TBILISI, Georgia, 25 June, 2019. A three-day seminar was organized for the representatives of the Georgian Orthodox Church on child rights and the situation of children in Georgia. Up to 35 religious leaders participated in the seminar organized by the Patriarchate of Georgia in partnership with UNICEF.
Participants discussed issues such as the general principles and provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, role of religious leaders in promoting and protecting child rights, quality of education, stigma towards people with disabilities and social norms related to violence against children, protection of children from violence, the importance of families for children, child poverty, and juvenile justice.
Several key elements of the Convention on the Rights of the Child guided the discussions. These included a fundamental belief in the dignity of the child, an emphasis on the family as the best place for bringing up children and the idea that all members of society have rights and duties towards them.
“UNICEF works with religious communities throughout the world to advance children’s wellbeing and we highly appreciate the willingness of the Patriarchate of Georgia to join efforts in advocating for children’s rights”, says Dr. Ghassan Khalil, UNICEF Representative in Georgia. “We had a very rich and interesting discussion. We thank the Patriarchate for their openness and trust. Religious leaders have deep and trusted relationships with their communities and often have strong linkages with the most disadvantaged and vulnerable members. They are well positioned to support the poorest, most vulnerable and hard to reach children and families. The seeds of this partnership have been planted and we are confident that this will bring tangible changes in the lives of children and families,” added Ghassan Khalil.
The representatives of the Patriarchate of Georgia expressed their satisfaction with the seminar and said they learnt a lot about the Convention on the Rights of the Child, various challenges facing children, and about UNICEF and its programmes in Georgia:
“There are issues that unite us and issues we have different opinions about. But there is no alternative to dialogue”.
“I always wanted to partner with UNICEF since its office was opened in Georgia. I am glad that I have this opportunity now.”
“Wellbeing, safety and health are the most important issues that children face today. Suicide among children is the most pressing issue nowadays. We need to work together with the State and other actors before the problem occurs and support children and families”.
“The word was the beginning and now we have to move to the specific actions for children. Our joint efforts will reap specific results”.
“The ice is broken. Before, there was ‘us’ and ‘you’ and now it is ‘we’.”
During the year, UNICEF will organize two more seminars for representatives of the Georgian Orthodox Church as well as for religious leaders of Muslim communities of Georgia.
UNICEF has a long history of working with faith-based organizations and religious leaders. As a result of their congregational platforms and often highly respected status in society, religious leaders are well placed to achieve behavioural and attitudinal changes, with significant potential for triggering and sustaining significant improvements in child welfare and development.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.