WORLD DAY AGAINST CHILD LABOUR: “CHILDREN SHOULDN’T WORK IN FIELDS BUT ON DREAMS”

5The World Day Against Child Labour, which is celebrated on 12 June every year, was launched in 2002 by the International Labour Organization (ILO) to raise awareness and inspire actions to end child labour. The theme for the 2019 World Day Against Child Labour is; Children should not work in fields but on dreams. This assertion, sadly, is not the experience for the millions of children who are forced to work every day to support themselves and their families, sometimes under very hazardous conditions. The ILO data indicates that over 218 million children around the world are forced to work full-time. Child labour robs children of their childhood. It exposes them to situations of abuse, deprives them of leisure and fundamental freedoms, adequate education, and healthcare. Child labour endangers the lives of children and violates their human rights.

States must ensure the protection of the human rights of children as enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international human rights instruments. As Nelson Mandela rightly noted, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”

Below are some facts and figures from the UN website, illustrating the prevalence of child labour in the different regions of the globe.

  • Worldwide 218 million children between 5 and 17 years are in employment.
    Among them, 152 million are victims of child labour; almost half of them, 73 million, work in hazardous child labour.
  • In absolute terms, almost half of child labour (72.1 million) is to be found in Africa; 62.1 million in the Asia and the Pacific; 10.7 million in the Americas; 1.2 million in the Arab States and 5.5 million in Europe and Central Asia.
  • In terms of prevalence, 1 in 5 children in Africa (19.6%) are in child labour, whilst prevalence in other regions is between 3% and 7%: 2.9% in the Arab States (1 in 35 children); 4.1% in Europe and Central Asia (1 in 25); 5.3% in the Americas (1 in 19) and 7.4% in Asia and the Pacific region (1 in 14).
  • Almost half of all 152 million children victims of child labour are aged 5-11 years. 6
    Forty-two million (28%) are 12-14 years old, and 37 million (24%) are 15-17 years old.
  • Hazardous child labour is most prevalent among the 15-17 years old. Nevertheless, up to a fourth of all hazardous child labour (19 million) is done by children less than 12 years old.
  • Among 152 million children in child labour, 88 million are boys, and 64 million are girls.
  • 58% of all children in child labour and 62% of all children in hazardous work are boys. Boys appear to face a greater risk of child labour than girls, but this may also be a reflection of an under-reporting of girls’ work, particularly in domestic child labour.
  • Child labour is concentrated primarily in agriculture (71%), which includes fishing, forestry, livestock herding, and aquaculture, and comprises both subsistence and commercial farming; 17% in Services; and 12% in the Industrial sector, including

Read more:

Convention Concerning Minimum Age for Admission to Employment: https://bit.ly/1lNdlbG

Learn about the Convention on the Rights of the Child: https://uni.cf/2XLOFGz

 

 

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2019 WORLD OCEANS DAY: “GENDER AND THE OCEANS.”

3By Ms. Salma Sahnoun, Intern, SNDatUN: On 7 June, the UN Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea hosted a conference to commemorate the World Oceans Day (8 June) under the theme: “Gender and the Oceans.” Storytellers and speakers from around the world came to share their perspectives on how to ensure cleaner oceans as well as ways to promote gender equality in ocean-related activities such as; marine research, fisheries, labour at sea, migration by sea and human trafficking.

Mrs. Aunofo Havea, the founder of Vaka and Moana, was one of the panelists at the conference.  She is also the first licensed female captain in all of Polynesia, and the creator of the “Swimming with Whales Industry” in her native country of Tonga. Mrs. Havea inspired the audience with the story of her struggle to save Whales in the shores of her region since her youth. She shared the experience of the horror she felt as she watched the last whales in the coasts of her country being killed for profit by the seafood industries. This was what inspired her to engage in the advocacy for the preservation of biodiversity in the oceans as she encouraged more women to follow her lead.

