By: Bushra Al-Ameri
Tofolati (‘My Childhood’) and Janati (“My Paradise”), Yamnat organizations for women’s and children’s development, held a symposium entitled “The Rights of the Yemeni Child, Between Theory and Implementation” in Sana’a last Tuesday. The symposium was held on the occasion of World Children’s Day, on November 20.
During the symposium, My Childhood Organization Chairman Abdulqaher Al-Hameedi said the symposium celebrated the first international announcement on children’s rights. “There are many countries where children form the segment which most lacks rights, and which lives in the most miserable conditions,” said Al-Hameedi.
Journalist and rights activist Dhikra Al-Wahidi stated that while children’s rights issues hold a prominent status in international law and among national legislative bodies, millions of children continue to suffer from illnesses, malnutrition and hunger.
“They face serious violations and lack the minimum principles for a decent life in various countries around the world, including Yemen,” she added.
Al-Wahidi attributed the situation to the gap between legislation and implementation and stressed that Yemeni children are in real danger if their rights are not paid attention. She also reviewed an official report which reveals that more than two million Yemeni children – half of whom are girls – did not attend school in 2010-2011. The report attributed the phenomenon to the spread of poverty and a lack of awareness of children’s rights.
Al-Wahidi stated that Yemen was second after Afghanistan when it came to countries with the highest rates of malnutrition. “Half of the population lives in severe poverty, while more than a million and a half children below the age of five suffer from chronic malnutrition.
She also reviewed unofficial reports which state that around 3 million Yemeni children live in severe poverty. “Five thousand Yemeni children are beggars, while seven hundred thousand work in various fields to help their families and are subjected to different kinds of physical assaults,” she added.
According to official statistics, more than 15 thousand Yemeni children under the age of 12 have been forced to leave schools and head into the streets to look for bread. “They live in disastrous situations which put their lives at risk; 50% of them are subjected to verbal harassment, and 70% are subjected to physical and psychological abuse,” stated one report.
For his part, social and psychological researcher Taha Al-Awbali demanded that authorities establish a psychological treatment center for children. “There are around 15 NGOs which focus on children, but none have yet achieved what is expected from them,” said Al-Awbali.
Al-Awbali stressed the importance of observing children’s role in building the present and future, and said that Yemeni society should support initiatives concerned with children. “It would be great to find active little children who could support and help their peers,” he said.
Dr. Soror Farooni, head of the “Be Free” Bahraini organization stressed the importance of activating society’s role in protecting children’s rights.