We African Teenage Girls Continue to SPEAK OUR TRUTHS – are you LISTENING? when will you ACT?

Dear Presidents,

Greetings from African teenage girls, in all our diversities!

Imagine a space full of vibrant, powerful and thought-provoking conversations among fierce African feminist teenage girls. This was the case on 15th June 2020 when we 60+ African teenage girls from Angola, Mozambique, Zambia, Algeria, Cameroon, Mali, Nigeria, South Africa, Chad, Benin, Senegal, Zimbabwe, Gambia, Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda, DRC, Botswana, Liberia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania convened a webinar ahead of the Day the African Child (DAC). For us the DAC is a sad day and yet still a brave day. Today, the world is on the streets protesting racism, discrimination and police brutality. This is similar to the protests 44 years ago by students in Soweto. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the abuse and violations of the rights of children, especially for us teenage girls. These include rape, teenage pregnancies, cyber-bullying, denial of freedom of expression, gross miscarriage of justice due to corrupt and patriarchal African State’s judicial systems and unreported cases of Gender Based Violence (GBV). For instance, women and girls are being killed in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique due to the violent conflict going on. Girls are being kidnapped and raped in that region.

Our URGENT Clarion Call to Action

Dear Presidents, as our African proverb reminds us, “it is the one who lives in the house who knows where the roof leaks”. We as African teenage girls know where the “roof in our lives is leaking” – it is in the justice systems and institutions that are not child-friendly.

We hereby share with you our key priorities and actions that are fundamental for a child-friendly justice system in all countries in Africa.

1. All justice systems and institutions in African countries must be child-friendly and transparent. All decisions and policies must be followed through by consistent and actual implementation at the local and national levels.

2. Children do not belong in prison! All governments must establish children’s courts and expedite access to justice for all girls and boys! Justice Delayed is Justice Denied!

3. African Governments must demonstrate political will to finance child-friendly justice systems and infrastructure. Governments must also be intentional in fighting corruption at all levels including in the judiciary.

4. Provision of psychosocial support for the survivors of violation of human rights alongside access to justice while upholding confidentiality.

5. Child-friendly justice systems must be accessible to all teenage girls regardless of demographic and geographical settings (e.g. rural or urban areas, informal settlements, refugee camps etc).

6. Teenage girls are calling on all governments to adopt a feminist approach to dismantle patriarchy in justice systems.

7. All official UN, AU and Government documents and policies must be revised to read Child Abuse or Child Violation NOT child marriage! Marriage as we know it in our societies is a between consenting adults not children!

8. Child-friendly justice systems are underpinned by access to information in child-friendly languages. All policy documents and resources should be KISS (Keep It Short and Simple).

9. Governments must put structures and measures to ensure there are more women represented in justice systems in all African countries.

10. Governments, CSOs, and other development actors must make every effort to ensure teenage girls meaningfully access national, regional and global platforms to exercise their power, agency and rights.

11. Governments must ensure the judicial systems and institutions apply a human-rights based approach that is inclusive and dignified especially in all COVID-19 response and recovery plans including supporting women’s human rights defenders and training the law enforcement agencies on human rights.

As African feminist teenage girls, we affirm the words of the African Union Goodwill Ambassador on Child Abuse, Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda“girls have rights that must be protected and accessible to all. The police and courts should be friendly and treat girls who have reported cases of violations as survivors not perpetrators”.

Dear Presidents, we as African teenage girls continue to speak our truths – are you listening and when will you ACT!

 Please accept the assurances of our highest regards,

African Teenage Girls

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