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In 1954, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed that all countries institute a Universal Children’s Day, to be “observed as a day of worldwide fraternity and understanding between children.” It recommended that the Day be observed also as a day of activity devoted to promoting the ideals and objectives of the UN Charter and the welfare of the children of the world.
Many countries of the world observe this day on 20 November, which marks the day on which the Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, in 1959, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in 1989.
Observance by BAPS in London
This year, the event was observed by BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS), a member of the United Nations’ Economic and Social Council, at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in London, on Sunday 22 November 2009.
A short introduction to the assembly elucidated the theme ‘Putting Children First’, based on the second of UNICEF’s ten imperatives for children. The ten are:
- Leave No Child Out: All forms of discrimination and exclusion against children must end.
- Put Children First: It is the responsibility of everyone to ensure that children’s welfare is respected.
- Care for Every Child: Ensure all children get the best possible start in life.
- Fight HIV/AIDS: Protect children and adolescents and their families.
- Stop Harming and Exploiting Children: Violence and abuse must be stopped now.
- Listen to Children: Respect the rights of children and young people to express themselves.
- Educate Every Child: Every child – all girls and boys – must be allowed to learn.
- Protect Children from War: No child should experience the horrors of armed conflict.
- Protect the Earth for Children: Safeguard the environment at global, national and local levels.
- Fight Poverty: Invest in children.
This was followed by a moving video presentation which showed young children passionately singing about how they would like their world to be and the positive changes they would like to bring about.
Young children were then asked to express their views on children’s rights and what they felt was important. Shreyash Patel (6) replied: “All children should have a right to play freely.” Other children highlighted issues such as poverty, food, health, education and care for children all around the world. A few also touched on how BAPS’s Children Forums had helped them and other children with various value-based educational, moral and spiritual activities.
Next, Paramtattva Swami shared some startling facts about the plight of children around the world. For example:
- More than 120 million children are missing out on primary education
- More than 270 million children do not have access to healthcare
- More than 400 million children do not have access to clean water
- More than 140 million children are orphaned
- Each year more than 10 million children become refugees due to conflict
Using some poignant slides, he further iterated how fortunate most children are in the UK compared to others in the world. He thus asked them to be grateful for whatever they had, not waste it, share whatever they could, and pray for those children less fortunate than themselves.
A short video presentation followed depicting how every child – no matter how small or alone – has the power to bring about positive change in the world. All the children were enthused with the self-belief that they can do something to improve society.
The assembly concluded with a final statement of prayer and reflection, tying in the spiritual message of Bhagwan Swaminarayan and Pramukh Swami Maharaj for the holistic welfare of children.
In thus observing Universal Children’s Day, BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha was able to raise awareness about children’s welfare to over 300 children and parents through an interactive and inspiring programme.
To learn more about Universal Children’s Day, please click here.
To visit the official UNICEF site, click here.
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