Children’s Rights: Built from the bottom up
The 20th anniversary of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child represents an opportunity to stop and look at the breakthrough that the adoption of this legal instrument represents, as well as the challenges that its implementation continues to raise. In this article we would like to emphasize the role of people and associations who, through their daily commitment with deprived children and families, pinpoint the fundamental changes that implementation of the Convention must bring about for all children, without exception.
"Through its commitment to support the excluded and underprivileged population in regularising their civil status, the team has given out more than 1,500 birth certificates in several villages south of Tuléar. These certificates enable people – most of them children – to enroll for school exams and get access to health care. Many authorities were present when these certificates were distributed." J.-L. G., NGO "Bel Avenir" Newsletter #46, Madagascar
"I became aware of poverty from the age of 6 or 7. One evening my mother had nothing to light the fire to prepare the meal. On that day I knew that something was wrong. She was sad when she looked at me, and tears rolled down her cheeks. From being a happy and oblivious child, my life suddenly plunged into sadness and worries, because when I was at school I was frightened there would be nothing to eat when I got home. So it’s not by chance that I made a strong commitment to this anti-poverty association. I am glad to learn that people throughout the world are also committed to the same cause. I thought we were preaching in the desert." Banacéma S., MVCP, Togo
"In a small town not far from Bukavu, more than four thousand children aged 6 to 16 do not attend school. They are put to work searching for gold in the gold mines in order to survive. Many of them live their lives there in silence. None of these children have any hope for the future. Our NGO raises awareness among adults, local authorities and children to help them give up child labour so that they can attend school." Dieudy M.K., NGO CADF, Democratic Republic of Congo
What strikes one when reading about the testimonies and actions of the Permanent Forum correspondents is that they take account of every aspect of the children’s lives. They do not isolate them from their parents or their community. They do not just see "street children" or "working children". They bring to light the many complex situations of the children and their families, and make them the starting point for their action. They highlight the potential and the acts of resistance of both children and adults, even when they are completely excluded.
"Successive wars have contributed to accentuating poverty in a large number of families. In one camp, due to the difficult social situation in the country, several children were starting to suffer from malnutrition. This resulted in many deaths. The mothers and their children living in this camp, and faced with this macabre tragedy, organised themselves to try to face up to this situation. They started to grow vegetables in gardens on land they had acquired. They plant and harvest tomatoes, amaranths, cabbages and onions that they sell and also eat. The small income enables them to pay for flour, palm oil, and sometimes the school fees for their children. As a result of this united action, they have created their own association. There are 50 mothers. Very often the children water the vegetables and sell the harvested produce after school. Most of them belong to Tapori groups." Faustin N. and Deo K, Enfants Étoiles, Democratic Republic of Congo
Apart from denunciations, the daily commitment of Permanent Forum correspondents calls on the responsibility of all parties: children and their families, politicians, economic players and cultural figures.
"The world is so small, and the wrong the children suffer from is so great, that if nothing is done to improve their lot, they will eventually become obstacles for the future of the world. I hope that our work will contribute to making the world a fairer place where the rights of all children will at last be the foremost preoccupation for our leaders in this century." Chadefi Jameau, JEUNE Haiti
Huguette Redegeld, Vice President
(Extracts from an article published in French in Revue Quart Monde, No. 209)
What about you? If this article brings to mind your own actions or observations, write to us about it!