Present Conditions of Children's Rights and what is expected of the religious people
What policies exist to support child survival and development?
What governing policies exist to ensure a fair and just government?
What do we need to do to bring about a just and fair government?
What space do children, women and men have in controlling and managing the affairs of their own states?
Your challenges are many, as you will now not just give fish, or teach how to fish, but ensure that there are fair and just rules of fishing.
Religious people must ask all these above questions in context of what is globally happening to deny children their rights. In this context, and for the purpose of this paper, I see three critical areas which could form the issue specific agenda for Africa and may be for South East Asia and many other parts of the world.
These are: -
1. HIV/AIDS and its effect on children
2. Conflict and Democracy and their effect on children
3. Poverty and its effects on children
1. HIV/AIDS AND ITS EFFECTS ON CHILDREN
In Africa, the social and economic devastation caused by HIV/AIDS in the last decade is greater than the combined destruction of the continent' s wars. An estimated 200, 000 Africans, most of them women and children had died as a result of conflicts since 1998 while 2 million people were killed by AIDS. The pandemic wipes out families, villages, professionals and age groups.
Any visitor to villages where AIDS has affected many people one finds a legacy of huts deserted, fields fallow, children stunned and orphaned. Equally haunted are the trauma and the long-term devastation. This combined by stigma, taboo and political silence on the deadly epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa promotes the spread like fire.
Most of the infected persons are women and children from the ages of 11 years. The social powerlessness of women and girls add to their vulnerability of being infected with HIV by their husbands and older men in case of girls.
One of the most outrageous dangers to children in Africa is their invisibility in the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Whatever information is collected is not desegregated to show how the disease affects children.
This makes it difficult to identify those whose rights are most at risk and need to be protected from further harm.
As HIV/AIDS, poverty and chronic insecurity in the horn of Africa add extra burden to the already depleted resources. The stress on limited social services is unbearable. Food production declines, because the farmers are sick. This leads to poorer nutrition and expose children to preventable illnesses.
One critical role the religious community could play, is raising awareness on the scourge of HIV/AIDS in all the religious gatherings. Targeting governments to ensure they have policies which allow for flow of information on how children and especially girls can protect themselves.
Child sexual exploitation, early marriage and genital mutilation could be looked at in relation to the spread of HIV/AIDS among children.