Besides the emphasis on the importance of women in advocacy for the health of the oceans, another speaker, Mr. Tun Lin, spoke on the issue of human trafficking. Mr. Tun Lin, (a trafficking survivor from Myanmar) spoke about his personal experience of being sold by a ‘friend’ to fishing vessel operators from Thailand. He was enslaved and forced to work on the fishing boat for 11 years. He could not escape, despite several attempts to do so because of the threat on his family by his traffickers. Mr. Tun Lin narrated his ordeal of being tortured, sometimes with electric shocks.  He eventually escaped in 2014.  Mr. Tun Lin noted that, he was at the United Nations to share his story so that more people would become aware of the prevalence of human trafficking and modern-day slavery in the seafood industry.”

Lastly, Ms. Patima Tungpuchayakul, the co-founder of the Labor Rights Promotion 4Network, also spoke. According to Ms. Tungpuchayakul, the mission of her organization is to investigate human trafficking incidences, to rescue victims of human trafficking and modern-day slavery. They also offer services such as healthcare, education, and shelter to the victims. Ms. Patima  Tungpuchayakul said that her organization has so far rescued over 5000 children, women, and men who were trafficked and enslaved on fishing vessels. She noted that modern-day slavery and human trafficking in the fishing industry is not just a South Asian problem,  but that it is a global issue.  And as such, she urged the UN to come up with internationally agreed regulatory policy to ensure for just wage, safety, and human rights of men and women who work in the fishing industry.

Read more:

Watch: http://webtv.un.org,

UN Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea: https://bit.ly/2XQVeYd

The UN World Oceans Day: https://bit.ly/2s7zlrw

 

 

WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY: “BEAT AIR POLLUTION.”

15 June is observed as the World Environment Day. The theme for the 2019 Environment Day is, “Beat Air Pollution.” The World Health Organization estimates that over seven million people die each year from illnesses linked to air pollution. Nine out of every ten people around the world breathe bad air. There are several causes of air pollution. While a few are caused by natural events, many are as a result of human activities.  Protecting our environment is crucial to the survival of the human race and other species who share the earth planet with us. The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, was unequivocal in his message to world leaders and other stakeholders to mark the 2019 World Environment Day.  His words; “It is time to act decisively. My message to governments is clear: tax pollution, end fossil fuel subsidies, and stop building new coal plants. We need a green economy, not a grey economy.”

Issues related to the environment has continued to gain more attention at the UN since2 the first conference (Conference on the Human Environment) was convened in Stockholm, Sweden, on 5 June 1972. On 5 December of same year, the  General Assembly adopted a resolution designating 5 June as the World Environment Day. The purpose for observing World Environment Day, according to the UN Environmental Programme is to raise awareness and generate political momentum around growing concerns such as the depletion of the ozone layer, toxic chemicals, desertification, and global warming.

Human beings are both “creatures and moulders of their environment, which gives them physical sustenance and affords them the opportunity for intellectual, moral, social, and spiritual growth” – UN. How are you contributing to creating cleaner air and greener environment where you live?

Read more:

“Breath of Life:” Video by the World Health Organization on how air pollution impacts the human body: https://bit.ly/2GbHRND

Air pollution – a major global public health issue: https://bit.ly/2MEGsCT

 

 

INTERNSHIP WITH THE SNDATUN: “STEPPING INTO THE WORLD OF SOCIAL JUSTICE”

5By Ms. Salma Sahnoun: Intern, SNDatUN: I got very interested in an internship experience with the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur after representing the organization at Harvard National Model United Nations in February 2019. It became evident to me that I share a common value on the importance of education, especially the education of women and girls with the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. I am happy to have been accepted for a summer internship at the SNDatUN office in New York with Sister Grace.

