DUBLIN, Ohio — From forced marriage to child labor, child’s rights violations are apparent across the world. Two contributing factors to these abuses are the lack of accessible information and difficulty interpreting complex government texts. In September 2021, Amnesty International partnered with actress and philanthropist Angelina Jolie to create a solution to these issues, a comprehensive guide on how children can defend their rights. This guide, “Know Your Rights and Claim Them,” is composed of an introduction to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), helpful how-to guides detailing step-by-step instructions on how children can claim and defend their rights and inspirational stories of children and teens around the world who are standing up against injustice. This guide not only details the steps to defend one’s own rights but also explains how to empower others to do the same.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
In 1989, governments around the world joined forces to ensure that the international community protects and prioritizes children’s rights. Despite this, there are still many cases of children’s rights abuses present today. Child marriages occur from as young as 9 years old. Furthermore, more than 61 million primary school-aged children are unable to attend school and about one billion children endure multidimensional poverty globally. Due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, a report by UNICEF and Save the Children estimates that an additional 150 million children became impoverished, only inflating this grave statistic. Increased consideration of children’s rights may aid in avoiding many of these circumstances.
As Jolie states in an interview with Amnesty International, “If governments kept their word, and if all adults respected children’s rights, there would be no need for this book. Children have rights just as adults do and they should have the power and agency to claim them.” The “Know Your Rights and Claim Them” guide specifically calls out certain governments for failing to uphold their pledges to protect children’s rights and urges them to do better all while teaching children to stand up against injustices instead of relying solely on adults to protect them. One of the original drafters of the CRC, professor Geraldine Van Bueren, helped to write the guide, acknowledging the need to educate children on their rights along with creating governmental organizations to uphold these rights.
An Accessible Guide
“Know Your Rights and Claim Them” was first published in the United Kingdom in September 2021. A month later, it appeared on shelves in the United States, Australia, Greece and New Zealand. Amnesty International’s goal is to have this book readily available in every country and in every language, effectively giving all children an opportunity to learn about their rights. Along with the book, Amnesty International released a virtual course on human rights education featuring young human rights activists. This serves as a more accessible version of the book to further ensure support reaches the children who need it.
The book features stories such as that of Khairiyah Rahmanyah, a 19-year-old from Southern Thailand. At only 17, she spearheaded a movement contesting the government’s plan of turning Chana, her village and home to endangered marine life, into a developed estate. The government eventually postponed the project after much protest, however, Rahmanyah is still fighting for the government to drop the project altogether. As a teenager, she is able to fight for her rights and her home and inspire others to do the same.
Another inspirational narrative is that of Janna Jihad. At only 15 years old, she documents the torture and violence she and her family face as marginalized Palestinians in the West Bank. She began documenting these events at the age of 7 after the deaths of her cousin and uncle. The tragedy inspired her to stand up for the other Palestinians enduring torture and violence. Sharing videos of the abuse on social media for tens of thousands of followers, she sheds light on the dire situation. Other featured activists in the guide include Malala Yousafzai and Greta Thunberg.
The diversity of age, ethnicity and method of impact among these activists helps connect children around the world through the shared struggle of rights violations and unreliable governments. No matter their age or ability, these children have all found meaningful ways to stand up for themselves and others.
Children comprise nearly one-third of the world’s population, making it vital for the world to protect children’s rights. Violations of child rights directly obstruct a child’s ability to thrive and better the world. “Know Your Rights and Claim Them” gives children access to education on their rights and sheds light on the multitude of child injustices taking place in the world. Overall, the guide works to bridge the gap between children’s rights in principle and in practice.
– Mariam Abaza