Convention on the Rights of the Child

A Report from the World Congress on Children’s Rights

ChildFund Mexico teens

Five teens enrolled in ChildFund Mexico’s programs in Puebla attended the world congress last month.

Reporting from ChildFund Mexico

Last month, the city of Puebla, Mexico, hosted the Sixth World Congress on the Rights of Children and Adolescents, a complex event focusing on child protection, freedom from violence, environmental problems and educational opportunities. Three young men from the Huehuetla area and two young women from Caxhuacan who are enrolled in ChildFund’s programs in Puebla attended the conference, along with ChildFund Mexico representatives.

The three-day program focused on these issues: the right to live free from violence, the Internet as a human right, child migration and the right to family life. The conference, which met for the first time outside of Geneva, Switzerland, coincided with the 25th anniversary of the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child.

mural at world congress

Participants created artwork during the congress during a visit to a local museum.

Mexican officials, including the national director of the Family Development Agency, Laura Vargas Carrillo, and Puebla’s governor, joined Kirsten Sandberg, president of the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child.

“We have a date with history, but above all with future generations, thinking tall, looking far and acting soon,” said Puebla Gov. Rafael Moreno Valle at the opening of the conference.

Teens attended workshops and discussions, and they shared some of their thoughts with ChildFund in writing.

An excerpt from 16-year-old Guadalupe’s journal:

“One of the activities in which I participated was about violence, which we debated and discussed, bringing up things we have done and experienced.

“Then a rapper told us how rap shouldn’t be associated with crime but used as a means of expression. We visited the Atoyac River outside Puebla, and we heard the story about Atoyac and its creation and pollution. We learned about the percentage of salt water and fresh water and how much water they use to make clothing. It made us think about how we waste water in unnecessary ways.”

protest at world congress

Teens hold signs during a protest rally.

All the participants were affected by an unexpected event, when a woman was ejected from the congress. She was the mother of a 13-year-old boy who was killed in July when a rubber bullet fired by a Puebla police officer hit him in the head during a protest gathering. The case has been heavily covered in the Mexican news, and when the woman was removed from the meeting, some delegations walked out in protest.

“When I arrived at the meeting, some adolescents had started a rally with banners on stage, due to the case,” wrote Ricardo Calleja Calderon, who served as a chaperone for the ChildFund youths. He added that the teens involved in the rally were respectful but also pressed authorities for answers and for mutual respect.

“This conference was very useful for the young people,” Ricardo wrote, “primarily to strengthen their spirit of cooperation.” It is still challenging for teens to express their feelings, and more work is needed to encourage dialogue and good decisions based on their knowledge of their rights, he added.

“We want to do more for children and teens,” Guadalupe concluded, “because if we know our rights, the injustices in Mexico will stop.”

Children Have the Right to Be Free From Violence

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

Violence against children remains a terrible problem, according to children themselves. Today — on the 25th anniversary of the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child — hundreds of children say their right to be protected from violence is not being upheld.

Gangs, political strife and child labor are issues in many developing countries, where only 30 percent of children polled say they are always or often protected from doing harmful work.

ChildFund Alliance released the fifth annual Small Voices, Big Dreams report today, a survey of 6,040 children ages 10 to 12 in 44 countries. Poor access to education also is a concern among children in developing countries.

This year, as the United Nations prepares to decide on its post-2015 global agenda, the Alliance, a network of 12 international development organizations (including ChildFund International), has launched a campaign called Free From Violence to motivate world leaders to prioritize the protection of children against violence and exploitation.

“A quarter century ago, leaders across the globe made a commitment to the world’s children, that we would help them reach their full potential by protecting, educating and nurturing them. While much progress has been made, it is abundantly clear that we still have a long way to go. Harming even one child is one child too many,” says Anne Lynam Goddard, ChildFund’s president and CEO.

