Because according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), “children continue to suffer from poverty, homelessness, abuse, neglect, preventable diseases, unequal access to education and justice systems that do not recognize their special needs.”
Because our children will be the leaders and decision makers committed to live and lead a life of greatness. In the course of finding their own voice in this world, the empowerment to make the decision to take the best choices can only be through their knowing, experiencing, declaring and embracing their inalienable rights and the rights of others.
Because, to quote the UNICEF again, “they have rights, should be informed about their rights, should be helped to exercise their rights, should be able to enforce their rights and should be a community of interest to advocate young people’s rights.”
Because teaching children and young people about their rights means that “they can find out about the legal and human rights and responsibilities that underpin society.”
The lessons from the Convention on the Rights of the Child abound: explicitly and implicitly. Lessons on human dignity and liberty, survival and development. Lessons on identity and nationality. Lessons on values and virtues; on responsibility, compassion, empathy, care and protection, cooperation, respect, love, among others. Lessons on life — its basic attributes, of human life, in particular — sentience, awareness, mobility, will, autonomy and growth (Peck, 1988).
Because one of the greatest lessons, if not the greatest lesson a child can learn, is the lesson on self-worth. That he is special, unique and precious.
Lastly, because, if I were to be truest to myself as an educator and truest in my mission of preparing children for life, I will need to teach them respect, of self and others. And this is accomplished best through teaching them their entitlements — inalienable and indivisible — encapsulated in the Convention on the Rights of a Child. In doing so, I have done my best to empower and protect them for life.
Ultimately, the advocacy for the child’s right is about what we stand for — our values, our compassion, principles and belief in the dignity and worth of every human being. It is about inspiring ourselves and others with our prayers and deeds for a more humane world, in the words of Nobel Peace Prize recipient Archbishop Desmond Tutu, for a “new kind of society more compassionate, more caring, more sharing where human rights, where children’s rights are respected and protected.”
Let us share this vision of leadership and greatness for your, our children in a “conspiracy of hope” and possibilities that lives may be spared pain and suffering because we dare to dream, we dare to be heard.
Rayla Melchor Santos is president of I Am SAM Foundation, a movement for the protection, empowerment, and respect for women and children. SAM stands for shakers and movers.