Young people speak out at TEDxKids@Nyarugenge
To celebrate World Children’s Day and the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF held a TEDx for 10 young speakers and performers from across Rwanda.
KIGALI, Rwanda – Imagine a day where brilliant children and youth speak out, sharing mind-blowing conversations. This is TEDx – local gatherings where live speakers, performers and innovators talk to an organized audience and to virtual followers across the world.
Enshrined by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, young people are guaranteed the right to share their opinions and ideas through platforms like TEDx, and adults are obliged to listen.
This year, the Convention on the Rights of the Child turned 30. Celebrated on November 20th and dubbed World Children’s Day, the birth of this Convention guaranteed children across the globe the rights to a healthy, happy and meaningful life.
UNICEF organised this TEDxKids to provide a platform for young people to talk about their experiences with child rights.
Over 200 people attended to hear some of the most passionate and thought-provoking voices from across all five of Rwanda’s provinces. Each speaker – a youth visionary or activist in their community – stepped on stage to share new ideas, inspirations, and experiences with children’s rights.
Big lies of small lives
The first speaker, 17-year-old Sugira Lorie, wove a story about her mother as a modern-day heroine, an independent woman whose world revolved around her daughters.
“I was born a girl, a real disappointment for my father,” Lorie said.
But her mother devoted everything to Lorie and her sisters: money, time, endless love.
“My sisters and I would ask her, ‘Mom, why don’t you go out with your friends and enjoy life?’ She would answer, ‘Where else can I find my happiness if not from you?’”
With her mother as a role model, Lorie has grown confident, shaking off the need for her father’s approval and unconcerned with the opinions of others.
From street child to a leader
Patrick is only 12 years old, but he has already experienced much more than any child should. Family conflict and domestic violence caused him to drop out of school, and he spent several years living on the street.
“I had to be resilient, and eventually I was able to go back to school.”
Supported by a scholarship, Patrick has returned to school. He has become a leader among his peers, earning top marks in his class and practicing traditional Rwandan dance in his free time.
Life after domestic violence
With a shaking voice, 16-year-old Umutoni shared her story of survival and strength growing up in an abusive household. Her father often withheld financial resources, even refusing to buy her mother medicine.
“I was so scared to go to school, and when I reached home, I was always relieved to find that my mom was still there.”
As she grew, Umutoni found herself on a journey of recovery, learning to be happy and refusing to let violence define her.
“Never give up. You can defeat this. Your happiness should come first.”
Change from a child
Imploring the audience to come together under adversity, Nikita Imani, 19, is doubly talented in speaking and painting.
Citing world tragedies such as the Rwandan and Armenian Genocides, Nikita uses her art to represent her perception of utopia, where everyone enjoys equal rights while still celebrating what makes us different.
“Diversity can be a solution to our problems, not the cause. We should use diversity as a source of gravity to mould development.”
Pointing to one painting, Nikita explains, “This woman is shaped by fabrics of different colours. She is black and white, embracing her differences as a part of her whole. I call this painting, ‘Diversely Unified.’”
Refugee children with disabilities: If assisted, the future is bright
In the eyes of her father, Iyle’s physical disability made her worthless. He refused to support her education and withheld his love and encouragement.
With tears rolling down her cheeks, Iyle recalled, “My mother sold tomatoes on the street to try and support me and take care of my medical bills. Her friends tried to discourage her, saying that I would surely not survive, but she never gave up on me.”
Be the change you want to see
When Joselyne was young, she spent hours talking and playing with her best friend. But as a teenager, she lost touch with her friend when the girl got pregnant and became a teen mother. Joselyne is now in university, while her friend sits at home caring for a baby.
Disappointed by poor access to sexual and reproductive health information and scarred by her friend’s disrupted future, Joselyne became a child rights activist in her community.
“I started to compose poems with different messages on child rights abuse, raising awareness among teenagers and for parents to be positive examples for their children.”
Joselyne has written several books of poetry and has even presented them in forums like the National Children’s Summit.
“What is your contribution to ending child rights abuses?” she said. “I challenge you.”
Empowering disabled children
Although Bosco has been blind since infancy, this did not stop him from pursuing his dream.
“He might be the best musician the country has produced in years,” claimed Israel, 17-year-old Master of Ceremony.
“The challenges can become a change, right?” Bosco challenged the audience.
Bosco attended school and met a friend who taught him to play guitar. “It helped bring back my hope for myself,” said Bosco. He continued studying guitar for the next four years and has since become a successful composer and singer.
“To all parents, for children like me, you can be our eyes, but do not try to be our brain.”
“Change will always come from us”
Standing up and speaking out for children’s rights is a daily effort. For this World Children’s Day, these young people rose to the challenge and seized the opportunity of TEDx.
As Joselyne asserted, “It is time to start supporting young children because they have potential. They can bring useful ideas to build a peaceful society.”
“We often look for change outside,” said Israel. “But change will always come from us.”