Below, see a slideshow of children holding signs that spell out their rights according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

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Children’s Rights: An Enduring Conversation

This gem of a video was created by ChildFund Australia five years ago to honor of the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. With their kind permission, we’re sharing it in these last few days before the Convention’s 25th anniversary Nov. 20 because we think it’s every bit as relevant now as it was then.

The rights that are set forth in the treaty are sometimes simple, sometimes complex. The language is a bit of a mouthful for children themselves. But they get it, as you’ll see in the video. Enjoy!

Identifying Best Practices for Our Work with Children

by Nicole Duciaume
ChildFund Regional Sponsorship Coordinator
Americas Regional Office

Nicole wraps up her visit to Guatemala’s Corazon de los Ninos project.

When you sponsor a child through ChildFund, not only are you changing one childhood, you’re also making a great impact on that child’s family, community and country. Sounds impossible, doesn’t it? Well, the proof comes in the annual Child Progress Report that every sponsor receives.

Updating sponsors on events of the past year.

Each ChildFund national office designs its own template, which generally includes information on how the child is developing, programs the child and family have participated in that year and additional information about community, area or national progress over the past year. The children can share some thoughts or a drawing as well.

Have you ever wondered how these reports are completed? ChildFund Guatemala alone will complete nearly 22,000 of them in the next three months. I happened to be visiting one community the day they were preparing reports. Rather than an overwhelming task, it was exciting, engaging and fun!

Corazon de los Ninos, a ChildFund partner organization located about an hour outside Guatemala City, is taking a unique approach to child reports this year. They are holding community events that celebrate children’s right to play—a fundamental tenant of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

On this particular day of report writing, children are

  • Laughing, giggling, singing, screeching, waving, jumping, running, whispering.
  • Climbing an inflatable castle, waving to their moms and friends atop their conquest, then cascading, tumbling and rolling down the slide.
  • Smiling from ear to ear, their mouths framed with ice cream smudges from nose to chin.
  • Porting colorful balloons just barely peeking over their heads as they skip from station to station (photo taken, information collected, drawing/note to sponsor).
  • Perfectly coloring their imperfect bumblebee, unidentifiable animal or house—whatever their imagination created to share with their sponsors.
  • With eyes wide open, not sure if they should believe that all of these people, games and events were created just for them.

    A fun day with ChildFund.

This mini-carnival atmosphere was exhilarating for the children, parents, organizers and spectators (I include myself in the latter category). The event wound down as the temperature began to cool and the sun began its elusive game of hide and seek behind the trees and surrounding volcanoes.

I returned, exhausted, to Guatemala City thinking that this creativity no doubt is a best practice worth documenting and sharing with other offices throughout the Americas region.

ChildFund Tweets for Children’s Rights

Our Twitter followers have spoken.

Image: Cris Wallace

Children should have the right to:

  • know the love of family
  • laugh every day!

Those are the two child-right tweets that were retweeted the most during ChildFund International’s Twitter event to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Convention of the Rights of the Child.

From Nov. 20-Dec. 3, we invited Twitter followers to share a specific right they believed children should have for healthy development.

A panel of ChildFund employees, representing global programs, marketing and communications, had the challenging task of selecting the top five tweets. All of the entries were worthy.

On Dec. 3, we announced the top five (and their authors) on Twitter and Facebook and invited ChildFund followers to retweet their favorites:

  • Every child has the right to HOPE via @Franswaa
  • The right to know the love of family via @LiveLifeSolid
  • The right to live in an abuse free home via @thebrightspot
  • All children have the right to laugh every day! via @sarahunsicker
  • A child has a right to speak. And be heard via @_jmphotography

All of the finalists were retweeted multiple times. Yet, two frontrunners emerged during the final days of tweeting.

The originators of the top-two tweets will receive an autographed copy of a Margaret Woodson Nea book: “Children: Eyes of the Soul” or “Children: Gifts of the Spirit.”

And all of the Tweeters —finalists or not— have our enduring appreciation for raising awareness of the rights of children.

