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NEW YORK, 4 March 2005 - To celebrate children’s and women’s rights worldwide, and to raise awareness of gender equality issues, UNICEF has invited six girls from four continents to share their ideas and opinions on these topics with journalists and UNICEF staff. One of the participating staff is UNICEF’s Deputy Executive Director Rima Salah, who chatted online for the first time in her life with 12-year-old Nelly from Cameroon.
Both participants were equally eager and interested. “I think a dialogue is so important”, said Ms. Salah. “I don’t know Nelly, but I feel there is a warmth coming from Cameroon. It’s very important that we share ideas.”
With help from Amber Oliver, the coordinator of UNICEF's interactive website for young people, ‘Voices of Youth’, Ms. Salah chatted in cyberspace for the first time in her life.
Using a chat room specifically designed for UNICEF’s Voices of Youth (an interactive website for young people), Nelly and Ms. Salah had a lively half-hour discussion on topics ranging from friendship to girls’ education. Voices of Youth coordinator Amber Oliver facilitated the event.
Here are a few excerpts from the chat:
Encouraging children to participate and contribute their ideas to the work of UNICEF is at the centre of what Voices of Youth does. Every day, thousands of children from all over the world are connecting to the chat room via the Internet. They share what they know and what they want to learn, empowering themselves with knowledge, and raising their voices to be heard by decision makers.
Elena Lai: Education is the most important thing in life
Another of the participating girls is Elena Lai, 12, from Malaysia. Elena lives in Kuala Lumpur with her family.
Elena told UNICEF correspondent Kun Li that education is the most important thing in her life. She thinks all children should go to school and stay in school, as she has done. Only through education can we can have “doctors, engineers, teachers, and other people like that,” she said. Elena wants people throughout the world to “open your eyes, we are all equal!”
In order to build a world fit for children, one of the keys to success is getting direct input from children themselves. UNICEF hopes that children’s voices will make a lasting impact on the world leaders who are currently attending the Beijing +10 Conference on women’s and girls’ equality.