Reflections on CRC Article 24

Children have the right to the best health care possible, clean water to drink, healthy food and a clean and safe environment to live in. All adults and children should have information about how to stay safe and healthy.

Laksmi Pamuntjak
Salamat, Chitra and Dela
01 November 2019

There are many children living in the slums of Makassar. Life is hard there. All the things we have come to see as basic needs: uncontaminated water, nutritious food, a clean, safe environment, are not a given. These rights have to be fought for on a daily basis. Not only do these children have to withstand the squalor, they also have to make do with the lack. Watch their families struggle to make ends meet and help as much as they can. Endure the indignity of knowing that elsewhere people are living better, healthier lives. Lives they might have seen on television or around them, not very far from where they live. Lives other children around the world have started to wake up to and are starting to demand for—in order to secure better, healthier futures.

Chitra and Dela are cousins. They know a thing or two about the value of hard work. Chitra’s mother, Salmawati, cleans soy sauce bottles in nearby restaurants for a living. The irony is not lost on us, though perhaps there is something to it—to Salmawati’s resilience above all—that inures her daughter and niece to all the hardship around them. It’s hard to stomach, by any standard, the sight of the 31-year old woman walking her usual one-kilometre stretch, 6 to 7 times a day, four days a week, to fetch enough clean water, much less how she finds the time and magnanimity to educate young children of the slums not to beg for money in the streets. It is an act of faith, and it does something to the soul.

We do not know what produces and sustains hope. But Chitra and Dela both dream of becoming doctors someday. Perhaps they sense that their home is simply not biologically and ecologically sustainable, and that that time will come: the day they leave, the day they make a better life for themselves and for the environment in which they live.


Convention on the rights of the child

In 1989, governments across the world promised all children the same rights by adopting the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The Convention says what countries must do so that all children grow as healthy as possible, can learn at school, are protected, have their views listened to, and are treated fairly.

As part of Indonesia’s celebrations in November 2019, to mark the 30th anniversary of the CRC, UNICEF asked Indonesian author Laksmi Pamuntjak to help us envision some of these CRC articles. Inspired by photos and images from our database, and working with our programme specialists, Laksmi created 15 fictional texts on some of the most relevant articles for the Indonesian context.

Though these reflections were inspired by the accompanying photographs, the texts do not, for the most part, describe the life or story of any person depicted within them.