I have a story for you that I am sure you will find moving. It’s a sad story about a friend of mine who lives in my neighbourhood.
Juliette is 15 years old. She lives in my neighbourhood in Kabalo, a city in Tanganyika province in the south-east part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). We often collect water together and one day, Juliette told me she had to sleep outside because she was late getting home. “My mother threw me out of the house, so I went to sleep at the market”, recalled Juliette, who was almost raped that night. “My mother also won’t let me go to school”, said Juliette.
According to tradition, children must blindly obey their parents. There is very little dialogue or discussion: a girl is meant to stay at home and look after the family. This is normal for us: parents can withhold food, education and protection without a problem.
Children are all entitled to the same rights
It makes Juliette sad to see her friends go to school while she has to stay at home. No child should be deprived of food, education and protection and be put in danger’s way. According to Article 19 of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, children should be protected from “all forms of ill-treatment”. Yet, there are many children like Juliette in Kabalo, but no one is doing anything. It’s up to the government to set up programmes to protect and assist children.
I am angry at all the parents who abuse their children, like Juliette’s parents. The population and parents need to be educated about the rights of children. We need to do something to put an end to the abuse which is affecting the future of our generation.
Kindly translated from French by Marguerite McMillan