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In troubled Darfur, children raise their voices to defend their rights

UNICEF Image: Darfur, Sudan, Child's Rights
© UNICEF Sudan/2007
A young girl sings a rap song about child rights in the North Darfur city of El Fasher, during an event to mark the 18th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

By Tania McBride

The Convention on the Rights of the Child was ratified 18 years ago, on 20 November 1989. For this landmark anniversary, UNICEF has launched the 'CRC@18' campaign to raise awareness about child rights and the impact of the Convention. Here is one in a series of related stories.

NORTH DARFUR, Sudan, 27 November 2007 – Amidst the sandstorms, heat, dust and insecurity of Darfur, the voices of hundreds of children rang out as they delivered key messages on the rights of children on the 18th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

'Watch, Listen, Talk and Act' was the key theme of a joint initiative between UNICEF and the North Darfur State Council for Child Welfare, staged in the city of El Fasher. Four high schools and two kindergartens participated in a range of activities including dance, drama, poetry, jokes, music and even a tug-of-war contest to convey their messages on child rights.

The Secretary-General of the State Council for Child Welfare, Dr. Jihad Mohammed Yussef, addressed children, parents, teachers and community members. She emphasized that upholding and defending children’s rights is a fundamental role for parents and teachers, and that the state has an obligation to ensure that these rights are embedded in Sudanese culture and law. The message was fourfold:

  • All major stakeholders in children’s education should teach children about their rights
  • Children should be encouraged to ask what rights they have
  • The community should vigorously defend the rights of children
  • Children’s rights ultimately need to be protected.

Dr. Jihad Mohammed Yussef also stressed that with these rights comes responsibility.

UNICEF Image: Darfur, Sudan, Child's Rights
© UNICEF Sudan/2007
Teams of children spread the message of child rights while taking part in a tug-of-war competition in the North Darfur city of El Fasher.

Getting the message out

Large numbers of parents and community members braved the early morning ‘haboob’ – or Sudanese sandstorms – to be entertained by the children, who used a variety of artistic media to talk about their rights.

A crowd favourite was a group from Al Shargia Girls Secondary School adorned in UNICEF t-shirts and baseball caps who performed a rap with the message about acceptable behaviour between men and women.

A five-year-old girl in Trafiya kindergarten moved the crowd with a heartfelt poem on the impact of war. Her words were echoed in a chant that broke out amongst children from Union High School for Girls: “No to war, yes to peace!”

An estimated 2 million children are affected by the conflict in Darfur, and many have known nothing but a life lived in camps for the internally displaced. Amidst the drama and laughter in El Fasher, the message of respecting children’s rights was especially poignant.



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