Celebrating a special week for children in Iran
By Simon Ingram
Tehran, October 28, 2013 - Children across Iran have taken part in a series of special events and festivities marking Children’s Week, with the broad aim of reinforcing understanding and support for children’s rights.
Celebrations got under way at the Kanoon Parvaresh Fekri (Centre for Intellectual Development of Adolescents and Youth) in Tehran, where the Deputy Minister of Education, Mr. Mohammadian, and other government officials joined UNICEF staff and several hundred children for a lively show that featured puppets and other entertainment.
Children’s Week was the product of extensive planning by more than 16 governmental and non-governmental groups, with the active support of UNICEF.
“The hard work and energy that went into these activities, both in Tehran and in the provinces, really demonstrates the broad commitment to children’s rights that exists here in Iran,” said UNICEF Representative, Munir Safieldin. “What was particularly encouraging was the way in which more vulnerable groups -- children with disabilities, street and working children, for example – were part of the activities and the fun.”
Other events in Tehran included a party for children and mothers living with HIV/AIDS and children with disabilities, and another organised by a local NGO, Ghadir, which cares for young girls living with mental and physical disability. Doctors and other staff at Tehran’s Medical Centre did their part by donning clowns’ red noses, much to the amusement of the child patients in their care.
UNICEF’s direct support included the distribution of CRC booklets and posters promoting the Convention on the Rights of the Child to schools, NGOs and government stakeholders.
Coinciding with Children’s Week this year was the 27th International Festival of Films for Children and Young Adults, held in the central city of Isfahan. Colourful flags and posters hung on public buildings to mark the Festival, which this year showcased more than 200 films from around the world along with a host of fringe events.
The Festival drew leading celebrities from Iranian cinema, including the actress (and UNICEF Iran Goodwill Ambassador), Mahtab Keramati.
Considerable effort went into ensuring children played a meaningful part in the Festival: prize-winning entries in one film category were selected by a children’s jury drawn from Iran and nine other countries. At a special ceremony, the 90 child jury members, among them children with disability, received digital cameras and backpacks contributed by UNICEF.
The jury – which also included a renowned children’s film director, a member of the Farabi Cinema Foundation, Ms Keramati and UNICEF staff – presented a special award to Amir Shahab Razavian, for his film “Journey of Time”, which uses a blend of fiction and fantasy to teach life skills to children.
Separately, UNICEF organised a seminar to promote the OneMinutesJr initiative, which allows children and youth to express their views through making their own 60 second videos. Since its inception in 2002, more than 3,150 youngsters from 97 countries have taken part in OneMinutesJr workshops. The possibility of staging one in Iran received broad support at the seminar.
Children’s Week was an opportunity to celebrate some of the advances Iran has made in recent years --for example, reducing under-five mortality and in achieving near-universal primary school enrolment. But serious challenges remain. Reducing disparities (not least for some 400,000 migrant Afghan children), increasing people’s understanding of HIV/AIDS, and cutting the high rate of road accidents among adolescents and youth are among issues on the national children’s agenda.