On UNICEF-backed Palestinian Child’s Day, youth take a stand against violence
“I am here to defend children’s rights and to prevent all those who are violating our rights from doing so,” said 13-year-old Ayham Ammareen from Azza Refugee Camp in Bethlehem in a march leading up to the special day.
The young activists had also arranged to meet with high-level officials to ask that they spearhead the effort to protect children from violence.
UNICEF, which developed the project with two non-governmental agencies (NGOs), PANORAMA and Canaan Institute, has helped to train children on their rights and how to shield themselves from violence and abuse, with workshops being held on communication, negotiation, leadership and advocacy.
“Palestinian children are really surrounded by increased violence and UNICEF is trying to help them speak about the violence they are experience to enable them to create a change in their society,” said Asmahan Wadi Nasser, UNICEF Child Protection Officer.
The violence Palestinian children face is due in part to the ongoing conflict and the resulting community fragmentation and economic decline, but also stems from cultural beliefs, practices and the acceptance of violence, which affects women and children in particular, as a fact of life.
“Before participating in this campaign I felt there were many people suffering from these problems without any solutions,” said Hanin Abu-Swai, 14, after participating in an anti-violence workshop. “Now I realize how I can solve all of my problems without making a big deal of it.”
Children developed campaigns – involving rallies, puppet shows, story writing, solidarity tents, songs, mural painting and theatrical sketches – to teach their peers about child rights and protection in 15 locations in the West Bank and Gaza.
They selected their own themes to work on, and all pertained to violence, with school-based violence being most common.