Rome (Italy). November 20, 2023 marks the World Day of Children and Adolescents, established in 1954 to support the fundamental rights of children and adolescents, raising awareness, and promoting the cohesion of the international community in the commitment to improve their well-being.
The date of 20 November marks two important steps: in 1959 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child; in 1989 it adopted the International Convention on the Rights of Children and Adolescents, which recognizes that children around the world have civil, social, political, cultural, and economic rights.
On the 34th anniversary of the Convention, conflicts, poverty, food insecurity, and the climate crisis dramatically impact the lives of millions of children, their families, and entire communities.
From the data of the Save the Children Report (2022), there are over 400 million children living in conflict areas from Ukraine to Sudan and from Myanmar to the Middle East. War takes away all fundamental rights from minors, denying them the possibility of education or medical care and, in this context of vulnerability, girls and young women are those most at risk, often becoming victims of sexual violence and early pregnancies.
It is also estimated that 1 billion girls and boys live in countries at risk of extreme weather events (Children’s Climate Risk Index Unicef). The post-Covid-19 pandemic situation and the climate crisis are also causes of a dramatic increase in families displaced or plunged into poverty and the consequent increase in the number of minors forced to work to contribute to the family’s livelihood.
In the world, based on the data of ILO (International Organization of Work), there are approximately 160 million children and adolescents between the ages of 5 and 17 forced into jobs that often create irreversible damage to their health and psychophysical development.
Conflicts, child labor, early marriages, forced displacement due to climate change are all closely linked to the violation of another fundamental right for the future of minors: the right to education. According to UNESCO data, 771 million adults in the world (of which 55% are young people aged between 15 and 24) and 262 million children and young people are illiterate and do not even have access to primary education.
Pope Francis constantly and strongly reminds us that “too often we forget our responsibility and close our eyes to the exploitation of these children, who do not have the right to play, to study, to dream.” He never tires of underlining how “Every marginalized child, abandoned by its family, without education, without medical care, is a cry! A cry that rises to God and denounces the system that we adults have built.”
“For every child, every right”, is precisely the theme of the World Day of Children and Adolescents 2023, to underline that numbers are important to frame and gain awareness of the phenomena and the situation, but that each child is important and, in various ways, raises a cry that demands answers.
Listening to this cry, the Youth Volunteering and Solidarity Foundation FVGS ETS, in the wake of the Catholic tradition and in the light of the Social Doctrine and principles of the Church, it operates in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Europe to guarantee the most vulnerable children the right to study and a balanced diet. In fact, through Distance Support, it reaches thousands of minors every year, guaranteeing them the possibility of going to school and building a better future. Furthermore, it is present in the area with development projects and micro-projects to support local realities, especially the needs of the most vulnerable children and women.
At the same time, VIDES International is committed to promoting the protection of children’s rights and their empowerment through the implementation of development cooperation projects. In 2023, around 6000 children benefited from the projects carried out in the fields of education, health, food safety, WASH (access to drinking water and toilets) and environmental protection.
In line with the special focus on climate change adopted by the UN Committee on the Rights of Children and Adolescents in 2023, Vides International promoted a project in Tanzania, in Dar Es Salaam, which saw the active participation of minors in environmental Protection. The children organized themselves into environmental clubs, carrying out reforestation activities, waste collection campaigns, and environmental education, contributing to the maintenance of a healthy, clean, and sustainable environment.
There are numerous benefactors, volunteers, collaborators, and Daughters of Mary Help of Christians who work every day to ensure that the articles of the International Convention on the Rights of Children and Adolescents do not remain simple abstract norms, and there is still much more to be done, so that more and more children and adolescents can be “happy in time and eternity”.
Source: Vides International