If you’re not yet following ChildFund on Twitter, please join the conversation.

The Power of Children to Make Us Better People

by Mick Foley, Major Donor and ChildFund Sponsor

As many ChildFund sponsors have probably found, inspiration so often comes from unlikely sources. Small children from impoverished lands, who despite limitations in so many of the basic essentials, seem to have the power to reach across oceans and continents to touch our lives, to help make us better people.

As longtime ChildFund sponsors, my wife and I were thrilled to have the opportunity to attend the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The ceremony was held last week at the United Nations in New York.

Several luminaries spoke at this momentous occasion including U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman; former child-soldier-turned-best-selling memoirist and human rights activist Ishmael Beah; and longtime child activist Tim Shriver. I expected some of their words to touch me — and they did.

But for me, the day’s greatest moment of inspiration came from one of the youngest speakers.

Millicent Atieno Orondo, a youth activist from Kenya, speaks at the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)’s 20th Anniversary Commemoration of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. (Photo: U.N.)

Millicent Atieno Orondo, 17, but appearing several years younger, was a tiny physical presence, especially inside the massive auditorium that played host to the event.

Yet, from the moment she spoke, she commanded attention, using her powerful voice to not only inform the audience of the plight of the world’s poor, but also to alert us to the reality that she and her generation fully expect the world to accept and respect the rights that the Convention was designed to guarantee children when it was signed 20 years ago.

I immediately thought of another deceptively powerful speaker who had made a great impression on me a few years earlier. Eunice Kennedy Shriver appeared frail and weak when she took the stage at a gala in her honor at the World Special Olympics Games in Shanghai, China.

I really didn’t know what to expect from the legendary woman, who as the founder of the Special Olympics had done so much during her lifetime to advance the care and rights of the mentally challenged. In a way, it didn’t seem fair to put such an elderly, fragile woman in front of a microphone before such a large crowd.

But from the moment Mrs. Shriver began to speak, my fear for her fragility and all of my preconceptions disappeared. She spoke for several minutes, without notes, and left us with words I think of often, and will likely never forget. “When you stand up for something you love, bring your passion, bring your love, but bring something else with you as well … bring your anger.”

Those were the words that came to mind when hearing young Millicent speak at the United Nations. She brought her passion and love onto that U.N. stage, but she also brought a little bit of that anger Eunice Kennedy Shriver spoke of. Not an empty, destructive anger that can be easily turned to hate — but an anger that lets us know that this next generation of leaders will expect the world to keep the promises made to its most vulnerable children.

The commemoration ceremony ended with an engaging panel discussion on some of the challenges facing those vulnerable children. Tim Shriver, chairman of the Special Olympics, was part of the discussion. After listening to him for a couple of minutes, my wife turned to me and said, “I really like his style.” I smiled and told her that I was pretty sure he got it from his mother.

Tim mentioned that he thought the most dramatic changes in the developing world were going to come from a future generation of leaders demanding change from within.

I think I got a little glimpse of the future on that stage at the United Nations…and I am encouraged by the direction the winds of change might take.

Change a Childhood: Tweet for Children’s Rights

What rights should children have?

To commemorate today’s 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, ChildFund is rallying its Twitter followers to speak out for vulnerable and excluded children.

Starting today and running through Dec. 3, all ChildFund followers on Twitter are invited to tweet about a specific right that children require for healthy development.

Each tweet must include the hashtag #childfundcac (change a childhood), and all tweeters must be followers of ChildFund International in order for their tweets to be counted.

Participants may tweet as often as they like, but each tweet must be original.

• Every child has the right to an education. #childfundcac
• A child should never be forced into exploitative labor. #childfundcac
• Girls have the same rights as boys. #childfundcac
• Children have the right to healthcare. #childfundcac
• Children have a right to express their views and be taken seriously. #childfundcac

Get Inspired
World leaders who ratified the Convention agree that all children have the right to
• survival
• develop to their fullest
• protection from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation
• participate fully in family, cultural and social life.

