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Madagascar’s children speak out for peace

© UNICEF Madagascar/2006
Children in Madagascar celebrate the United Nations International Day of Peace.

By Misbah Sheik

ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar, 22 September 2006 – Dozens of children have taken part in the first celebration in Madagascar of the United Nations International Day of Peace. The annual observance on 21 September is intended as a day of global ceasefire and non-violence.

It’s a day of special relevance to children, who are particularly vulnerable in times of conflict, when they are often exposed to abuse and exploitation.

“But the absence of war does not mean there is peace,” says UNICEF’s interim Representative in Madagascar, Francisco Basili. “Building a world fit for children means building a world where children are safe to go to school, to walk down the streets, to say what they feel and to be treated with respect in their families and by their communities.”

Passionate young voices

Ten-year-old Fara was one of the children brought together by UNICEF for the celebration. She attends a special school for the deaf, and for the first time in her life, she took to the stage in front of 300 people to mark the International Day of Peace.

“I was born unable to hear or to speak,” Fara signed, her message conveyed by an interpreter. “So I wish that people would not treat me differently because I cannot hear them. I wish that children like me are not discriminated against and that everyone accepts everybody with whatever differences they might have.”

Fara and her peers were part of a group of 50 children who took part in the day’s ceremonies, presenting short monologues, plays and dances about what peace means to them. Their voices were strong, poignant and passionate. Here are some of the things they said:

  • “My name is Eric. I am nine years old. For me, peace means having a family, eating, being healthy and living with the people I love.”
  • “My name is Hasina. I am 12 years old. I wish there was no violence in our schools, in our homes and on our streets. I wish that thieves didn’t come to steal from us at night, and that all children went to school.”
  • “My name is Tiana and I am eight years old. My friends and I want our parents to stop fighting, to stop hitting us, to stop drinking alcohol and getting drunk, and to stop taking drugs.”
  • “My name is Heriniaina. I am 10 years old. I wish people would stop forcing us to work on the streets and instead let us go to school and play.”

Children share their hopes

UNICEF organized the celebration to give children an opportunity to share their hopes for peace with high-level government ministers, development agencies, civil society organizations and the media.

“It has been a tremendous experience for us to hear the voices of our children for peace,” said Madagascar’s Minister for Youth and Sport, Ramandimbisoa Tombo.

“I was incredibly moved to see street children, schoolchildren and disabled children all together,” he continued. “This event has reminded us of how much of an obligation we have to our children to make this nation a better place for them.”




22 September 2006:
UNICEF’s Misbah Sheikh reports on the first celebration in Madagascar of the International Day of Peace.
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