Making the world a better place for children

Guyana Chronicle
August 13, 2001

FRIDAY'S ceremony at the Umana Yana, where the campaign `Saying Yes For Children - Guyana 2001' was launched formally, constituted yet another social initiative to underscore the importance of children's welfare. Said to have been the innovation of former South African President Nelson Mandela and his wife Graca Machel, the `Say Yes For Children' campaign has the goal of gathering millions of signatures around the world with the symbolic assumption that each and every person that affixed his or her name to the appeal, would, in their everyday lives, do everything within their power to ensure the safety and well-being of the children in their social environment.

As we understand it, the `Say Yes For Children' scheme has articulated ten basic goals or actions, which, if followed faithfully, are bound to impact positively on the lives of the world's children. The actions are: "Leave no child out; Put children first; Care for every child; Fight HIV/AIDS; Stop harming and exploiting children; Listen to children; Educate every child; Protect children from war; Protect the earth for children and Fight poverty - Invest in Ichildren."

Countries may add those actions or goals that they deem necessary to address particular situations. We agree with every one of these actions and wish to submit that all churches and religious organisations, social and service bodies and agencies that deal with human relations in any way should seek to subscribe to the stated objectives. They should also move to persuade their members to adopt the goals on a personal level.

Any ordinary individual, who comes upon the list of actions of the `Say Yes For Children' campaign, may be forgiven for wondering, however, briefly, just why such self-evident instructions need to be articulated at all.

With the excellent work of international agencies such as the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) over the last 50 years, the declaration on the Rights of the Child and a host of human rights umbrellas protecting the welfare of children worldwide, why does the civilisation need another formal assertion that children should be taken care of? The answer to this question speaks to the reality of man's existence today.

While millions of children are loved, cared for and protected until they are capable of managing their own existence, the brutal fact is that millions of other children are starved, maltreated, forced into physical labour, exploited by sexual predators, enlisted in military outfits and forced into killing other children and unsuspecting adults.

Thousands of children in the poor countries of the Third World are denied access to education because of the abject poverty of their families and communities; others exist in hovels where they easily contract diseases that shorten their miserable lives; thousands run away from the hell that is home and take their chances on the streets where the terrors of life are more manageable. While the material situation of children in the industrialised countries is vastly superior to the condition of that of their poor counterparts, thousands of First World children are victims of sexual perverts and psychotic personalities who do not hesitate to ravage, maim and kill the innocent young ones they manage to lure into their clutches.

Early childhood is the time when a person will learn and inculcate most of the knowledge and habits he or she will need for life. It is also a time when an awareness of values and the concepts of right and wrong could be taught.

Children need the loving attention of parents and other members of the extended family; they should be fed nourishing meals, have their bodily needs taken care of; they must not be exposed to any danger or peril; they must be read to and be allowed to develop their imagination through storybooks, appropriate programmes via the electronic media, art, music and dance. As they prepare for the learning process in day-care and nursery schools, children must be taught how to interact with other youngsters and be considerate of other persons.

Minister Bibi Shadick outlined on Thursday when she and other officials spoke of the `Say Yes For Children' campaign that while in Guyana there are no starving children with pot-bellies and stick-like arms and legs, this nation still has a far way to go in ensuring that children are afforded every possible opportunity to develop to their full potential. Let us hope that this signature campaign can stir the conscience and the consciousness of persons to do everything within their power to make the world a better place for the next generation.