Child (1959 DRC)

  • 4.

    = Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989 CRC)

Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child 1924

The League of Nations (1919 - 1946) was an international organisation founded by the countries that were victorious in the First World War. Its most basic purpose was to guarantee lasting peace, and the organisation's objective was to resolve disputes by peaceful means, by the use of specific sanctions, reducing armaments and disarmament (Mahkonen, n.d.).

One of the primary targets of the League of Nations was to secure the rights of women and the special rights of children who had been orphaned by the hostilities of World War I. After several phases, a declaration of explicit children's rights was published in Geneva, Switzerland on the 26th of September 1924. Utmost recognition in this declaration was given to children who did not enjoy the protection of a traditional family. The introduction to the 1924 declaration stated: “By the present Declaration of the Rights of the Child men and women of all nations, recognizing that mankind owes to the child the best it has to give.” The declaration contained five articles which were given the title of principles. These principles are as follows:

Principle 1

The child must be given the means requisite for its normal development, both materially and spiritually.

Principle 2

The child that is hungry must be fed; the child that is sick must be nursed; the child that is backward must be helped; the delinquent child must be reclaimed; and the orphan and the waif must be sheltered and succoured.

Principle 3

The child must be the first to receive relief in times of distress.

Principle 4

The child must be put in a position to earn a livelihood, and must be protected against every form of exploitation.

Principle 5

The child must be brought up in the consciousness that its talents must be devoted to the service of fellow men.

At the time of this declaration, these principles were not only modern, they were wide in scope. From today's perspective, however, a specific reservation in terms of coverage is appropriate. Mahkonen (n.d.) notes that 'Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child (GDRC) places children in a lower category than adults. This can be seen in Principle 5. It is also not an accident that while adults are referred to as “he” or “she”, children are referred to as “it” '(p.14). It is however appropriate to point out that the GDRC was the first international instrument related to children's' rights. This is its value and significance.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Media: A broad term used to describe various channels of communication, including the traditional and digital communication platforms.

Child Rights Act: Adapted by Nigeria in 2003 through an Act of Parliament, it serves as a legal documentation that ensures the protection of children in Nigeria.

Sustainable Development: It is development that meets the needs and aspirations of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Thus, sustainable development is the organizing principle for sustaining finite resources necessary to provide for the needs of future generations of life on the planet.

Childhood: The phase of life that covers infancy and adolescence, and when one still requires care and protection by others.

Child Protection: To shield a minor from any form of danger, including harassment, violence and neglect, especially as guaranteed by Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), otherwise known as the Global Goals, are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

UNICEF: United Nations Children's Fund.

Convention on the Rights of a Child (CRC): A United Nation's human rights treaty that seeks to uphold and protect the rights of a child (defined as any person under the age of 18). The treaty came into force on the 2nd of September 1990. Currently, 196 countries, compromising all members of the UN are parties, with the exception of the United States of America.

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