Mônica: UNICEF’s Newest & Youngest National Ambassador in Brazil
Brazil - On 6 November, 7 year old Mônica was nominated as the youngest UNICEF National Ambassador in Brazil at a ceremony in São Paulo, Brazil. Mônica is a beloved cartoon character who has been capturing the hearts and imagination of children in Brazil and over 50 countries with her friends, known as Mônica’s Gang. Created in March 1963, two generations of Brazilians have grown up reading about Mônica’s adventures as a 7 year old girl, and they now share her stories with their own children.
The nomination was presented to Mônica by UNICEF’s Representative in Brazil, Marie-Pierre Poirier in the presence of Monica’s ‘father’, the writer and cartoonist Maurício de Sousa. Mônica was welcomed as UNICEF’s newest National Ambassador in Brazil, by UNICEF’s first, and most experienced Ambassador, the ever-popular actor Renato Aragão, who began his partnership with UNICEF Brazil in 1991.
Mônica was chosen by UNICEF because she is a child and speaks to children in a language they understand. Mônica’s growing cross-generational appeal has a positive influence with children, their parents and families and with teachers around the world. For over 44 years, her cartoon adventures have been helping children to learn about the important values of friendship, respect for cultural diversity and the importance of sports. “Children like me have rights”, said Monica at the ceremony. “I’m going to make sure that other children know about their rights to health, education and to be cared for and protected by their families and communities.”
“Mônica is adored by millions of children and will be a powerful force in helping children throughout Brazil to understand their rights to health, education and protection because she speaks the language of children”, said Marie-Pierre Poirier. “She will help UNICEF see the world through the eyes of a child so we can improve our work to ensure that children’s rights are fulfilled, respected and protected.”
How popular is Mônica and her gang? So far, their comics have sold over 1 billion copies, have been translated into more than a dozen languages and are read in over 50 countries as diverse as Japan, Spain, Korea and Indonesia. In Brazil, Monica’s Gang publications represent 70% of the children’s market and her website gets over 30 million page-views per month.
In 2006, Maurício de Sousa produced the special Monica’s Gang comic book “Every Child Wants to be a Child” about child labour, with UNICEF support. The simple, direct, humorous language of Monica’s Gang cartoon characters makes it possible to develop cartoons in which complex and difficult subjects can be assimilated by children and adults easily and effectively, including sensitive issues such as domestic violence and abuse.
Over the past 2 years, Mônica’s comic books have included important UNICEF messages for children (and their parents) in a monthly page. These include cartoons related to children’s rights and the importance of breastfeeding, education, fighting racism, social inclusion of disabled children and the importance of sports. Children are invited to participate in the dialogue by sending in their own drawings and stories about children’s rights to UNICEF Brazil. In February 2007, Maurício held a special, pre-screening premiere in São Paulo of the new full-length Mônica feature film for children benefiting from UNICEF Brazil interventions.
“I am very proud that Mônica has been presented with this title”, said Maurício. “It means that she will have to do all of her homework, and I know that she is really looking forward to talking with other children so that together with UNICEF, we can help make Brazil a better place for children. As for my title, I am speechless and know that it carries with it great responsibility and commitment to the cause for children and I am ready to join Mônica and all of her friends in their efforts so that each child in Brazil can grow up happy, healthy and safe.”
Mônica’s main areas of interest are to help children and their parents understand the importance of children’s right to learn, the importance of welcoming and respecting cultural diversity throughout the country, and the right of children to be protected and cared for in their families and communities.
As UNICEF’s newest National Ambassador in Brazil, Mônica joins the tireless efforts of actor Renato Aragão. Renato was honored at the ceremony for his 16 years of work as a UNICEF National Ambassador and for his strong commitment to children. “It is really an honor to work with UNICEF in the cause for children”, said Renato as he renewed his partnership with UNICEF. “We have already made a big difference in children’s lives throughout Brazil, but there is still so much to do, so I am very happy Mônica is joining the UNICEF team.”
One hundred children from low-income families in Sao Paulo were invited to participate in Mônica’s ceremony, which took place at ‘Mônica’s Park’, a 100,000 square foot theme park for children in São Paulo. After the presentation, the children had a chance to meet their heroes Mônica, Renato and Maurício and then had a few hours to play on all the rides at the Park for free.
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For nearly more than half a century, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors have been helping protect the rights and improve the lives of children around the world. By creating public awareness of children’s issues and helping to mobilize resources, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors send a clear message that children are an urgent priority and to increase public awareness of the rights of children. Their work has helped sway government policies on behalf of children, publicize children's issues around the globe and raise funds for UNICEF-supported programmes. Current UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors include: Sir Roger Moore, David Beckham, Danny Glover, Sebastião Salgado, Roger Federer, Mia Farrow, Danny Glover, Whoopi Golberg, Angélique Kidjo, Nana Mouskouri, Jackie Chan and Femi Kuti. Past UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors include Audrey Hepburn, Sir Peter Ustinov and UNICEF’s first Goodwill Ambassador, Danny Kaye.