Kids 'take over' UN for World Children's Day

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

World Children’s Day saw young people take over roles in government, media and even at the United Nations, to raise awareness about issues important to them.

Celebrated annually on 20 November, this year marks the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“It’s my job to meet with some of the most powerful and important people in the world,” Secretary-General António Guterres said at a dedicated event at UN Headquarters in New York in a room packed to the rafters with children, teachers, government delegates and a host of others, including the Director-General of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Anthony Lake.

“Presidents and Prime Ministers… scientists… military leaders… scholars and academics… captains of industry and business. But none of these people are as important – or as inspiring – as the children I meet,” Guterres said.

He painted a picture of millions of girls and boys in danger, fleeing deadly conflicts, and going hungry, elaborating on how they are separated from their parents or making long, dangerous journeys to find safety.

“As a global community, we cannot continue failing these children. So here is my commitment to you: I will spare no effort to make sure that the United Nations is working every day, every hour, every minute, for your best interests.

“In a world that can so often seem to be a hopeless place, we need children’s hope, more than ever,” Guterres said.

Lake spoke with special guest Zari, the muppet who stars in Baghch-e-Simsim, or ‘Sesame Garden,’ the Afghanistan version of Sesame Street.

In a country where only about one-third of girls attend school, they discussed how she is setting an example and inspiring girls to dream big and imagine a future they may not have thought possible. “I love going to school and learning!” she exclaimed.

As children emcees Jaden Michael and Isabela Moner took over the podium, they introduced two youth from Syria, with many high-fives in the mix.

After fleeing Syria, 12-year-old Basel’s family sheltered in Jordan where his father worked two jobs from 6am until midnight every day. Eleven-year-old Nance was four when she walked from Damascus to Jordan.

Now in Canada, Basel has made friends at school and “even learned to love the snow!” Nance lives in the United States where she hopes to become an optometrist, saying: “If I become an eye doctor, I can travel back to Syria and other places to help people around the world.”

Emmanuel Elisha Ford took a special seat in the front, drawing attention to the challenges faced by 93 million children globally, noting how they vary from person, to place, to circumstance, to disability.

“In addition to being born blind, I face some mobility challenges,” he said, adding that despite sometimes needing a wheelchair, he dreams of becoming a meteorologist, calling for “action to change this uneven playing field”.

As the event came to a close, Emcee Jaden said to all the children: “Don’t let the adults off the hook… continue raising your voices.”

A standing ovation at the UN is not an everyday occurrence… but today’s was a most auspicious one. –

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