Sri Lanka celebrates Children’s Day on 1 October in grand scale. This day is special in the Sri Lankan calendar because it is the day everyone celebrates ‘children’.
Many events are organised across the island by state and non state organisations and institutions. Competitions, entertainment, games and gifts take centre stage. Newspapers have special supplemenents and special radio and television programmes are dedicated to children.
The first of October is not International Children’s Day, but that’s okay. It’s a good sign that a country dedicates at least one day for children. It is also important that the media pays a little bit more attention to children (although there is a clear commercial interest among many of them).
For over a decade – perhaps even two – we have been celebrating with children who have talent, the means and the resources. It has been a day to select the ‘best’ children in everything. Then what about the children who are less talented and have less opportunity?
I can easily come up with a list of children who do not participate in the Children’s Day celebrations: children living in the streets, children in contact with the law, children who have been formerly associated with armed groups, children with physical and mental disability, children without parents, children whose parents do not have the means to send them to such events due to economic difficulties, working children, children of minority groups ( such as travellers), to name a few
So what can we do differently this year?
As I keep receiving requests from many organisations to fund these one- off events, I have the following asks for them:
- Does this programme include ALL the children in your area, especially the marginalised ? If not, could you include them in a meanigful way?
- Is the event an idea that came from the children? Can the children decide what they want to do in this event? Are we prepared to listen to children?
- Having competitions, will only give opportunity to those who have talent, creating low self esteem among other children who lose. Could you have activities where all children participate and be rewarded?
- After the event on the 1st of October, what sustained benefits are there for children ?
- Is there any component that informs children about their rights? ( as that is what they should celebrate on this day)
After 19 years of having signed and ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Sri Lanka still has a long way to go. If we can make our Children’s Day more meaningful for all Sri Lankan children, we will be one more step closer to realising child rights in our country.