|© UNICEF Kenya/2009/Manoocher|
|More than 300 children from all parts of Kenya celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child with a ‘Run for our Rights’, joined by Beijing Special Olympics Gold Medalist Henry Kirwa (centre left).|
By Kun Li
NAIROBI, Kenya, 25 November 2009 – Approximately 300 Kenyan children sprinted through the busy streets of downtown Nairobi this week, chanting the phrase “our rights!” at the ‘Run for our Rights’ event marking the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
Visually impaired Kenyan runner and Beijing Special Olympics Gold Medal winner Henry Kirwa took part in the run, along with representatives from the UNICEF Kenya office and the UNICEF Regional Office for Eastern and Southern Africa.
Mr. Kirwa dedicated the day to children everywhere who are living with disabilities.
“Because I was visually impaired, I was not able to go to school as a child,” said Mr. Kirwa. “Also, because my community was very poor, we paid very little much attention to education and to the needs of children with disabilities.”
Children take centre stage
Following the run, the children, who came from all parts of Kenya, took centre stage and presented their vision for a better future to the country’s Minister of Justice Mutula Kilonzo.
“No more street children and no more corruption or crime,” demanded one child representative.
“Less HIV infections among the youth. No more sexual abuse and violence against children,” said another.
A revised Constitution
Minister Kilonzo reaffirmed the country’s commitment to child rights but also recognized the gaps that have long prevented many Kenyan children from realizing their rights.
“As a country, are you aware that the Constitution that has run this country since 1963 does not mention the word ‘child’ even once?” he asked, adding the that the Kenyan Government had just released a draft Constitution and inviting all to join the debate.
“Above all, the harmonized draft Constitution expressly protects the rights of children in our society,” said Minister Kilonzo. “The protection extends to all children, without discriminating between those born within or outside wedlock.”
Focus on equality
During the celebration, UNICEF Representative in Kenya Dr. Olivia Yambi presented the new special edition of the organization's flah=gship report, 'The State of the World’s Children', to the Minister.
“In pursuing efforts for realization of child rights, focus must be on both equality of opportunity and equality of results,” said Dr. Yambi.
UNICEF Deputy Regional Director Dorothy Rozga reminded everyone present that despite progress made in the past 20 years, hundreds of millions of children worldwide remain excluded from realizing their basic rights.
“An average of 25,000 children under the age of five die each day, mostly from causes which could be easily prevented through low-cost interventions,” said Ms. Rozga. “Around 100 million primary school-age children are still not attending school, and more than 11 million of them live in Eastern and Southern Africa.”
Global and regional celebrations
Children from around the world, including the 20 countries in Eastern and Southern Africa, celebrated this day in their own special way.
In Tanzania, a series of consultations with children were held throughout the country. In Mozambique, children paid tribute to a diverse group of artists for advancing child rights through their work over the years. In Uganda, Parliament held a Children's Special Session. And in Somalia, the Transitional Federal Government announced that it would soon ratify the CRC; the announcement received a warm welcome from the international community.
CRC @ 20
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