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Child protection is everyone’s responsibility

By Prim K. Tumuramye

OPINION | I looked at the child, tears flowing from her face, anguish written all over her face, without her saying a word you could literally feel the pain she was going through. Her story was heart rending. The man she had grown up knowing as her father was actually not her biological father. The disagreements between her mother and father had consequently degenerated into a quest for a DNA test, as the final stroke of the cane in the divorce journey. As though this was not painful enough, local media was there to cover the results of this test. As the mother told off the father that their daughter was not actually a product of their union, TV cameras were right there, as though to shoot a movie scene. The man stood there, as though paralyzed by the DNA results. Caught in the mix, the girl stood emotionless with visible pain written all over her. The sight of her hugging the father she had known for eight years is a painful memory anyone would want to relive.

This little girl’s story made it to our screens to show the pain children are subjected too. Maybe she was even lucky that her emotional torture was covered by the media. There are so many untold stories of children suffering abuse, sadly by the people meant to protect them. The irony is that most people think that child protection is someone else’s job. We are quick to suggest that the police or probation officer will do the job. The worse category is those that think that giving birth to a child or taking care of one gives them power to abuse the child in every way they may deem appropriate. How wrong they are!

Society continues to grapple with ills accruing from broken childhoods. The escalating numbers of children resorting to the streets, teenager pregnancies and drug abuse are a result of children looking for alternative sources of love. The ‘I don’t care attitude’ about what happens in the life of that child in the neighbor is like hiding our heads in the sand. The uncared for child in the neighborhood will most likely be the same disoriented adult that will give you sleepless nights in future. The analogy of the poor failing to sleep because of hunger and the rich failing to sleep because the poor are awake becomes a nasty reality.

Whose responsibility is it then to protect children?  It is everyone’s role to endeavor that all children within their reach are protected. This goes beyond the confines of our roofs and the perimeter walls around our homes. Everyone can do something to mitigate the pain in the lives of children. If only we would all purpose to keep our antennas up, it would be easy to create a safe environment for children everywhere. Why would one keep a blind eye when children are being exposed to danger in the name of trying to live at peace with everyone? It is high time we all stood out to be counted in the quest for child protection. This goes across all institutions, including the media that makes known to us issues of child abuse. It is paramount that the media reports responsibly about issues concerning the minors, protecting their identities even as they candidly report about their plight.

For so long the issue of child protection has been abandoned to Non-Governmental Organizations and charity institutions, its high time we all responded to  that call. Children are the future of any nation, their protection should be a major priority for everyone.

The writer is the Public Relations Specialist at Compassion International – Uganda

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