For Thursday April 18, my daughter and I have taken a vow of silence, to stand up for children who have no voice and are denied their basic human rights.
- 215 million children are forced to work as child labourers and are denied the right to attend school.
- One in every three children in developing countries is malnourished.
- One billion children are deprived of essential services like food, water, education, or health care.
- 58% of deaths in children under 5 are caused by infectious disease.
- 300 million children under the age of 5 are living in areas of armed conflict.
- 1 in 3 children in developing countries is malnourished, suffering up to 160 days of illness in a year.
In this world of dependent arising, the existence of something in my world must logically mean that its absence is also possible. For every basic need, comfort, convenience and blessing I have in my life – food, water, safety, freedom, health care, education, play – there is the possibility, and the all-too-obvious reality, that there are those who are living without.
We are Silent is Free the Children’s annual fundraising and awareness campaign that began in 2004 and challenges participants to stand in silent solidarity for 24 hours with children whose voices are silenced by not having their rights upheld. Every year, tens of thousands of participants stand up for children who are being silenced by the denial of their basic human rights, collecting pledges as they take a vow of silence. All over the world, young people will go silent for 24 hours to raise awareness and funds for children without a voice. The campaign can be done as an individual, group, school, or even an entire silent city.
My daughter’s class and school have supported Free the Children over her time in elementary school. Activites have included read-a-thons, penny drives, bake sales and selling loot bags at Valentine’s Day. While Free the Children’s mandate is partly to help disadvantaged children, it is equally to help kids here discover that they have the power and responsibility to make a difference in their world right here, right now, no matter their age. It has provided our family with so many valuable opportunities for thought-provoking discussion, education and action around real, tangible problems in the world.
So, tomorrow, Thursday April 18, here is my vow for We Are Silent. Each commitment pertains to an article of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
- I will give up my voice for 10 continuous hours. From waking until I go into work at 4:30pm. My daughter has vowed to keep silence from waking til the end of her day at school at 6pm. (From Article 12 – Express views and Opinions: The right to freely express an opinion.)
- I will do some tedious working task to help me understand exploitation and child labour. I will spend one hour of my day in picking up trash at the beach and surrounding parks. (From Article 36 – Protection from exploitation: The right to protection from all forms of exploitation.)
- I will maintain a vegan diet for the day. I will limit myself to bathing from one basin of water for the day. As Canadians, we’re among those who use more of the earth’s water than any other on a daily basis. Upon doing a little research, I found out that the biggest area of water consumption comes not from bathing or washing but from food production. Massive amounts of water are required to raise livestock. My dauther commits to a one minute (!) shower and to keep a vegetarian diet for the day. (From Article 24 – Food and Water: You have the right to the best healthcare possible, safe water and nutritious food.)
- I will give up play for 10 hours. No Facebook, no playing music for me. Since drawing is her favourite activity, my daughter is giving this up for the day. She says she will run at recess. (From Article 26 – Play: The right to play and rest.)
- I will give up the right to education. I will not use Google or other search engines for 10 hours. (From Article 29 – Education: The right to education that prepares him/her for an active responsible life.)
I hope that giving up for a few hours the things that I so take for granted will help me to think more about those who are doing without these things and so much more. I hope that it will lead me to a greater appreciation and gratitude for what I have, and some small understanding of the lives of those without. That recognition is only really useful if I put it into action to change the situation though.
Please consider making your own vow in some way – for 24 hours, or even part of your day – or make a pledge to Free the Children. Consider what actions you and your family can take to increase your own understanding of other’s pain and problems, and in what ways you can take action to alleviate it.