Child safety plea ahead of Eid celebrations

MUSLIMS and non-Muslims around the world are preparing to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, on Friday or Saturday depending on the sighting of the new moon.

The festival marks the end of the Islamic Holy Month of Ramadan when adult believers fast for 29 or 30 days. Eid-al-Fitr begins, and Muslims traditionally gather to pray, give charity and break their fast with family or friends.

In many countries it is a public holiday and schools and government offices close.

In Zanzibar the celebration last for four-days with people mainly children going out, visiting children parks, and picnics.

In recent years teenagers prefer to go out without parents in those areas, a room for the children to engage in sex.

With the Eid celebration getting closer, the Association of students’ governments (Umoja wa Serikali za Wanafunzi Zanzibar (USEWAZA) has decided to remind authorities and parents that unwanted pregnancies usually increase after the celebrations.

“I want to tell parents and the government to be careful, because we are speaking from past experience. Unwanted pregnancies are recorded high after the Eid celebrations because it is the time when children get freedom and opportunity to practice sex,” said the USEWAZA secretary Mr Salum Humud Salum.

No statistics were given, but statements from activists and the police show a rise of pregnancies and unplanned marriages (Ndoa ya Mukeka) after Eid celebrations. He said at a ‘Futari’ gathering in Zanzibar last week that due to ongoing education, many students mainly teenagers are aware of consequences of unprotected sex and having sex before marriage, and that attempt for unwanted behaviour can end in tragedy. Futari is a meal Muslims take after sunset.

Mr Salum said that youths, considered to be sexually active group, know that unprotected sex, and having sex before acceptable age of marriage, can have permanent and lifelong consequences, yet they do it.

The consequences include sexually transmitted disease (STD), unwanted pregnancy, which are plenty, and socio-economic implications [daunting stigmas, associated with the spread of STDs and teen pregnancies.]

“We are reminding parents and government, each to take extra care when celebrating Eid this year so that children/teenage remain safe. It is possible to avoid unplanned pregnancies and marriages,” Mr Salum said.

He said the community and Civil Society Organisations can help protect children by raising awareness of how to celebrate Eid without temptation in sexual activity. Futari gatherings and prayers in Masjid (Mosques) are venues that can be used to send message to teenagers and warn them bad ways of celebrating Eid.

“Young boys and girls should avoid mixing, female teens should avoid wearing loose clothing, as it can easily attract men, and children discos should be prohibited,” Mr Salum suggested to parents and government leaders at lower level, as away to minimise and discourage sex among teenagers.

The ‘Futari’ meeting organised by USEWAZA was attended by the executives from the Minister for Education and Vocational training, parents, teachers, youths, and some members of the business community who have been accused of wooing teens for sexual relationship.

USEWAZA secretary said his association is trying to address challenges facing students, and that Eid celebrations should have its meaning of joy and love and not anarchy to the young people including students. “We have to speak out our ordeals, and share with the authorities.

There must be limitation of freedom to children because they easily want to try many things including sex,” Mr Salum informed the gathering. He argues that children discos in the upcountry like Mwera village, and Bwawani hotel should be prohibited because it is an opportunity for children to engage in unacceptable behaviours.

Authorities banned children discos, but still in some areas the discos continue. Mr Mzee Abdalla- Deputy Secretary, Ministry of Education and Vocational training commended the USEWAZA for fighting for the rights of students in the Islands, including proper care and promoting socially acceptable behaviours.

“What USEWAZA leaders have been doing is good. The Ministry fully supports their initiatives. I also call upon parents, and local leaders to join hands in protecting students so that they can become responsible citizens,” Mr Mzee said.

During the month of Ramadan, Muslims observe a strict fast and participate in pious activities such as charitable giving and peace-making. It is a time of intense spiritual renewal for those who observe it. At the end of Ramadan, Muslims throughout the world observe a joyous celebration called Eid al-Fitr (the Festival of Fast-Breaking).

It is a time to give in charity to those in need, and celebrate with family and friends the completion of a month of blessings and joy. Before the day of Eid, during the last few days of Ramadan, people go shopping, and each Muslim family gives a determined amount as a donation to the poor.

This donation is of actual food – like rice, wheat flour, to ensure that the needy can have a holiday meal and participate in the celebration. It would be wrong to assume that Muslims celebrate the fact that they no longer have to fast, as Muslims indeed are saddened by the passing of the month of Ramadan.

Muslims celebrate because God has allowed them to participate in and complete the month of fasting and spiritual reflection. Muslims celebrate the fact that God, in His infinite mercy and wisdom, may accept their deeds and reward them.

The Eid Prayer is to be held outdoors in a large open ground but in inclement weather, or due to a lack of adequate arrangements, Eid Prayer is sometimes performed in the mosques. Before the Prayer begins a special charity is to be offered. It is called zakat al-fitr.

Each adult Muslim, who is financially able, is expected to offer a small amount of money from which foodstuff is bought and distributed to the poor.

Ramadan was a time when Muslims attempt to give generously and the celebration at the conclusion of Ramadan is conducted with the same spirit of generosity, ensuring that all Muslims have the opportunity to enjoy the day with feasting and celebration.

Ramadan was a time of reflection and Eid is a time of celebration; however, lavish displays of wealth and materialism are to be avoided. Muslims who seized the benefits inherent in Ramadan are grateful for this time to celebrate and understand that it is but one of the ways that God bestows His mercy upon us.

A Muslim is encouraged to celebrate by glorifying God, and reminded that the ability to love life and to celebrate is only one of God's bounties.
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