I began my internship on May 13, 2019. During the first week, I attended a meeting of the NGO committee on Stop-Trafficking in Persons, where we listened to reports from some of the members on the just concluded UN Forum on Indigenous Peoples and another report from a research on the 2018 US Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report. We also watched a video clip on Nadia Murad and her attorney, Amal Clooney’s audience with the UN Security Council on ISIL war crimes against the Yazidi people. I also attended the meeting of the NGO Committee on Social Development, where the topic of discussion was on the issue of homelessness. I felt privileged to be part of this meeting because as I gathered from the discussions, this would be the first-time issues around homelessness will be the focus of deliberation in any UN Commissions. The NGO committee has begun to strategize for advocacy with the Member States during the forthcoming UN Commission on Social Development in February 2020. The group is also planning to organize a “sleepout campaign” on December 7, 2019, in New York City. The purpose of the campaign is to raise awareness on the issue of homelessness.

My first week ended very well. I look forward to learning more from Sr. Grace, who is6 also teaching me the basics of social justice, especially from the African perspective. I think I will find this perspective very helpful since my studies are focused more on the Middle East. One of my wishes for this internship is to expand my knowledge of other regions of the world. The UN is the heart of global governance, and having the opportunity to be here will undoubtedly be a booster towards my studies, my personal and professional life. I meet people from different nationalities here at the UN every day. The encounter with such diversity of cultures will be one of my most cherished memories from the internship. I have so far discovered that it is just alright to speak with an accent at the UN.

 

WORLD DAY FOR CULTURAL DIVERSITY FOR DIALOGUE AND DEVELOPMENT

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UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples.  UN Photos/R. Bariornas

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) adopted the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity in 2001, and in 2002, the UN General Assembly declared 21 May as the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development.  According to the UN, three-quarters of all the conflicts around the world have cultural dimension to them. In her message to mark the 2019 World Cultural Diversity Day, the Director-General of UNESCO, Ms. Audrey Azoulay stressed that a diverse world is not only more peaceful; it is also more prosperous and more equitable. She noted that diversity takes many forms, but the language is perhaps one of the first we encounter as social beings. Language is what defines our inner world just as much as it expresses the way we communicate to the outside world. There are over 7,000 languages spoken around the globe. Each language is a treasure of knowledge and memory, a unique point of view, and a resource in the face of global challenges. The more diverse a society, the richer that society. Thus, our cultural diversity in all its forms should be respected and celebrated, and not just tolerated. No particular culture is superior to the other. Every culture has something in it that is beautiful and unique, and often, some aspects about it that need redemption.

Read more:

2005 Convention for the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions: https://bit.ly/2x11N1u

In Brazil, different beliefs unite against religious intolerance: https://bit.ly/2wfoSKN

 

SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME DE NAMUR: “FROM CHARITY TO JUSTICE”

By Sister Ijeoma Okoye, SNDdeN, Nigeria: Governments must provide essential social services such as quality education, healthcare, clean water, and sanitation for their citizens. Governments also have the primary responsibility to safeguard the human rights and security of all who live within their borders.  The above, unfortunately, is not the reality in many African countries, especially in countries within the sub Saharan region of the continent where Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur have a presence.  While some of the governments have only made half-hearted efforts, others have out-rightly neglected to provide these much-needed services for the people.

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Standing from L:  Srs. Marie-Therese Mbongi, Rosita Ignatius, Priscilla Aliu, Margaret Inziani, Chantel Kisimbila, Majella Anyanwu, Elizabeth Chinamo, Fr. Emedo Obiezu.  2nd. Row L:  Srs. Isabelle Izika, Ijeoma Okoye, Theresa Anikwata, Maximila Matub

The failure of governments in many sub-Saharan African countries to fulfill the state’s obligations to their citizens has contributed to an escalation in the number of people living in extreme poverty in the region. For over a century, Catholic Religious Institutes of women and men, and other humanitarian organizations have endeavored to fill the gap created by government’s negligence or failure to provide education, healthcare, and others services.  Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur have been outstanding in their efforts to offer quality education, healthcare, and other social services for people in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo Brazzaville, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and Zimbabwe for over a century. Nevertheless, it is increasingly becoming evident that despite years of efforts by so many faith-based and other humanitarian organizations, the gaps in accessibility of these services continues to widen. This may suggest that our efforts are no longer enough, probably because we are only tackling the symptoms of the problems.

