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Mozambique, 10 December 2013: UNICEF Mozambique and Magnum Photos proudly present… The Rights Responsibility – their rights, our responsibility

MAPUTO, Mozambique, 10 December 2013 – Life for a child in Mozambique can be very precarious. Whether it is poverty, access to health, education, or safe water, children in this country face severe challenges that are not being met.

We at UNICEF Mozambique want to do justice to the children we work for every day, who have rights that are being ignored, through no fault of their own. We want to make sure their voices, their stories, are heard. We teamed up with some of the best storytellers in the business, the world-renowned Magnum photo agency, to bring you these stories.

Today, we proudly launch The Rights Responsibility, six photofilms which Magnum’s world-renowned photographers spent weeks filming in far-flung corners of Mozambique, seeing, experiencing, and documenting life as it is lived by millions of children here.

The Rights Responsibility takes viewers on a unique voyage to the shadowlands of Mozambique, which the economic boom has forgotten, where schools exist but quality education often not, where disability continues to condemn a child to life-long misery, where a health worker faces an army of patients every day, where a girl is likely to be married or a mother by 18, where children are the silenced majority, and where safe water is a luxury most can’t afford.

Meet Dr. Ermelinda Gomes, one of the few pediatricians in Mozambique, whom photographer Eli Reed speaks to in the film about the health system.  With just one doctor for every 35,000 persons, and with the nearest health center at 20 kilometers’ distance on average, the health system in Mozambique is distressingly inadequate, and this in a country of major public health challenges such as malaria and HIV. Reed visited hospitals and medical warehouses, spoke to mothers, doctors and nurses, offering us a rare “behind the scenes” view of how healthcare works, or rather doesn’t.

"I think that we should all wait for the right moment, at least until our 20s, before we get pregnant,” says Alice Velemo Nhancume, 15, mother of a 4-month old baby, featured in Reed’s second film, Too Young to Marry. Girls in Mozambique are highly likely to be married or mothers before their 18th birthday. Child marriage is violence, and wreaks havoc on the health and prospects of underage mothers and their children.

We highlight the positive developments, too, as photographer Chris Steele-Perkins explores in his look at the education system.

"Before, pupils in the classroom were mere objects. Now they get involved and participate actively," says Angelina Avelino, a director at a pilot child-friendly school, designed to create an environment around children that is safe, healthy, and conducive to learning.

Ian Berry’s tour of small towns witnesses the rapid rate at which many of them are growing, much like in other parts of the developing world. So fast, in fact, that they have outpaced local governments’ capacity to provide adequate water and sanitation facilities, leaving outdated infrastructures severely overwhelmed - and the population’s health at peril.

For no group are the challenges more pronounced, or heart-breaking, than for children who live with disabilities. Far from easy sentimentality, however, photographer Patrick Zachmann discovers incredible resilience, even humour, among the children and families he meets. "These children don’t need charity, they need dignity," says Ricardo Moresse, an activist who wants to build the country’s capacity for inclusive education.

The obstacles that remain in children’s paths make hearing their voices all the more important. Children constitute a majority in Mozambique, a silent one that is rarely heard, not even in matters that affect them. Photographer Alex Webb discovers a child media network that is trying to change that.

“I have learned many new things,” says Delfina Lopes Zeca, a child radio presenter. “Thanks to my experience, I am able to tell other children about their rights, that they are equal, that they play an important role in society.”

We could not agree more.

To watch and share the films, visit The Rights Responsibility www.rights.org.mz.

 

 
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