World Children’s Day 2020 is celebrated under the theme “reimagining a better future for the child”. This day is significant as it marks the day the UN General Assembly (UNGA) adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959, and on the same date in 1989, the UNGA adopted the Convention on the Rights of the child. Interestingly, it is on this day in 2019 that SODEI launched its flagship LESPLAY program.
We are proud to state that for the past year, through LESPLAY, we have engaged children and young people and inspired them to actively take part in defining this vision of a better future. We have created a platform and provided an opportunity for young people to explore new talents and skills. From this we have recorded great success. We have held over 30 sessions under 10 different themes including environmental preservation, child rights, gender equality, youth participation, COVID-19 prevention measures, and more.
During this period, participants have demonstrated understanding and expressed their own ideas about issues affecting the world around them, ranging from climate change, to gender violence, to coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. Young participants have also had the opportunity to play and engage in fun activities despite the challenges posed by a raging armed conflict and an unprecedented health crisis. They provided exciting suggestions on how to tackle the world’s problems; in her response to dealing with armed violence and the Covid-19 crisis Elizabeth, one of the LESPLAY participants, illustrated the importance of friendship, empathy and kindness in the face of losing a close family member.
Leonard, another young participant, believes that if girls are given equal access to opportunities, they will be able to lead good and independent lives, which will in turn benefit the community. According to him, gender equality can be encouraged by “educating the community particularly community leaders, parents and guardians about its importance in the society”. Meanwhile, Ako, another LESPLAY participant, believes community engagement is crucial for environmental preservation; he stated: “I believe when communities come together through initiatives such as clean-up campaigns, it helps to maintain a clean and sustainable environment…choosing specific community clean up days is an effective measure”.
Our LESPLAY participants have not only showcased creativity and knowledge of the world around them, but also leadership potential. We believe “the Gretas of the future” are right here in SODEI and making a bold statement about their readiness and willingness to add their voices to important issues affecting ‘their world’ irrespective of the challenges they face. It is our responsibility to give them a chance and provide an opportunity for them to shine.