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Children urge policymakers to listen

© UNICEF/Bangladesh/Kiron/2009
Zahida Sultana Mukti addresses the audience at the launch of the 2010 The State of the World's Children report.

By Minhaz Anwar

DHAKA, Bangladesh, December 6, 2009 – Bangladesh put children centre stage at the launch of UNICEF’s global flagship publication, The State of the World’s Children.

Four Bangladeshi children from different parts of the country shared the official table with the Secretary of the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, Rokeya Sultana, and UNICEF representative, Carel de Rooy.

Children’s voices were also represented in an accompanying art exhibition which included more than 30 paintings, poems and quotes from children on their views on the status of child rights in Bangladesh.

Teenager Zahida Sultana Mukti, deputy speaker of Bangladesh’s child parliament, was the special guest at the launch and spoke passionately about child participation.
“It’s not enough to share the stage with us but what’s really important is to listen carefully to what we have to say, as part of your policymaking role,” she told the audience which included Government, media and NGO representatives.

This year’s State of the World’s Children report is a special edition to celebrate 20 years of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). It looks at the progress that has been made to implement the CRC across the world, and the challenges that remain.

The report shows how the CRC has transformed the way children are viewed and treated throughout the world. Not only it has changed the attitudes and knowledge of people but it has also shaped legislation, policies and institutional practices. The rights articulated in the Convention are based on four core principles: non-discrimination, focusing on the best interests of the child, the right to life, survival and development, and respect for the views of children.

© UNICEF/Bangladesh/Kiron/2009
Children were guests of honour at the Bangladeshi launch of the 2010 The State of the World's Children report.

Consult us first
Mukti urged the Government to consult children before updating the National Children’s Policy 1994.

“We do not want to be treated as ornaments in any programme but we would like you to talk to us before you speak about us.”

“We have decided that the Child Parliament and National Children Taskforce will regularly monitor who is doing what on the implementation of the rights of the child,” she added.
This comment sparked widespread applause in the room and an immediate response from Secretary, Rokeya Sultana. “We will make no delay in consulting you,” she said. “We welcome the accountability you are putting on us by initiating the monitoring.”

Three more children then took to the podium to share personal stories that reflected the implementation of child rights in Bangladesh. Khaleda, 18, from Rangpur in the north explained how she stopped a child marriage in her village. Murad, from Madaripur in the south, described how a news report written by himself and other child journalists helped an Indian boy confined in a Bangladeshi jail reunite with his family. Sazon, 10, the youngest of all, discussed the leadership role he plays in a drop-in-centre for homeless boys.

Please move faster
The UNICEF Representative in Bangladesh, Carel de Rooy, urged the Government to make faster progress on the adoption of the CRC in domestic legislation. “Bangladesh is lagging on the much needed adaptation of the body of national law to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This major and most relevant task is yet to be achieved. Mandated by the Government, a committee has drafted an amendment to the 1974 Children’s Act, to make it more consistent with the CRC. I urge the Government to adopt this amendment to the 1974 Children’s Act without any more delay,” he said.

Mr Carel de Rooy and the other special guests also launched an exhibition, entitled Children’s Voices: It’s Time to listen, which comprised more than 30 drawings and poems from children across the country, depicting their dreams and fears, deprivations and aspirations. The works were collected during a series of focus groups with more than 800 Bangladeshi children, in which children expressed their opinion on the implementation of child rights through poetry, discussion and visual arts.



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