ISLAMABAD – Every child has a right to be given access to education, health, child friendly justice systems and protection from violence and abuse. Children must also be given the right to be heard.
These were some of the key messages given by participating dignitaries and young children at the concluding ceremony of the 3rd National Child Right Arts Festival, which was held to mark the Universal Children Day, celebrated globally on 20th November.
The Festival, which is a joint initiative of the European Union in Pakistan and The Little Art engaged more than 350 school children across the country on the themes of education, nutrition, hygiene (wash hands) in addition to human rights issues such as gender equality, equal participation and voice in society, social protection and religious tolerance. Children from across the country took part in the activities and shared their views on their rights and opinions through art making and creative writing.
Jean-François Cautain, Ambassador of the European Union to Pakistan attended the event as Chief Guest.
Addressing the audience, Ambassador Cautain said that “Child protection is one of EU’s priorities outlined in the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy.
We appreciate the continuous efforts of the Government of Pakistan to ensure children rights, but currently Pakistan is facing many challenges in this area. With more than 44% of Pakistani children suffering from chronic malnutrition due to poverty, poor health services, illness and improper feeding practices, child mortality remains high. Additionally, access to education, particularly in rural areas is still insufficient, leading to high illiteracy andwide discrepancies in provinces and rural and urban settings.
We also must focus on ensuring quality of education and security of schools. The EU therefore fully supports the National Action Plan on Counter-Terrorism’s provisions on madrassas to be implemented for the benefit of children enrolled in religious studies. The Government of Pakistan has our full support and we are working with provincial Governments together with both local and international organisations such as UNICEF to tackle these important challenges”.
Speaking about the festival, Ambassador Cautain highlighted that the Festival focuses on the most important stakeholders about children rights, which are the children themselves. “I am proud that we could give them the opportunity to voice their opinions and thoughts and make us listen to what they need, so they are fully protected to lead a healthy, prosperous and happy life”, concluded the Ambassador.
UNICEF Deputy Representative, Ms.CrisMunduate, also spoke on the occasion and stressed that this years’ global theme of the Universal Children’s Day “For every child, hope!” has a particular strong significance for Pakistan. She stressed on equity playing an ever increasing role in the joint efforts to reinforce children’s rights Pakistan, as currently less girls than boys are enjoying their rights and less children in rural areas than in urban settings.
Ms. Munduate highlighted that a child born in Punjab was almost three and a half times more likely to be fully immunized against life threatening diseases than a child in Baluchistan; every third girl in Baluchistan is getting married under the age of 18 while in Punjab it is only one out of ten girls.
“When we protect their rights, we are not only preventing their suffering. We are not only safeguarding their lives. We are protecting our common future,” she added
The Winners of Essay writing competition and Artwork were presented with shields and a certificate by the EU Ambassador. The winner’s selection was made through a well renowned panel of jury members which included: renowned writer, Asghar Nadeem Syed, renowned painters, R.M. Naeem from NCA and Ms. Sadaf Naeem from Kinnaird College including representatives from The Little Art.
The winners of the Artwork competition included Ezzan Murtaza,Noor-e-zahra and Saad Sultan (Lahore). The winners of the Essay writing competition were Soomal Haleem , Zarlish Hussain and Muhammad Irtiza.