2018 World Children's Day in the Maldives
UNICEF celebrated World Children's Day with hundreds of girls and boys from across the country.
On and around World Children’s Day, thousands of girls, boys and adults celebrated children with UNICEF in the Maldives. By coming together as a community, thousands had the chance to appreciate the role of children in society – and girls and boys throughout the Maldives were given the chance to play, laugh and have fun. We partnered with the Maldives Police Service to hold activities on islands in the south of the country, Fuvahmulah island in the Gnaviyani Atoll and Gan island in the Laamu Addu Atoll.
“These celebrations were an opportunity for people to think about children – and the issues facing children – and understand that we all have a responsibility to keep children safe,” said Mohamed Naeem, the Child Protection, Child Rights and Gender Program Specialist at the UNICEF Maldives Office.
We worked with each area’s Community Social Groups, or CSGs, to put on these events, all of which were focused on child protection and road safety. CSGs are a UNICEF initiative that aims to boost collaboration of a communities’ protection players. By coordinating the work of health care providers, police officers, social workers, teachers, and members of child protection-focused civil society associations, CSGs more comprehensively address the needs of vulnerable children.
We chose to hold World Children’s Day events on Fuvahmulah and Gan islands to draw attention to their high incidence of protection issues and road accidents, the themes of 2018’s World Children’s Day. To do so, we worked with police officers from both Fuvahmulah and Gan, along with officers from Malé.
This was Fuvahmulah island’s second World Children’s Day with UNICEF. After leading the event last year, UNICEF handed coordination of World Children’s Day to the Fuvahmulah CSG, providing support where necessary. The Commissioner of Police inaugurated the event, later promising to protect children by printing his hand on UNICEF’s commitment board.
The highlight of the event in Fuvahmulah was Children’s Evening, where children and families gathered to learn about child protection issues, play together, and above all, celebrate children as a community. Children spent the night getting their faces painted, playing games, and having fun. For older children, there were opportunities to try different crafts – for example, many participated in a woodcarving workshop.
Children also had the chance to learn from the adults in their community. Firefighters and hospital staff gave children an inside look into their day-to-day responsibilities, and showed children around an ambulance and a firetruck. The firefighters gave sessions on fire safety, and hospital staff taught children what to do if they see an ambulance speeding down the road.
UNICEF and the CSG held sessions for parents on violence against children and road safety, including a highly successful event for fathers that attracted over 450. Many fathers said they had never had a chance to attend a child-focused session like this one, and one father offered to take the lead on continuing similar events for fathers in Fuvahmulah on a regular basis. UNICEF will be working with this father in 2019 to ensure such sessions get off the ground. We also engaged mothers and students on violence against children and cyberbullying, the latter of which has skyrocketed with the increased use of technology among school children.
On November 20, children from four schools in four islands in Laamu Atoll joined our #GoBlue color run on Gan island. Color runs have gained popularity in recent years, but are often restricted to Male’ City. Gan island’s police force suggested a color run to provide the opportunity to local children, an event that ended up attracting over 1,000 girls and boys. Children ran alongside Ahmed Athif, a Maldivian Ultra Runner, who joined forces with UNICEF to raise awareness of child protection and road safety.
The following day, we held a session on ending violence against children, an event that attracted hundreds of parents from two local schools. To do so, we worked with the Atoll Council and the Gan Police Station, fitting the session into a program currently ongoing in the area. As part of the celebrations, sessions were held on addressing and preventing violence against children, ensuring coordination from all sectors that focus on vulnerable children. The three events we held in partnership with the Atoll Council, Gan Police Station were directed at parents and caregivers.
In addition, we held a one-day workshop for managers and owners of guesthouses and hotels, schools, hospitals, the police force, and social services. This session focused on local tourism, and illustrated tourism’s potential risks to children. By providing examples from other tourism-heavy countries, we showed these individuals how to protect children at multiple levels, and keep a watchful eye to make sure all children are safe from these risks.
On November 23, we culminated our celebrations with the largest event of all: a fun, engaging day of activities for children and caregivers. We partnered with the Maldives Police Service; the Ministry of Gender, Family and Social Services; Ministry of Education, schools from the local islands, tourist resorts and private sector and civil society actors to host an evening of live performances, both by local school children and nationally recognized celebrities. Children had the chance to sing, dance and perform skits with their peers, while also engaging in face painting, outdoor games and more.