The Convention has brought into sharp focus the fundamental human dignity of all children and the urgency of ensuring their well-being and development.

ChildFund International works in 31 countries worldwide to help communities uphold the rights of the child and ensure that children can grow and thrive. The Convention is an important legal instrument for our work. It sets an unprecedented global vision and standard for children’s lives worldwide.

Rules – You Gotta Have ’Em
• Multiple original tweets are encouraged from 8 a.m. (EST) Nov. 20 through 11:59 p.m. (EST) Dec. 3.
• An internal panel of judges at ChildFund International selects the top five tweets.
• On Dec. 7 and 8, the top-five tweets will be announced at 8 a.m., noon and 4 p.m. (EST) on ChildFund’s Twitter site, and once per day on Facebook.
• All Twitter followers will be invited to vote on the top-five finalists by simply retweeting their favorite(s). (Hint: spread the word.)
• The retweeting window closes at 4:59 p.m. on Dec. 11 (EST).
• From among the finalists, the two tweets receiving the highest number of retweets (as tracked by the hashtag #childfundcac) will be officially announced on Twitter on Dec. 16.
• Each will receive a ChildFund gift and the gratitude of excluded and vulnerable children around the world.

From Violent Past to Youth Mentor

By David Hylton
Public Relations Specialist

Denzel will speak in New York on Oct. 19 as part of the United Nations' International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

Denzel will speak in New York on Oct. 19 as part of the United Nations' International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

A 16-year-old Dominican boy who overcame a violent and hopeless past through a program sponsored by ChildFund International will share his transformational story at the United Nations next week. The event is part of the commemoration of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty and the world body’s continuing observation of the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Denzel Matthew is one of five children from an impoverished family in the Caribbean nation of Dominica. His troubled life centered on his involvement with a spate of violent activities until a photography course brought him purpose and direction. He will take part in two U.N. events on Monday, Oct. 19.

The first, “Children and Families Speak Out Against Poverty,” takes place 1:15-2:30 p.m., in Conference Room 2, U.N. Secretariat Building. This commemoration is organized by the International Movement ATD Fourth World, the NGO Subcommittee for the Eradication of Poverty and the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs, and co-sponsored by the Missions of France and Burkina Faso to the United Nations.

The presentation will be followed by an interactive panel: “Children: The Future and the Present — Participation in Poverty Reduction and Accountability for Rights.” This event takes place at UNICEF’s Labouisse Hall, 3-5:30 p.m. The panel is organized in partnership with UNICEF by the NGO Subcommittee for the Eradication of Poverty and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, with the support of the NGO Committee on UNICEF.

About Denzel
Like so many youth in Dominica, Denzel faced a bleak future, having been involved in violent activities since a young age.

“Every day was a struggle for me to survive, as I come from a poor family and community,” he says. “I could not see my future. I had nowhere to go.”

But last year, a photography course made possible by ChildFund International donors opened an unexpected doorway for Denzel. After years of despair, he discovered how to channel his energy in artistic rather than violent ways. In addition to providing him with new skills, the photography class introduced the teenager to others with similar interests. When the program ended, Denzel wrote in his evaluation that he no longer felt like dropping out of school or hanging out with the local gang.

“For the first time in my life, I had a way to let out my emotions without being violent,” he says.

As he shapes his own future, Denzel also wants to change the lives of those following in his footsteps. He has joined a youth group of about 20 peers who are committed to making a difference in their community. Denzel’s latest effort is to create a mentoring program to assist children in his community with reading and writing skills.

The youth group also is developing a conservation program to help protect an area known as Nature Island, a popular tourist destination on Dominica.

“Today, I am a happier person and am happy to tell my story,” Denzel says. “I hope I can change the future of others who may be in situations like me.”

For more on Denzel’s story, click here. Denzel will be the featured blogger on Monday as part of our “31 in 31” blog series.

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