By Raluca Besliu
The walls of the vodun convent in Anfoin, a small village in the West African country of Togo, were painted with images of vodun and Hindu divinities. The 80-year-old mamissi, the convent’s head priestess, waited in a chamber covered in photos of her predecessors and depicting various vodun gods, whose cult she carries. Hers is one of many vodun convents spread across Togo, Ghana and Benin, where the West African traditional religion is amply practiced.
Vodun is an African religion that first appeared at the end of the 16th century on the shores of the Mono river, which separates Togo and Benin. The religion revolves around the adoration of the god Mawu through intermediary divinities represented in earthly objects. Father Bruno Gilli, an Italian priest who has lived in Togo for more than 40 years, explained that vodun divinities are separated into three main categories — celestial, sea and earth — based on the part of the world that they are responsible for. The world’s happiness is dependent on their collaboration.
To preserve and perpetuate the religion, children, both girls and boys, are introduced to the mysteries of vodun at a young age. Lasting one year, the initiation takes place in the convents, where the children are trained in worshipping one or several deities. Most children must remain in the convent for four months, after which they can return to their families and finish the initiation from their homes.
By Amy Harmon and Alan Blinder
State lawmakers across the country are moving to raise the minimum age to marry, out of growing concern that lax marriage laws may be contributing to sex trafficking and to children being forced to marry against their will.
Delaware became the first state to ban marriage for anyone under age 18 when the governor signed the measure last week. In the other 49 states, current law allows minors to marry, generally with parental consent or judicial approval. At least 20 states have no minimum age set by statute.
But over the past two years, seven states have raised their minimum marriage age to 16 or 17, and at least seven more are considering legislation to tighten their rules.
By Frederic Byumvuhore
Rwanda Peace Academy, Save the Children, and Rwanda National Police, among other stakeholders, on Thursday discussed how to scale up training for officers deployed in peacekeeping missions, especially on the component of protection of children's rights.
This was during a one-day meeting in Kigali yesterday.
A 2017 report by Save the Children, titled, 'The war on children', shows that the number of children living in a conflict zone has increased by more than 75 per cent from the early 1990s when it was around 200 million, to more than 357 million children in 2016.
This, according to the report, implies that at least one in six children lives in a conflict and that 165 million of these children are affected by high intensity conflicts.
Children living in such conflict-impacted areas often lack access to school and health facilities, and are more exposed to violence.
Rwanda is one of the world's fourth largest troop contributor to United Nations peacekeeping missions.
The country deploys military, police and civilians to restore peace in several troubled parts of the world.
According to experts, the higher the number of peacekeepers a country deployed, the more efforts and investment is needed to enhance the capacity of outbound troops on how best to safeguard the rights of children before they embark on their mission.
There is an approved curriculum on children's rights that serves to build peacekeepers' capacity on how to protect the rights of children in areas of conflict.
Methode Ruzindana, the Director of Research Department at the Musanze-based Rwanda Peace Academy, said that as a country that has made significant progress in human rights protection, including children's rights, Rwanda can replicate its own experience in areas where it has peacekeepers.
According to Anthony Njoroge, the Regional Senior Programme Manager at Save the Children International, protection of children's rights during armed conflict should be an issue of concern to all and more efforts should be invested to address it.
"We have a standardised curriculum and training packages in the region to enable deployed peacekeepers play an effective role in rescuing the lives of children during the hard times of insecurity. People to be deployed should go through child protection courses, " Njoroge said.
He said that Somalia and South Soudan are some of the African countries where child abuses are common, while Boko Haram, a terrorist group that operates across several West African countries, is among the leading violators of children's rights.
Njoroge added that violent extremism is becoming a complicated issue because it also presents a dilemma for peacekeepers. "Children are being used by terrorists. These are serious cases which need utmost attention from peacekeepers," he said.
Published on All Africa on May 18, 2018
By Haley Britzky
Despite the U.S. spending nearly a billion dollars to better education in Afghanistan, girls are still falling behind.
The big picture: The newly released quarterly report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) reports that the USAID had "disbursed approximately $979 million for education programs in Afghanistan" as of April 18. But per SIGAR, the World Bank said "progress towards increasing equitable access to education, particularly for girls, was only 'moderately satisfactory.'"
How girls are faring
The Human Rights Watch reported in October that "the proportion of Afghan girls who are in school has never gone much above" 50%, despite the 2001 invasion being "partly framed" for helping Afghan women.
The bottom line:
"Make no mistake: Education in Afghanistan is much more equitable today than it was during the Taliban era, when girls were barred from going to school... Unfortunately, you still have a number of societal constraints, rooted more in the dominance of patriarchal views than in the decisions of the Taliban, that keep a number of girls from having access to education."
— Michael Kugelman, Deputy Director of the Wilson Center's Asia program
Published on Axios on May 6, 2018
The Convention on the Rights of the Child sets out the rights that must be realized for children to develop their full potential, free from hunger and want, neglect and abuse. It reflects a new vision of the child. Children are neither the property of their parents nor are they helpless objects of charity. They are human beings and are the subject of their own rights. The Convention offers a vision of the child as an individual and as a member of a family and community, with rights and responsibilities appropriate to his or her age and stage of development. By recognizing children's rights in this way, the Convention firmly sets the focus on the whole child.