4.1 CHILDRENS RIGHTS
In line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the
Child passed in 1990, the Ugandan Parliament passed a law in 1995 known as the
Childrens Statute. Its provisions are as follows:
Rights of the Child in Uganda
1. A child in Uganda should have the same rights,
irrespective of sex, religion, custom, rural or urban background, nationality,
tribe, race, marital status of parents or opinion.
2. The right to grow up in a peaceful, caring and secure
environment, and to have the basic necessities of life, including food, health
care, clothing and shelter.
3. The right to a name and a nationality.
4. The rights to know who are his or her parents and to enjoy
family life with them and/or their extended family. Where a child has no family
or is unable to live with them, he or she should have the right to be given the
best substitute care available
5. The right to have his or her best interests given priority
in any decisions made concerning the child.
6. The right to express an opinion and to be listened to,
and, to be consulted in accordance with his or her understanding in decisions
which affect his or her well being.
7. The right to have his or her health protected through
immunisation and appropriate health care, and to be taught how to defend
himself/herself against illness. When ill, a child should have to right to
receive proper medical care.
8. A child with disability should have the right to be
treated with the same dignity as other children and to be given special care,
education and training where necessary so as to develop his or her potential and
9. The right to refuse to be subjected to harmful initiation
rites and other harmful social and customary practices, and to be protected from
those customary practices which are prejudicial to a childs health.
10. The right to be treated fairly and humanely within the
11. The right to be protected from all forms of abuse and
12. The right to basic education.
13. The right to leisure which is not morally harmful, to
play and to participate in sports and positive cultural and artistic
14. The right not to be employed or engaged in activities
that harm his or her health, education, mental physical or moral
15. A child, if a victim of armed conflict, a refugee, or in
a situation of danger or extreme vulnerability, should have the right to be
among the first to receive help and protection.
Who is a Child? A Child in Uganda should be defined as a person
under the age of 18 years.
From the above, childrens rights can be divided into four
(i) Survival Rights (such as food, clothing and
(ii) Development Rights (such as the right to education).
Protection Rights (from exploitation, abuse, harmful initiation rights,
(iv) Participation Rights (including the right to speak and
be heard, to meet one another etc).
In the context of life skills (iii) and (iv) are the most
important. Children need to know their rights and how to use life skills to keep
those rights. The participation rights are the most controversial as many elders
inmost communities do not accept automatically that children have the right to
speak in front of, or disagree with, adults.
In the study of the Rights of the Child at the
Village Level (Kakama, 1993), the participants agreed it was a good idea to
listen and to consult children in decisions affecting them. It was however
expressed that most people in the community do not respect the views of the
child. Their time has not come, according to one key informant. In
one area of the country where the study was carried out it was expressed that
childrens views could be sought but the decision remains with the parents.
The children said they are neither listened to or consulted and yet they felt
they should contribute to decision making on matters concerning them (Republic
of Uganda, 1995)
However, society is changing, and when it becomes clear that
childrens participation does not lead to insubordination, and that the
children actually participate more fully and more meaningfully if given the
chance, communities (and teachers) can accept. Without the participation rights
being discussed and negotiated, it is difficult to develop life skills such as
self esteem and assertiveness.
In addition, there is always a need to insist on childrens
rights within a life skills programme since knowing and asserting your rights
successfully is an important part of self esteem and development. In addition,
many vulnerable groups, such as orphans, street children, children with
disabilities etc and girl children in general can be deprived of their basic
rights, even to education and health.
In the pretest, participants commented that life skills and
childrens rights go hand in hand.
· In knowing and
understanding their rights, the children will increase and develop their self
awareness and self esteem
· Life skills training, based on
discussion of real life situations will help the children to discover how to
assert themselves and their rights in acceptable ways
· Both life skills and
childrens rights are interpreted within the cultural context of
At the same time, it is worthwhile observing that the
Childrens Statute emphasises both rights and responsibilities.
Responsibilities of the Child in Uganda
A child in Uganda shall first of all have responsibilities
towards his or her Family, Society, Country and then the International
A child shall, according to his or her age, ability and rights,
have the duty:
· to work for the
cohesion of the family, to respect his or her parents, elders and other children
and to assist them;
· to use his or her abilities
for the benefit of the community;
· to preserve and strengthen
cultural values in his or her relations with other members of the society, in
the spirit of tolerance, dialogue, consultation and to contribute to the moral
well being of the society.
· to preserve and strengthen the
independence, national unity and the integrity of his or her
This is in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child
which talks of the responsibility of parents and guardians for ensuring that
their children are brought up in accordance with acceptable cultural norms. Thus
childrens rights do not mean the freedom to do whatever they want without
parental guidance or correction. What is needed is to find the correct balance
between adult guidance and childrens growing