As societies become more involved in conflicts, experience bigger gaps in income between the rich and the poor, and are subject to higher levels of crime and violence, the very fundamental rights of children are often forgotten, or take a ‘back seat’. Society often forgets that children have universally entrenched rights. These rights matter and are there to remind us how important and special all children are and how we can act to maximise their potential. Here at The Unlimited Child we work with children every day through their crèche based caregivers. Almost all of these children experience a wide range of hardships daily. Even just getting to their crèche each day is a challenge for many of them. For these and many other reasons, understanding, accepting and acting in ways that absolutely ensure that the rights of children are met are central to our work.
Because this is a universal issue that has been the focus of attention for decades now, we are fortunate to have easily accessible tools to help us get this right. One of the most widely accepted of these tools is the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, signed by the United Nations on 10 December 1959 (as Resolution 1386 – XIV). The document goes back even further, with a history embedded in the Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child signed in 1924.
The United Nations Declaration of Rights of the Child (1959) lists ten basic rights. These are, in simplified summary version (adapted from the Plain Language Version of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, 1978):
1. Rights for children exist no matter their race, colour, sex, language, religion, political opinions or other opinions are. The rights also transcend where they were born and who their parents are.
2. The right to grow and develop both spiritually and physically in ways that are healthy and normal, and where this can happen freely and with dignity at all times.
3. The right to have a name and to be recognised as being a member of a country.
4. The right to special care and protection; to food that is nourishing and to housing and medical services.
5. Disabled children have the right to special care, no matter what their disability is.
6. The right to love and understanding (where possible and preferably from parents and family, but where this is not possible from government).
7. The right to be able to attend school for free, to be able to play, and have an equal chance to develop and learn to be a responsible and useful member of society.
8. The right to be among the first to get help in a crisis situation.
9. To be protected against exploitation (eg child labour) and any form of abuse.
10. To be taught about peace, understanding, tolerance and friendship among all people.
It is important that we remind ourselves of these rights; to take a good look at them from time to time and assess the extent to which each of us are ensuring that these rights are met (and to plan and do the things we need to do to guarantee the rights are met). At The Unlimited Child each of these rights are very important to us. Our work is specifically focussed on rights related to education, play, development and learning. We also work to ensure that while at crèches, children experience their right to love and understanding from their caregivers. In our work to ‘shift lives’, we work with crèche caregivers and partner organisations to ensure that not only are the rights of children recognised, but also put into place. We also work towards a position where through receiving a sound foundation in early childhood development, children grow up being aware of their rights and what they can do to ensure they are met in their families, communities and broader society.