Children, dignitaries and major stakeholders on Wednesday met at Factory Phnom Penh to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and launch the three-month #everyright4everychild campaign that aims to strengthen and protect the rights of every child.
A Unicef Cambodia press release on Wednesday said the event marked the launch of a joint campaign by the European Union, Unicef, Save the Children, USAID and Child Rights Now.
“The campaign aims to accelerate progress towards fulfilling CRC and translating rights into realities for Cambodian children,” it said.
The event was attended by around 300 Cambodian youths where a youth representative and guest speakers from the government and development partners raised ongoing issues regarding children’s rights and the corresponding efforts that had been taken to preserve them.
Thoeun Danet, 17, a Save the Children club leader in Prey Veng province, said most of the children in her community have never known their rights. Despite experiencing difficulties, they could not ask commune authorities to help them.
“Speaking in general, in my community, I don’t know how to [publicly] express my opinions. I don’t even know the name of the commune chief. Even at home, I can’t voice my concerns freely.
“Whenever I have problems, I only sit and cry. As I live with my grandmother, I have never shared any of my problems with my siblings or parents. My parents migrated to another country,” Danet said.
Danet said she and some children from her community had only come to understand their rights after the Save the Children organisation established a club to educate them.
Having acted as the club’s leader for six years now, Danet regularly facilitates meetings between the local authorities and youths in her community to raise their concerns and ask for assistance. These include the rising rate of school dropouts and alcohol and drug abuse.
“Although I advocate for active youth engagement, some children in my community still haven’t joined our activities. As a result, they remain unaware of their rights. So, I think that youth participation today is important to raise children’s awareness,” said Danet.
Cambodia Country Director for Save the Children Elizabeth Pearce commended the active participation of the youth in youth rights movements saying that their collaboration could lead to a positive exchange of ideas.
“The right of children to [freely] express their views and engage in decision-making processes is one of the core principles of the CRC,” she said.
Cambodian National Committee for Children secretary-general Nhep Sopheap said incidents of children being separated from their families, trafficked and abused still occur.
“A 2013 survey on violence against children said one in two children has suffered severe beatings, one in four experienced emotional abuse, and one in 20 has been sexually assaulted,” Sopheap said.
USAID Mission Director Veena Reddy said USAID had launched health, education and child protection programmes to increase access to quality health services, inclusive education and effective child protection initiatives.
“Over the last five years, USAID has collaborated with Save the Children, Unicef and the government to prevent about 200,000 children from suffering chronic malnutrition,” she said.
The director-general of the Department of General Education at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, Put Samith, noted that 98 per cent of Cambodian children now receive primary education.
EU delegation to Cambodia’s head of cooperation Franck Viault said the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by party states proves their willingness to ensure that children’s rights are observed, particularly in health, education and child protection.
Cambodia ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child on October 15, 1992, after the UN adopted it in 1989. It is known to be the most ratified human rights treaty in history.