The Day of the African Child (DAC) is commemorated every year on the 16th of June in memory of the 16th June 1976 student uprising in Soweto, South Africa, during which students who marched in protest against the poor quality of education were massacred by the then apartheid regime in place in South Africa.
This year the day is being commemorated under the theme “Leave No Child Behind for Africa’s Development.” The theme is centred on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Children account for half of Africa’s population, so it is essential that they must be prioritised, empowered and given opportunities to participate in social and economic development, politics, sports amongst other activities.
As we celebrate the Day of the African Child, here is our selection of 10 young adults and children doing remarkable work across the continent.
1. Saidy Brown: A 22 year-old South African HIV positive activist using social media to publicize her HIV positive status to change perceptions on HIV. Internet users around the world are applauding her bold step to fight HIV stigma in a country with a HIV prevalence rate.
Saidy Brown was born with the virus, which claimed her parents, and left her an orphan. In her early teenage years she learnt that she was born with the virus.
“My life has changed in a way that now a lot of people are very familiar with who I am and about my story. I call myself an HIVictor because I am not a victim, I have defeated HIV, and I live to help other people feel the same way about themselves,” she says.
2. Marylove Edwards (13) is Nigeria’s young tennis champion focused on emulating the great Serena Williams. Although many have started referring to her as the “Nigerian Serena”, the 13 year-old who is currently at the prestigious IMG Academy, in the U.S. says “I love Serena, I love her style, I love the way she plays. But I’d love to be myself, just Marylove Edwards.”
3. Isaac Dogboe (23), Ghana’s youngest boxer to win a WBO title. Dogboe has become a source of pride for Ghanaian boxing. The 23 year old is the current World Boxing Organization (WBO) super bantamweight champion.
4. Stacey Fru (11), is Africa’s youngest award winning author. At seven years old, Stacey was South Africa’s youngest author. She had written a book Smelly Cats which was launched at the University of Witwatersrand. Stacey is a presenter at the Children Television South Africa (CTVSA) a station that educates and entertains children. The young wordsmith was named by the Mail & Guardian as part of the top 200 influential young South Africans in 2017.
5. Tanya Muzinda, Zimbabwe’s 12-year-old female motocross rider. Tanyaradzwa started racing at the age of five and is the first female to have won a motocross championship in Zimbabwe since it was started in 1957. She finished second in the 2012 championship season. She is the reigning local Junior Sportswoman of the Year, and last year she won two bronze medals at two major motocross events in England in May and September.
“Most people think that you can’t do it because it is only a sport for boys and I am a girl, but I want to show them that you can do anything,” she says.
6. Michelle Nkamankeng is a 10 year-old South African author, from Johannesburg, who has made history by becoming the youngest author in South Africa and also by being in the top 10 of the world’s youngest authors.
Her first book titled Waiting for the Waves published by LANSM Publishing Ltd, is the first part of a four book series.
“My dream is to inspire young children to believe in themselves,” she says.
7. Leroy Mwasaru is just 20, but the young Kenyan innovator has already made great achievements, recently named on the Forbes Africa 30 under 30 list in the Business category. Leroy founded Greenpact just after completing high school, and now looks forward to playing a huge role in the renewable energy sector in Kenya.
Commenting on being named on the Forbes Africa list, Mwasaru wrote on Twitter, “Humbled and honored to grace this year’s class of #ForbesAfricaunder30 in the Business category for the work we do with parent company, @Greenpactke. Also as the youngest honoree at 20. The journey continues”.
8. Bogolo J Kenewendo 30 year-old recently appointed Botswana’s new Investment, Trade and Industry Minister. Kenewendo first joined parliament in 2016 as an MP becoming the country’s youngest MP. Kenewendo is a trained trade and economic diplomacy professional.
“My path has kept changing as my life changes and as I see new opportunities, but the consistent undertone is my desire to impact development through policy in one office or the other. I am passionate about youth and women empowerment. There is so much more we can accomplish by ensuring that we invest in these resources. There is also a need for economic development, especially through private sector growth,” she says.
9. Mohamed Mbougar Sarr (28) is a young Senegalese writer who is making huge strides in the francophone literary world. Earlier this year he was awarded the French Voices Awards for his debut novel Terre Ceinte (Earth Girdle).
Mbougar is the youngest winner of the 2018 World Literature Prize. The Senegalese writer was awarded the prize for his book Silence of the Heart which was published by Présence Africaine.
10. Naomi Ruele (21) Botswana’s First Olympic Swimmer. At 19 she was named the Junior Female Sportsperson of the Year by the Botswana National Sports Council, a remarkable achievement. Ruele has competed in a number of junior competitions, winning numerous medals along the way.