Among the substantive issues facing many children and teenagers living in the Eastern Province, is parental neglect. However, teenagers in this context lie in the age bracket of 13 to 17 years old and their major challenge is teen pregnancy.
This has affected many underage girls because most parents are negligent when it comes to the role of sex education let alone the time to sit and talk to their children.
According to Gimu Shyingu, a child trainer in the district, children are entirely dependent upon the adults especially parents when it comes to recognising, respecting and understanding their rights.
“Children are uniquely vulnerable; they are that rare section of society, that do not possess a cognitive sense of their individual rights and entitlements,” he said, “
since parents have failed to champion this cause, children need to do it.”
Due to parents failure to protect their children, they are abused and in some cases by the parents themselves.
According to Shyingu, these children who are abused end up distressed and traumatised.
This is mostly compounded rather than relieved by the communities in which they live.
He further said that, “we should not be blinded by the perception that all children live a rosy, perfect and pious life but should look at the reality on the ground.”
Rwanda through the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion has started the Children’s Forum. These are well set up structures from grass root level.
However, they are not respected by many local leaders in the community and some teenagers have some serious concerns about this.
“We are not called for meetings where decisions are made on our behalf just because we are students. But we have brains to think, this is unfair,” said Francois Turikumana, 15, a leader of Children’s Forum in Muhazi Sector, Eastern Province.
“Unless, we end the mentality that Children rights are not derived from their status as members of a family, but comes naturally to them as individuals, they will continue to be abused,” Turikumana said.
This call has not gone unnoticed by many children, and even though adults upcountry are reluctant and slow to make noticeable steps, the children are not giving up.