Say Yes, Summer 2003: Leave No Child Out

A girl wearing a Haydi Kızlar Okula! t-shirt blows bubbles

I’d feel lonely if they sent me to work instead of school. I need to play and who would I play with?
Photograph by Rana Mullan
© UNICEF Turkey 2003

Leave No Child Out is a unique opportunity to mobilise across the region to end the discrimination and intolerance that rob millions of children of their dignity and potential. It’s a way of standing up for all children’s rights. It’s not just a campaign for better policies; it also challenges us as individuals to change our own attitudes and mindsets, says Philip O’Brien, UNICEF Regional Director.

Being left out means being an object of discrimination which begets a vicious cycle of disadvantage as the effects pass from one generation to the next so that children often suffer multiple disadvantages as a result. Exclusion or discrimination -- whatever you care to call it -- is hugely detrimental to society when the costs of public services and lost potential are taken into account.

Exclusion is not a fact of life but a given and it is entirely preventable. Which is why the Regional Network for Children (RNC), a part of the Global Movement for Children (GMFC), is going to tackle the issue of exclusion in the Central and Eastern Europe and Commonwealth of Independent States and the Baltics (CEE/CIS) region. The RNC has adopted Leave No Child Out as the focus for its region-wide public awareness campaign for 2003-2004.

During the past decade, as the region grappled with the myriad social and economic problems of transition, around 18 million children were living in poverty; 2.2 million people were internally displaced and one million were refugees; the number of children in institutions for the disabled has risen in many countries; almost one million live in residential institutions and the region has the fastest growing rates of HIV/AIDS infection in the world with roughly one million people living with the disease.

Stressing that A World Fit for Children will only be possible through strong, visionary partnerships, the Leave No Child Out campaign will:

  • expose social exclusion and its impact on children;
  • promote public debate;
  • promote anti-discriminatory attitudes, behaviour, practices, policies and norms.

The RNC’s vision of the CEE/CIS is of a society where no child is excluded; where diversity is respected; where the rights of every child will be upheld and, above all, where no child will be left out. In short, a ‘Region Fit for Children’.

The ‘parent’ of Leave No Child Out was the phenomenally successful Say Yes for Children which won the hearts and minds of Turkey: two thirds of parliament and one in every four people said “Yes” for children prior to the United Nations Special Session on Children (UNSSC) last May. Leave No Child Out is built on the first action of the ‘Say Yes’ pledge, which topped the poll in the CEE/CIS region.

It is Turkey’s honour to host representatives from twenty-seven countries at the regional launch of the campaign in İstanbul with the ‘Festival of Joy’ on the 16th of June. Demographically, the CEE/CIS is a young region and the RNC aims to shape its future with the joys and aspiriations of the children because they are viewed as the most important stakeholders of the campaign, the foundation of it’s success.

UNICEF Executive Director, Carol Bellamy visited Turkey for the regional launch of Leave No Child Out in İstanbul. Read her opening speech in the UNICEF Turkey Press Centre.

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