Divin Harerimana (not real name) is a 15 year-old street kid who spends most of his time on Kabeza and Kimironko streets in Kigali where he has spent nearly three years, trying to make a living.
He neither goes to school nor have a safe place to sleep. Yet he has a right to good education, right to protection and a right to good health.
Harerimana is a true example of the many children whose rights are usually not respected and their issues are not talked about in the mainstream media, which keeps society in the dark regarding these challenges.
To be able to bring the attention of the media to these issues, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Rwanda in partnership with the National Commission for Children and Media High Commission last week launched a Child Rights Media Module, a guide to ethical reporting and communicating of children’s rights and issues in Rwanda.
The launch took place during a week-long training of journalists, lecturers and editors held in Musanze District in the Northern Province, mainly aimed at facilitating them on the use of the module in their daily activities.
The module is a review of the current policies on child rights, provides a guide on developing effective stories on children and topics that depict the status of child rights coverage.
According to Siddartha Shrestha, the chief of communication, advocacy and partnerships at UNICEF Rwanda, the idea is to raise awareness on the rights and prevalent issues that children face on a daily basis to the press.
“Children are the future of any nation and effective reporting about them would increase and maintain children being at the heart of the development agenda. We plan to train more journalists and journalism students to ensure that child rights promotion and advocacy is adequately and effectively featured in the present and future media environment,” he said.
Shrestha added that the training of both private and public university lecturers as well as media practitioners, reaffirms the commitment to advocate for children’s rights.
On the other hand, Theophile Harushyamagara, one of the participants, said there’s a whole lot of things that are normally taken for granted yet they might have an impact on children in the long-term.
“Within the media module, I discovered many children’s rights that I didn’t know existed, and I was unaware of their implication on children’s development. These are the things that we sometimes ignore yet we are supposed to be communicating them as the media,” he said.
Dr Margaret Jjuuko, the lead trainer, noted that nowadays the media is heavily commercialised and as such place little focus on issues affecting children.
“The media is placing more focus on what brings in the money and they ignore the issues that affect children. There’s a need to devise more ways through which the media can be encouraged to report about the children’s rights and issues as ignoring them may have bigger impact on the society. This module is a step in the right direction,” she said.
The module highlights the legal and policy provisions on the rights of children, the current state of media reporting of children’s rights and issues, ethical principles and obligations of child rights coverage, and the critical role that media can play to advance the rights of children.
Social media dangers and media role
As the world rapidly becomes more digitised, children are more exposed to the dangers of social media where content is easily circulated without any control. This, according to some participants, may easily violate children’s rights.
Albertine Uwimana, the partnerships officer at UNICEF, said it is the media to take up the role in sensitising people about the dangers of the new media like WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, Blogs and Instagram, among others.
“I still believe the media can take a leading role in sensitising schools, teachers and head teachers in monitoring what children tend to spend time on, especially with the rising consumption of technology. This can be done through different programmes that they have,” she said.
The participants committed to continue setting the agenda for child rights coverage as well as play an advocacy role.