Today, the African Union is holding the African Girls Pre-Summit, prior to the 3rd African Girls Summit scheduled to take place later in the year. This event has as its theme “Empowering and Mobilizing – The Cultural Role of Youth to End Harmful Practices”.
Every year, African Union Heads of State and Government come together to discuss issues affecting the continent, and the progress made towards commitments and activities over the previous year. In line with goals and aspirations that envisage an Africa with a strong cultural identity, common heritage, and shared values and ethics, the AU Heads of State and Government have declared this year as “The AU Year of the Arts, Culture and Heritage”. The overall objective of the African Girls Pre-Summit is to assess the important roles, both positive and negative, that culture plays in society, and how the positive effects can be used to empower young people in Africa.
Child Helpline International is honoured to have been invited to attend the Pre-Summit as a special guest, and our Executive Director Patrick Krens will make a keynote address, officially launching our new collaboration with the African Union Department of Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development, UNICEF Eastern and Southern Africa and the UNICEF African Union Liaison Office. This partnership is of great importance for our child helpline members across Africa, and for the children and young people who turn to them for help, comfort, support and protection. Recognising our mutual aims to promote and protect children’s rights across the AU Member States, we are coming together to strengthen child protection systems across the continent and working towards further reducing the social risks and vulnerabilities that children and young people in Africa are facing, especially in the response to harmful practices such as early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM).
Our key commitments are:
- Expanding the existing African harmonized 116 child helpline number, currently operational in 22 African countries to the Pan-African level.
- Creating a continental platform for knowledge exchange and working with international and regional partners: the International Telecommunications Union (ITU); the African Union (AU) and the African Committee of Experts on the Rights of the Child and Welfare of the Child.
- Mobilizing government support in strengthening existing child helplines, and in creating child helplines in those states where such services do not exist.
This is an incredible step forward in Africa, and a great testament to the good standing of Child Helpline International’s work and the role that child helplines play in the region.