Therefore, while applauding the efforts of Religious Congregations in providing these services to people living in poverty, we must also begin to challenge the systemic roots of

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Theresa Anikwata & Sr. Margaret Inziani

the social problems that keep people in poverty, such as poor governance and corruption. A deeper consciousness of social justice moves us to question those systemic structures which create the gaping inequalities among peoples in our society. Since social action involves working with social institutions so that they become more responsive to the needs of individuals, Institutes of Religious Life are called to “MOVE FROM CHARITY TO JUSTICE.” This broadening of focus is necessary if we must remain relevant in the 21st Century. Our prophetic mission as Catholic Religious women in the present age requires us to make a paradigm shift in the way we perceive our roles in society. Thus, rather than just filling the gaps created as the result of the state’s failure to fulfill its obligations to the people, we must also begin to collaborate with others to seek creative ways to advocate for change in those unjust structures that strip millions of our people of their human dignity.

 

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Sisters show off their certificate of participation at the end of the workshop

In an effort to respond to these needs, Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, working as an NGO at the United Nations recently organized a training workshop (30 April – 4 May 2019) for the Sisters of Notre Dame Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Animators from the African units.  The aim of the workshop titled, From Charity to Justice,” was to strengthen the Sisters grassroots advocacy for systemic change, and the commitment to social justice as called for by the “2014 Chapter Calls” of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. The venue was the SMA Center in Abuja, Nigeria.

Fr. Emeka Xris Obiezu, an Augustinian priest from Nigeria, and the former United Nations representative for the Augustinians International facilitated the workshop. Sr. Majella Anyanwu, SNDdeN -Nigeria, (Lawyer), gave an input on human rights, and Sr. Amarachi Grace Ezeonu, the SNDatUN representative and the organizer of the workshop gave her presentation (virtually from New York). Participants at the workshop were Sisters from Kenya, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Nigeria. At the end of the workshop, the participants shared testimonies of being empowered by the experience of the three days. They drafted a proposal to be presented to the 18th General Chapter of the Congregation taking place in July 2020.

SISTER TERESA ANYABUIKE: MY EXPERIENCE AT THE CSW63

4It was a privilege and joy for me to have participated in the 63rd Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW63) in New York from 11 – 22 March 2019. I gathered that over nine thousand people registered for the event, and about seven thousand eventually attended. There were women from almost all the geographical regions of the world. I felt quite encouraged to hear women from different nationalities speak with passion on issues of gender equality and human rights for women and girls.

I had the opportunity to attend many side events at the margins of the CSW63. One of such events made a deep impression on me. I was moved to tears as I listened to the narrative about the horrific experience of how her stepfather sexually abused her, and 5then eventually thrown out of the family house when she spoke up. With being homeless, she became vulnerable to further sexual abuses and violence. One violent abuse led to another until she ended up being sold into prostitution by someone who pretended to offer her a job and a home. But her story did not end in prostitution, for she was rescued from the situation by a group of Catholic Religious Congregation. She is today a survivor/advocate against human trafficking and sexual exploitation of young girls.

Governments must do more in the fight against human trafficking and sexual abuse of women and girls. Bridging the gap in gender inequality that still exists in many countries by providing social protection to all citizens, especially women and girls is one concrete way of ensuring gender equality. This was the core message of CSW63. It is, however, reassuring to know that civil society organizations are not giving up on the fight against violence against women and girls.  Memories of my experience of CSW63 will remain with me for a long time.

Amid all the events happening at the conference, some students from schools around New York City joined in the match for climate change. I felt heartened to hear the young people lend their voices to issues on the protection of our environment.