31 Oct
  • By Theresa DeSouza
  • Cause in

Universal Children’s Day

Guatemala celebrated Children’s Day October 1, and November 20 marks Universal Children’s Day.

[info]On December 14, 1954, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution stating that all countries should institute a Universal Children’s Day, to be observed as a day of worldwide fraternity and understanding between children. The Assembly suggested to governments that the Day be observed on the date and in the way which each considers appropriate. The date 20 November, marks the day on which the Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, in 1959, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in 1989. Source: http://www.un.org/en/events/childrenday/.[/info]

by Caitie Lezell

A few weeks ago, I found a binder sitting on a shelf in Reforz. It was filled with different images illustrating the various human rights for Guatemalan children, which are found in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, created by the United Nations in 1989 and then ratified by Guatemala not long after.

I was moved by them then, and took the pictures that are included below (view pictures) with the intentions of writing about a post about them at some point. I was unaware then that  October 1 is Day of the Child in Guatemala, a national way of acknowledging those very rights. It seemed appropriate, then, once I learned this, to save the pictures and the thoughts that I have been having recently regarding the matter of children’s rights for a post today.

I think what it is that most strikes me about these rights is that, though they may all be formally acknowledged in this international convention ratified years ago by the Guatemalan government, they still are not actually the reality of so many of the children in this country.

Guatemala is not unique in this regard by any means; the same can be said for so many other nations across the globe… I can just only speak for what I myself am observing. And, what upsets me most on a more personal level, is that I am able to say that so many of these rights are not part of the realities of the children that I specifically have been blessed enough to meet and fall in love with. And while some of these rights are more complex and some are certainly harder to effectively implement than others, they are things that all children deserve.

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[blockquote align=”none” cite=”We the Children: End-decade review of the follow-up to the World Summit for Children – Report of the Secretary-General (2001)”]“We were all children once. And we all share the desire for the well-being of our children, which has always been and will continue to be the most universally cherished aspiration of humankind.”[/blockquote]

To see these young children starting their educations and knowing that many of them will never have the opportunity to make it past the sixth grade; to hear bits and pieces of what these children’s home lives are like, and yet still not be able to imagine the pain and suffering that is actually waiting for them behind those walls every day; to play one game or another with the older boys, or to tease them about their first girlfriends, or watch them race one another to finish a complicated math problem, and to know that it is not out of the question that within the next few years some of them may give into the pressures imposed by the gangs.

To think about how much potential these children have, and how much they could be and should be learning, or what they could grow to become if they were given opportunities that simply don’t exist… and then more so, to see that in writing, these children have the right to those opportunities, to an education, to a family, to a safe home, to healthcare, to love, and then to see how much of that is lacking for so, so many of them… I am not sure if it makes me more angry or more sad (or, which of the two is the more appropriate emotion, really).

Writing the above paragraph both gave me chills and choked me up. It is a daily struggle to not be consumed by the negativity, or the anger, or the hopelessness, and, rather, instead, to just remember to keep working, to keep smiling, to keep loving, and to keep having faith that it is possible for things to change: not only in Guatemala, but in so many other countries around the world dealing with similar issues. But, at the risk of sounding like a broken record on this blog, despite it all, these children and this community do not leave me without hope.

I ask for your continued support and prayers for these children… particularly today, on el Día del Niño y la Niña, but every day, really: prayers for their safety, prayers for their futures, prayers for their continued smiles, that they receive the love, the education, and the protection that they so truly deserve. Thank you.

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I included a picture of each of these rights below, with translations (the binder itself only went up to the letter “P”; not sure where the others are, or if they actually exist).

“All of these rights are written in a law called ‘Convention on the Rights of the Child,’ which all members of your family, teachers, and authorities have to respect. All in Guatemala should know these rights, comply with them, and ensure that they are enforced.”

“…the right to a life, a name, and a nationality.”

“…the right to a family: to the love and care of our parents.”

“…the right to be attended to first when there are earthquakes, floods, or other dangers.”

“…the right to be treated equal: black, white, indigenous, ladino, sick, healthy, rich, poor, religious, and non-religious.”

“…the right to live in a house, to eat, to be clean and warm.”

“…the right to health: to be vaccinated, to be taken to the doctor and the dentist, and to be cured when we are sick.”

“…the right to education: to study and learn what will serve us to live better.

“…the right to receive special love, care, and education when we have difficulty seeing, hearing, speaking, walking, or expressing ourselves.”

“…the right to be protected while we work, because many of us are forced to do so.”

“…the right for others to respect us, to treat us like children, and to act in accordance with the law when we have any problem.”

“…the right to be protected from sexual abuse and all forms of violence… and to be protected from drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, and glue.”

“…the right to be together with other children to learn, think, talk, and decide on matters that interest us.”

“…the right to live in peace and brotherhood with children of all nations.”

“…the right to demand that the State give us knowledge of our rights, that they observe them, and that they enforce them.

“…the right to Recreation: to play, to go on excursions, to go on walks, to draw, to recite, to enjoy ourselves, and to rest.”

“…the right to speak our language, wear our typical clothing, and respect our traditions and customs.”