|From left: Deputy Permanent Representative of Fiji to the United Nations Mason Smith, San Marino Minister for Foreign and Political Affairs Antonella Mularoni, Kids Link Fiji representative Peter Chung, UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman and Permanent Representative of the Republic of San Marino to the UN Daniele Bodini.|
By Susan Markisz
NEW YORK, USA, 9 February, 2009 – The Alexander Bodini Charitable Foundation paid tribute last Friday to three child-based organizations for their work in advocating for children’s rights and to UNICEF for its humanitarian initiatives on behalf of children.
The three winning organizations were the Tamilnadu-Pondicherry State Parliament of Children in India, Young African Stars Nigeria and Kids Link Fiji – each of which received $20,000. They were honoured as tomorrow’s leaders and agents of change.
The third annual San Marino-UNICEF Awards dinner was hosted in New York by Minister for Foreign and Political Affairs of the Republic of San Marino Antonella Mularoni, Minister of Territory and Environment of the Republic of San Marino Giancarlo Venturini, and the Permanent Representative of the Republic of San Marino to the United Nations, Daniele Bodini.
“We are living through difficult times,” Ambassador Bodini said in a somber note before introducing the winning organizations. “Despite this adversity, our young people around the world are determined to succeed. And tonight, we are gathered to recognize outstanding work of three inspiring groups from different parts of the globe who will become our leaders.”
India’s Children’s Parliament elects young people as Ministers for Health, Education, Finance and Defense of Children’s rights, and is responsible for raising awareness of child rights issues.
Grazina Sen, wife of Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations Nirupam Sen, spoke on behalf of the Children’s Parliament.
Ms. Sen expressed her thanks to the Republic of San Marino and the Bodini Foundation for “helping the small pockets of the world to help children” – and to “UNICEF’s ‘army of thousands’ who help children most in need.”
|George Urunwoke, President of Young African Stars Nigeria, accepts the San Marino-UNICEF Award on behalf of his organization.|
‘Hearts full of joy’
Young African Stars Nigeria is a non-governmental organization that aims to raise awareness of the rights of children. They also manage an award-winning dance group, African Child Dance.
“The future of every nation depends on the quality of its children,” said the group’s President, George Urunwoke. “We have hearts full of joy and we are so grateful.”
Echoing Mr. Urunwoke’s sentiments, the Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the United Nations U Joy Ogwu paraphrased former UK Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, saying: “UNICEF has taken the lead in giving hope to children and has shown great faith in the youth of the world as trustees of posterity.”
A simple message
The third winning group, Kids Link Fiji, was established in 2003 with support from Save the Children Fiji to advocate for children’s rights and participate in decisions that affect them.
Deputy Permanent Representative of Fiji to the United Nations Mason Smith cast aside his prepared speech to remark that he believed the message to adults was a simple one.
“If we can love our children in the same innocent manner that they have loved us, if we can wipe a tear from their eye, if we can fill their stomachs, if we can educate them, I’m sure we can go a long way in ensuring that the rights of our children are protected,” he said.
Focus on the environment
Among the highlights of the evening were two videos from last year’s awards recipients, the Environment and Sanitation Club of Boussouma High School in Burkina Faso and the Children and Adolescents Communication Agency of Ecuador, both of which reported on progress made during the last year.
Children from the Environment and Sanitation Club of Boussouma High School focused their efforts on the environment as a method of implementing long-term change in their community. With the support of their teacher, who explained that food and environmental issues are inextricably linked, they planted 700 trees, purchased tools to repair the pump for their well and funded handwashing facilities for two toilets.
In addition to the club’s environmental activities, the San Marino-UNICEF Award enabled the children to receive training on HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases – information they now share with the community as peer educators.
Setting an example
In addition to the grants given to the three youth groups this year, UNICEF field offices in Nigeria, Fiji and India will each receive a grant of $10,000.
In her remarks prior to accepting the awards on behalf of the field offices, UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman addressed some of the challenges facing children and women. She emphasized the importance of achieving the Millennium Development Goals as quantifiable targets that address issues such as poverty, education and gender equality.
Veneman noted that the organizations being honoured have focused their work on promoting the rights of children, and that this work sets an example for children in other countries.