By: MERCY ADOMAA BESSEAH, NPC – ASHANTI REGION
International Children’s Day is a momentous occasion dedicated to celebrating the rights and well-being of children globally.
The theme for this year is: ‘Every Child, Every Right’. This theme encapsulates the universal commitment to ensuring that every child, regardless of their background, enjoys the fundamental rights which are essential for their growth, development and well-being. However, the opposite is often true for children with special needs.
Children with special needs encompass a wide range of young people and they are identified separately due to their special needs. They can be married or unmarried, sexually active or inactive, residents of rural or urban areas, as well as young people in peculiar circumstances such as those involved in commercial sex work, homeless, persons with disability, young parents, persons living with HIV / AIDS, marginalised groups and female head porters and other young survivors of any form of abuse. (NPP, 2017)
These children face daily discrimination in the form of negative attitudes, and lack of adequate policies and legislation, they are effectively barred from realizing their rights to health, education and even survival. They are often likely to be among the poorest members of the population and are less likely to attend school, access medical services, or have their voices heard in society.
Discrimination against and exclusion of such children put them at a higher risk of physical and emotional abuse or other forms of neglect, violence and exploitation.
They also contribute to the rich tapestry of human diversity, and this day serves as a reminder to celebrate their uniqueness, abilities and potential.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNICEF, 1989) and other Conventions that are children-centred explicitly state the rights of children irrespective of their backgrounds.
These Conventions focus on the disparities faced by children with special needs and call for improvements in their access to services and in their participation in all aspects of life.
In order to achieve these goals, there is a need for a collaborative approach involving governments, communities and organizations to address the challenges of stigma, discrimination and inadequate support systems. This will help in fostering a society where every child is valued and included.
In addition, there is a need to amplify advocacy efforts for these children. Advocacy initiatives play a crucial role in dispelling stereotypes and creating a more supportive environment that recognizes and values the unique abilities of each child.
This day prompts us to address the issue of accessibility which is a fundamental aspect of ensuring that children with special needs can actively participate in society. Whether it is access to physical infrastructure, public places, transportation, or digital platforms must be designed to accommodate their needs thereby promoting independence and inclusivity.
Also, this day is a time to celebrate their achievements and contributions, from artistic talents to academic accomplishments, or personal milestones. These children showcase their talents and capabilities. Recognizing and applauding their achievements helps break down societal barriers and underscores the importance of creating opportunities for every child to express their full potential.
As we celebrate International Children’s Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to creating a world where every child, including children with special needs, is embraced, empowered and afforded the opportunity to reach their full potential without limitations. By recognizing their rights, addressing challenges, and promoting inclusivity, we contribute to a more equitable and compassionate society- one that truly honours the principle that every child regardless of ability, deserves the opportunity to grow, learn and flourish.