Friday, June 28, 2013

Talking About Children’s Rights

“We can provide solutions to Nigeria’s problems,”  a sharp and thought-provoking response from a mere toddler  who was among a group of 5 – 11 year old school children at a program in the U.S. Embassy, Abuja.  The program in commemoration of children’s day focused on the Nigerian Government’s Child Rights Act.

When asked what rights children had the responses by the children were very insightful – clearly, they had a pretty good idea of what rights they have.  Answers given include right to speech, right to education, right to movement and right to worship.

Speaking on a topic of “Children can make a difference” Irene Bangwell of Handzandmindz, an organization that works to integrate ethics and critical thinking into the educational experience of children, told them that they can make a difference.  She explained that by ‘doing something good to stop bad things from happening’ children can effect change in their communities.  She gave examples of children from other parts of the world who have made a difference.  They include the following:

Malala- who worked to ensure that girls also enjoyed the right to education in her home country Pakistan despite opposition from the Talibans.

Dallas Jessup – a black belt martial artist, she made a video that shows teenagers how to defend themselves against attacks by rapists or kidnappers.  Dallas did this when she learned the statistics about the number of girls sexually assaulted or abducted in America.

Richard Turere – a Kenyan Masai teenager who invented a device that scares lions away from his father’s cattle.

Jack Thomas Andraka – at 15 after a close family friend died of cancer, he invented a new way of testing for certain types of cancer that makes it possible to detect the disease much earlier and at low cost. 

What is common with these four young people is that they saw a problem, decided to do something about it and didn’t see their age as a deterrent.

In her interaction with the children, Maryam Enyiazu of UNICEF posed the question “who is a child?  Answers included ‘anyone under 18,’ ‘younger form of a human being’ and ‘someone who must not lie’ (which I believe applies to adults as well).  She emphasized in her presentation that children also have responsibilities.  The children’s response when asked about this was right on point.  They said their responsibilities included helping parents at home and respecting parents and elders.

The program was very interactive and I was impressed with the children’s confidence and enthusiasm and how much they already know about human rights issues.  Indeed the future looks bright for Nigeria.

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