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"Invest in us" - children's call in Sierra Leone

UNICEF/Sierra Leone/2009/Roiha
© UNICEF/Sierra Leone/2009/Roiha
Samfa Taiqwa Saffa, 13, wants to become a medical doctor. “Then I can help other people”, he says.

Kenema, Sierra Leone, 23 November 2009 - “When I grow up, I want to become a medical doctor. I want to give free medical care for the people who don’t have money”, Samfa Taiwa Saffa, 13, declares.

The small slender boy seems very confident about his plans and is not ashamed of speaking them out loudly in front of a huge crowd of children, teachers, Ministry, NGO and Civil Society representatives, who have gathered at the Kenema Pastorial center to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The celebration, organised by UNICEF and the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s affairs, is taking place in the regional headquarter towns Makeni, Bo and Kenema. Part of it is a travelling photo exhibition highlighting the core programmatic areas of UNICEFs work in Sierra Leone: health, education and protection.

Bringing the message across trough drama
The exhibition is accompanied by musical performances, documentary screenings and drama plays. The drama plays are a result of a nationwide inter-schools drama competition. Altogether 18 schools were selected and trained to prepare a drama play. Each school chose one of four subjects: maternal and child mortality, teenage pregnancy, out of school children and child labour.

The input of the students is stunning. One can see that they have worked hard in the last few days to make their plays as good as possible. The content and the characters have been thoughtfully prepared and even the costumes are really professional.

One of the schools participating in the competition is the Government Secondary Boys School in Kenema, who have prepared a play on the theme maternal mortality. “We chose this theme because we think it is unacceptable that so many mothers are dying in this country. Quality healthcare should be free for everyone”, says Mohammed, 15.

Aiming for a better future
Although a lot of progress has been made in Sierra Leone since the convention was adopted in 1990, many challenges remain. Every fifth child dies before their fifth birthday, 30% of children do not go to school and 70% of the population does not have access to sanitation facilities. T

hese are just a few examples of the violations continuously faced by the children of Sierra Leone, which create a great barrier to the development of the country. The national theme for this years’ celebration is therefore “Invest in children for national development”. As Mr. Emanuel Satii, representing the Mayor of Kenema, Mr. Brima Kargbo, put it: “Investing in children will not only help the family but also the whole nation.”

The children present at the celebration have definitely understood the message. “I want to become a lawyer”, says Hawa Tarawally, 15. “I want to promote my country, especially girls’ education. I want to stand firm for my country, for justice, human development and especially children”, she continues.

“Children have the right to quality life”, adds 13 year old Samfa. The bright boy also sees the other side of the coin:”We have to remember that in addition to rights we also have responsibilities, like obeying the national law”, he states.

By Karolina Roiha





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