The irony that Universal Children’s Day falls on the anniversary (yesterday) of my son’s abduction was not lost on me – all the more so as the focus of the day seems from yesterday’s piece in the Telegraph (below) seems to be more on refugee children rather than the many victims of domestic and international family law arrangements.
What is Universal Children’s Day?
Established by the United Nations in 1954, Children’s Day is marked on November 20 each year to promote international togetherness, awareness among children worldwide, and improving children’s welfare.
The UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child on November 20, 1959, and then 30 years later it adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child on that same day.
The convention, which is the most widely ratified international human rights treaty, lays out a number of children’s rights including the “right to life, to health, to education and to play, as well as the right to family life, to be protected from violence, to not be discriminated, and to have their views heard”.
UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said Universal Children’s Day was “an annual opportunity to recommit ourselves to protecting the rights of every child”.
“These children are the future leaders of their societies. The future engines of their national economies. The future parents and protectors of the next generation.
“When we protect their rights, we are not only preventing their suffering. We are not only safeguarding their lives. We are protecting our common future.”
How is it celebrated?
As well as Google marking the day with a Doodle in its search engines around the world, the UN children’s body, Unicef, launched a short stories week to celebrate the day and to mark the agency’s 70th anniversary. More than 200 prominent writers penned “tiny stories” – each around seven lines long – to highlight Children’s Day and the challenges many of the world’s poorest and most disadvantaged children still face.
“As writers we are able to advocate through the simplicity of storytelling. With this worthy and necessary campaign, we advocate for the protection of the rights of precious children all over the world,” said Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie.
Among the writers is one the world’s youngest published authors – seven-year-old Michelle Nkamankeng from South Africa.
“It is shocking to see that the lives of many children are still so heavily impacted by the horror of conflict, inequality, poverty and discrimination. I hope these Tiny Stories can remind the world that we must sustain our commitment to all of these children whose lives and futures are at stake,” said Paloma Escudero, Unicef spokesperson.
State of the world today for children
In many developed countries, children have never had it so good, with access to education, health care, the internet and much more.
But millions more are facing unprecedented upheaval. More than 50 million children have been uprooted from their homes due to conflict, poverty and climate change while millions more face violence in their communities. According to the UN, around 263 million children do not attend school and last year nearly six million children under five died from mostly preventable diseases.
Children in Syria are living in fear every day. The relentless bombardment forced schools in east Aleppo, many of which already operate from basements because of government attacks, to close on Saturday and Sunday “for the safety of students and teachers, after the barbarous aerial strikes”, according to humanitarian coordinator for Syria Ali al-Za’atari and regional humanitarian coordinator Kevin Kennedy. Staff were forced to evacuate the east’s only children’s hospital because of repeated attacks, removing babies from incubators.
“On this Children’s Day, we must confront the uncomfortable truth that around the world, the rights of millions of children are being violated every day,” Anthony Lake, Unicef Executive Director, said.
“They’re being violated in eastern Aleppo and other besieged areas across Syria, where children are cut off from food, water, and medical care,” he said, adding their rights were also being violated in Yemen, northeastern Nigeria and South Sudan.
“They’re being violated around the world, in every country, wherever children are the victims of violence, abuse and exploitation,” he said.
How to help
There are many ways to help promote children’s rights and donate money, but one of the most high-profile causes in the UK is Children in Need, which took place on Friday.
This year the live Appeal Show raised a record total of nearly £47 million in a night of tributes to the late Sir Terry Wogan – an impressive rise from last year’s total of £37.1 million.
Announcing the sum, Presenter Rochelle Humes said: “That’s absolutely incredible and I just know how proud Sir Terry would have been.”
Children In Need aims to protect every child in the UK and currently supports 2,400 projects across the nation.