Back in Africa.
I’m delighted to be here in the SOS Children’s Village Freetown, the capitol of Sierra Leone, on 16th June of all days as it is the official International Day of the African Child.
Since 1991, this day officially commemorates the student uprising that took place on 16th June 1976 in Soweto near Johannesburg. The South African government at that time was planning to introduce the language of the aristocratic white Boers which is Afrikaans as the official language of instructions in all schools around the country. Black students began protesting against this nationwide, targeting the racist education policy in general as well as the entire apartheid system in South Africa.
In Soweto, government forces violently beat down the demonstrating crowd of around 15,000 students. Nearly 600 people died and many children and young adults were arrested and were then interrogated and brutally tortured by the police.
Immediately after apartheid had come to an end in South Africa, this day became a symbol for commemorating the victims and the unbelievable courage that the students of 1976 had displayed on this day.
Whether as adults or as children, the international day of the african Child should remind us time and time again how important it is to raise our voices and fight for our rights.
Here in SOS-Children’s Village in Freetown we most certainly celebrated thoroughly this evening, as one should do, with music and lot of delicious food and drink.In addition to this, there are events, discussions and competitions in which the children can try out, compete and show off their abilities, opinions and talents.
And like the rest of Africa as well as many other parts of the world, this occasion is used to in particular talk about the courage, the possibilities and rights of the children on the international day of the african Child.
Mrs Labor, head of the SOS Children’s Village in Freetown, and her team assemble all of the kids for a festive get-together at the start of the day.
Mrs Labor then, in line with tradition, loudly, clearly and compassionately reads a long list of official children’s rights to everyone present that should be mandatory around the world.
Every single time when I witness a moment like this in one of our SOS Children’s Villages, it moves me deeply.
And I’m so fortunate to be able to experience and see how we’re supporting these young people to grow up to be confident and hopefully happy people. To grow up to be children loved by the increasingly stronger and proud “Mama Africa”.