We owe our children – the most vulnerable citizens in any society – a life free from violence and fear.— Nelson Mandela
Look into any dictionary and you will probably find the same definition of what children’s rights are (should be): the rights of children to have access to health, education, family life and an adequate standard of living, and never have to fear hunger, abuse, harm, neglect, or any other inhumane conditions (UNICEF, 2011).
We don’t even have to reach the end of this sentence to know that unfortunately this in many countries and situations is not the case today. Those among us who are the most vulnerable are many times the most disregarded precisely by the ones who should be protecting them and ensuring that they get the life that a childhood implies – one that is carefree, happy and safe.
Definition of children’s rights
For many years, children’s rights have been so poorly defined in world legislation and by the courts, although it is clear that exactly those who do not have the ability to advocate for or defend themselves in the political, judicial, or economic arena should be granted more protection that those whose voices can often be heard. Even when they are heard, it is not enough for those voices to be heard from time to time, but every year and every day spent on the battlefront of the human rights’ defense. So, what has 2019 actually meant for children’s rights?
If we take into consideration that the true recognition of the child’s interest and rights became real on 20 November 1989 with the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, then both mathematically and symbolically the year 2019 represents a big year in the celebration of children’s rights.
Thirty years ago, as the first international legally binding text, the Convention recognized all the fundamental rights of a child, constituted by fundamental guarantees and essential human rights. On this important date, it has finally been recognized that a child is a human being, deserving of their rights, dignity, and respect. Due to their youth and vulnerability, children, unlike adults, have no means to protect themselves and are therefore the object of a particular interest and a specific protection (Humanium, n.d.).
This year, 30 years after, the significant anniversary of the Convention was indeed a unique opportunity to put children’s rights high on the international agenda with precisely children’s voices as their representatives. So, who was loud enough to stand for children’s rights this year?
Children’s voices for children’s rights
One of those emotional voices was loudly heard from the United Nation’s stage itself when a 16-year old girl Greta Thunberg bravely called out our world leaders for their “betrayal” of young people because of their failure to address the alarming climate crisis issues.
“This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be standing here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to me for hope? How dare you!— Greta Thunberg (The Guardian, 2019)
There are so many experienced world leaders, and yet, it is a 16-year-old girl who truly understands the biggest environmental crisis so far we are all faced with today. Not only does she understand it, but she is warning us about it, but it is up to us to listen. Pollution leading up to the climate crisis is undoubtedly threatening children’s health all over the world and it is insightful young people like Greta who are bearing the burden of our leaders’ failures (WHO, 2019). As the leaders are ignoring the problem, she is continuing to fight it. Standing tall, at just 16 years old.
Happy birthday, Humanium!
We already know by now that 20 November is an important date, especially this year, since this is the exact day when the Convention on the Rights of the Child was finally adopted. What many might not know is that, symbolically, Humanium was founded on the date of the signing of the Convention – 11 years ago, with the set goal of achieving the well-being of children worldwide.
In its 11 years of work, apart from offering legal assistance to victims of children’s rights violations, through its projects, Humanium has been actively raising awareness about the endangered children’s rights to more than five million people each year and supporting local partners with projects to help children around the world.
Currently, we have 5 ongoing programs being carried out in Rwanda with our local partner AVSI, and other programs carried out in India in partnership with Hand in Hand India, each of them with the purpose of improving the lives of children through empowering their local communities and helping individuals find more opportunities. This year alone, Humanium made two separate trips to Rwanda to carry out encouraging and fulfilling workshops in the villages of Rwanda, experiencing children’s rights firsthand with 600 children, caregivers, locals, local leaders and students!
Humanium spent many days and numerous hours with young mothers, providing child rights training for them, making them feel loved, heard and empowered, both for themselves and their children. We focused on helping them become aware of their full capacity to realize their dreams and aspirations within their local communities. By empowering them, we are hoping to empower their children (by seeing their mothers brave and confident) to realize their own goals in the future.
Humanium, together with its partner AVSI Rwanda, works tirelessly to re-integrate them in their families, assuring that basic human needs are met and emotional needs, that we stand for, are as importantly fulfilled.— Arndt Soret, founder of Humanium
As the end of the year is approaching, it is clear that 2019 has been a big year for children’s rights realization. However, what is more important are all the years ahead where we all have the chance to act on children’s rights violations, make a difference and, like Greta, stand tall for all those who are unjustly downcast, especially the ones who are the youngest and the most vulnerable among us all.
Written by Ivana Kaćunko
- Humanium (n.d.). “Rights of the Child: The meaning of the child and the rights of the children”. Retrieved from Humanium: https://www.humanium.org/en/child-rights/. Accessed on 6 December 2019.
- Thunberg, G. (2019, September 23). “If world leaders choose to fail us, my generation will never forgive them”. Retrieved from The Guardian: <https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/sep/23/world-leaders-generation-climate-breakdown-greta-thunberg. Accessed on 6 December 2019.
- UNICEF (2011). Every Child’s Right to be Heard. A Resource Guide on the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child General Comment No 12, Save the Children UK on behalf of Save the Children and UNICEF. Retrieved from UNICEF: https://www.unicef.org/french/adolescence/files/Every_Childs_Right_to_be_Heard.pdf. Accessed on 6 December 2019.
- WHO (2019). “How air pollution is destroying our health”. Retrieved from WHO: https://www.who.int/airpollution/news-and-events/how-air-pollution-is-destroying-our-health. Accessed on 6 December 2019.