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Focus on children’s rights: UNICEF launches photo exhibit and film festival

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© UNICEF/NYHQ2009-1650/Markisz
Executive Director Ann M. Veneman opens the ‘Art in All of Us’ photo exhibit and the International Children’s Rights Documentary Film Festival at UNICEF House in New York.

By Amy Bennett

NEW YORK, USA, 4 November 2009 – As part of the run-up to 20 November, the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman yesterday introduced a photo exhibit and opened a documentary film festival with a special screening at UNICEF headquarters in New York.

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The ‘Art in All of Us’ photo exhibit now on display in UNICEF’s Danny Kaye Visitors’ Centre is based on a new book that features children’s photography, poetry and art. UNICEF has provided global support for this project, and Ms. Veneman wrote the book’s foreword.

UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Lucy Liu and director Guy Jacobson were also on hand to introduce their film, ‘Red Light’. It is part of the International Children’s Rights Documentary Film Festival, which will continue through December.

Powerful means of expression
Photography and film are powerful means of shining a spotlight on issues that are often left in the dark, and artistic expression has multiple benefits for children and young people. These beneficial effects are exemplified by the works in the ‘Art in All of Us’ book and photo exhibit. They demonstrate that issues affecting children can often best be expressed by children themselves – and not only through language.

“Sometimes [children] fear, in some countries, to speak out,” said photographer Anthony Asael, founder of Art in All of Us (AiA), an international organization that promotes cultural exchange among children through art. “Having a camera or having pencils or using their hands, it’s a lot easier for them to express themselves. It is a very good opportunity, and each kid in the world can grab that opportunity to speak out.”

Founded in 2004, AiA works to promote tolerance and understanding among the world’s children, using art as a communication method that transcends language. Some 18,000 children participated in the book project over the course of four years, with help from UNICEF offices worldwide.

“Each child is an artist,” said Mr. Asael. “It is important that we adults stimulate this creativity from the very beginning.”

Film shows effects of trafficking
The other creative initiative launched yesterday, the film festival, will highlight successes and challenges in the global effort to ensure children’s rights. The festival’s documentaries feature children, young people and families who are determined to transform their lives and communities for the better.

The film screened at UNICEF, ‘Red Light’, follows the plight of several current and former child sex slaves from Cambodia. Some of them are trying to regain entry into Cambodian society and return to a normal life after their horrific experiences.

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© UNICEF/NYHQ2009-1651/Markisz
Photographer Anthony Asael – President and co-founder of Art in All of Us, an organization that promotes cultural exchange among children through art – speaks at the opening of the photo exhibit at UNICEF.

‘Red Light’ brings the big picture of child trafficking into focus through the stories of activist Somaly Mam and politician Mu Sochua, who have both been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. The film uses footage smuggled out of brothels, in addition to testimony from former and current child sex slaves.

Ending exploitation
“It’s a very different thing because you are really seeing them up close,” said Ms. Liu, the narrator and producer of ‘Red Light’. “The children are so honest, and it’s very difficult for them to relive what happened to them. For them to be able to tell the story itself creates a vulnerability that’s incredibly heartbreaking."

Added Mr. Jacobson, the film’s director: “It’s a very inspirational story – not of the gloom and doom of how horrible things are but, to the contrary, how incredible people on the ground have been able to make a dent into this problem even in the most difficult situation.”

Besides directing ‘Red Light’, Mr. Jacobson has founded the Red Light Children’s Campaign, a non-governmental organization that aims to end all forms of child sexual exploitation.


 

 

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3 November 2009: UNICEF correspondent Amy Bennett reports on the launch of a photo exhibit and film screening to kick off global events in the run-up to the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
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