By Charity Amoit (Guest Youth Voice),

Law student, Makerere University

Being naturally vulnerable and easily impressionable, a child requires all the protection and enforcement of all rights entitled to them as a human and as a child. This duty is placed on the parents and the state, and is a principle anchored in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, (1948) and other related human rights instruments.

On 16th June, Uganda joined the rest of the world to commemorate the Day of the Child under the theme, “Humanitarian Action in Uganda, Children’s Rights First.” While it is important to celebrate such a day, we equally need to use such moments to reflect on the rampant child rights violations evidenced through child labour and the recent forced eviction of the children from the streets of Kampala, amongst others.

The entertainment industry has world over attracted children, evident from the gradual increase in the number of child stars emerging on to the scene over the years. For the Ugandan entertainment scene, we’ve seen Ssenyonjo Patrick alias Fresh Kid, a 7-year-old rapper rise to fame at a tender age because of his talent which has  continuously sparked a debate about whether it’s safe for minors to join mainstream entertainment industry which not only exposes them to illicit behaviors like  early drug use, and the use of inappropriate language, but also  long work hours unfavorable for children.

This exposure necessitates strict supervision and management by the talent manager in cooperation with the parents to avoid the adaptation of these behaviors. Lack of this crucial component, leaves a child vulnerable to a number of pitfalls that ultimately interferes with the enjoyment of their rights as a child.

Fresh kid isn’t the first child star as previously Gloria Murungi Senyonjo alias Baby Gloria graced the industry with her talent at only 3 years old. An analysis of how this previous child stars was managed is key in addressing the issue of exploitation manifesting itself in the subtlest of ways. Baby Gloria unlike Fresh Kid had the guidance of her mother, Gospel Singer Betty Nakibuuka who ensured her best interests were met including a strict balance between education and a musical career.

It is therefore necessary to look beyond the merits of being a child star and focus on the abuse of rights while identifying ways of making the industry minor friendly. This can the introduction of regulations that require parent’s involvement in talent management and the introduction of sharing agreements outlining the division earnings of all child stars. It is key to afford children a safe space to nurture their talent and that can only be achieved through regulating the industry.

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