Olga Mugisa, 11-years-old, takes to the microphone in front of her peers, the Ugandan flag proudly draped behind her and green plants framing the stage. She has an important message to share with her fellow students: “If you cut one, plant two.”
Every day, 14-year-old Deborah wakes up in an orphanage, goes to school, and comes home to an orphanage. It does not matter when or for how long she leaves the orphanage, she always knows she’ll be back.
Just 17 years old, Clarisse is already a mother of two, who lives with her husband and his four other wives in rural southern Chad. Three years earlier, she had watched her mom and sisters preparing food for a party one day. At first she celebrated along with everyone else, not realising it was her own wedding ceremony. When she discovered this, she was frantic.
Zainab Abubakar saves children’s lives. A few years ago she was just an ordinary woman with no medical training living in rural Kpilo in Ghana’s Northern Region.
Silence is golden, it is said. But not for Constance Nansamba* from Uganda, who paid a dear price for keeping silent about being HIV positive and pregnant at age 18.
Three years ago, Robert Ngwenya* and his father got into a heated argument over medication. Ngwenya, then aged 15, refused to continue swallowing the nausea-provoking pills he had been taking since he was 12 years old, and flushed them down the toilet.
As African and European leaders meet in Brussels this week under the theme of “Investing in People, Prosperity and Peace", it is clear Africa’s greatest natural resource, its children, must be centre stage.
She is only 17, but each morning is a reminder of her losses in life. As Pretty Nyathi* forces herself out of bed, feeds her baby, bundles him on her back and rushes to the market to buy vegetables to sell on the streets of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe she wishes her life were different.
Seventeen-year-old Natalie Mlambo* has two good reasons to get tested for HIV. She has two boyfriends and has unprotected sex with them. One is a high school classmate. The other is older, works in a bank, and can afford to give Mlambo small gifts and some money.
Mary K. loved to study and wanted to be an accountant. However, when she was 16 and in class six (grade eight), her father forced her to leave school to marry a 50-year-old man who paid him 60 cows.
Stricter laws could curb the rising trend of child abuse in Sri Lanka, experts say. However, recommendations like witness protection, special courts and procedures to hear abuse cases and more legal assistance to victims are unlikely to be included in a new draft Child Protection Policy that is to be presented to parliament before the end of the year.
Mukhatar Jama has been teaching at a secondary school in Mogadishu for the past decade. Religious education is part and parcel of the curriculum of all schools in Somalia, but he says most parents are unaware of exactly what their children are being taught – a radical form of Islam.
In Uttarakhand, the small Indian state in the Himalayan foothills that was a victim of flash floods that killed at least a thousand people in June this year and uprooted thousands of families, the story is told of a child who went every day to the helipad, believing his father will return when, in fact, the father died in the floods.
Somalia is well-known for being a country torn apart by decades of conflict, by hunger and instability. Today, with fragile stability emerging and a new government in place, there is an opportunity to define a new future of peace, prosperity and justice.
“I miss my mother and cry every night,” eight-year-old Afaq Ali tells IPS. He is a Class 5 student at the University Public School in Peshawar, capital of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and the administrative centre for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to its west.