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Child Rights and You
by Adele Pereira

In each pair below, select the one that you would consider to be your RIGHT

  1. Nutritious food OR Ice Creams

  2. Protection from hurting yourself when playing OR from ever getting kidnapped

  3. Personal computer OR Education

  4. To express an opinion(s) OR to do whatever you wish

Let me guess. You chose food, protection from kidnapping, education and to express an opinion. Instinctively you knew these are your RIGHTS.


What about His Rights?

The Oxford dictionary defines the word ‘Right’ as a ‘moral or legal entitlement to have or do something’. But if you are below the age of 18 it means far more.

It means the freedom to enjoy a childhood - irrespective of whether you are born rich or poor, girl or boy, live in the country or city, are a small baby or a teenager, born in India or America or somewhere in between, black skinned, or white or brown all over, needing special things like a wheelchair, hearing aids or in any situation that’s completely different from everyone else. It doesn’t matter! If you are below the age of 18 you have something special called ‘child rights’.

In 1989 many groups of children and adults from all over the world got together to discuss what children’s concerns are. Then the United Nations came up with a list of rights for all children.

  • the right to survival- to live, get good health care, good food regularly, have a name - your very own identity, a nationality - belong to a country that will care for you

  • the right to protection- to have a family that will protect you, to be safe from harm - physical or mental, to enjoy your own privacy

  • the right to development- to education, to rest and leisure, to recreation

  • the right to participation- to express yourself freely, to choose your own set of beliefs, to know about things related to your life, to be a member of associations, to enjoy your own culture

Each one of us needs these rights to grow, to maximize our potential, our skills, and talents. Our rights help us lead full lives. They belong to us and are intrinsic to us, no matter what the circumstances. Unfortunately, this is not true for thousands of children and young people across the world. They are not recognized as children, nor have the freedom to enjoy their childhood. Instead they are burdened with adult responsibilities and worries. Like in India itself -

  • Half of India’s children do not get sufficient food to eat.

  • Half of India’s children, who are old enough, do not go to school. They are forced by their circumstances to go to work instead.

  • Girl children are singled out and not treated well because of their gender

Although these children lead a life very different from your own, you have so much in common with them - YOU are all children. YOU were all born equal. YOU have rights as children, as young people.

CRY America a non-profit organization in the USA, improved the lives of 35,322 children and young people across India in 2004 who were deprived of their Rights. These children who were earlier working in factories, begging on the streets or doing household chores instead of going to school are now free to lead a happy and carefree childhood.

Like CRY America, there are many young people who also believe in a world where every child enjoys his/her rights. Priyanka Tope wanted to help kids in need all around the world. As a child artiste (at the age of 13), she has released two CD albums, Priyanjali & Rainbow: A Bridge to India - Indian semi-classical and light music. She has contributed the money earned from these albums to organizations working for children's causes throughout the world, CRY America being one of them. 15 year old Sohum Misra developed a website - www.mumbaikids.org - as a school project that provided information about Mumbai-based non-profit organizations that are working for disadvantaged children. The kids of a school in Mumbai, India called the CRY Cubs put up a stall displaying information on the rights of children as part of their annual school exhibition. They performed a short play on the same theme and sported self-made badges saying ‘life is short, childhood is shorter, act now’ thereby ensuring all those who were present at the venue were aware of the 4 basic rights.

Would you like to join them and the team at CRY America to speak up for the rights of children? If so, then log on to our website www.america.cry.org  or email us at cryamerica@crymail.org.

Adele Pereira : Youth and Volunteer Action, CRY- Child Relief and You.
Image courtesy : Uttam Kumar Pal, Rourkela, India

4-Dec-2005
 
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