‘Stand up for your rights, even when things get hard’

Last Friday on the 28th of September our 2015 International Children’s Peace Prize winner Abraham M. Keita delivered the opening speech on the Day of General Discussion (DGD) at the United Nations Office in Geneva. The Committee on the Rights of the Child decided to devote its 2018 Day of General Discussion to the issue of protecting and empowering children human rights defenders.

The 2018 DGD was the first ever global discussion focusing on children as human rights defenders. Its main goal was to bring together a global movement for children human rights defenders including children, States, National Human Rights Institutions, Children’s Ombudspersons, the UN, civil society and the private sector to promote understanding about the role of children as human rights defenders.

During his opening speech Keita shared his experiences of being a child human rights defender. He called upon all the youth to stand up for their rights, even when things get hard. He noted with concern that children human rights defenders were being threatened all around the world and that was why empowering them was of crucial importance.
‘We must stand up, we must continue to speak out, we must not give up as human rights defenders.’

Furthermore, he added that the words on paper did not reflect the reality. Despite the 20-year existence of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the children were still being victims of violence and were killed around the world, and that was why the struggle must continue no matter the cost.

‘Statistics will not do you any good. Actions we need.’

During the workshop about State Actors Keita advocated for closing the gap between laws and practice. Keita emphasized the need to take action by children, to stand up to their government when human rights are violated. He also pleaded for more attention for the protection of children human rights defenders in the state reports to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Keita himself has become a children’s rights activist at a very young age. Keita was just 9 years old when he was first moved to speak out. Outraged by the rape and murder of a 13 year old girl in his community, he took part in a peaceful protest demanding that the perpetrators be brought to trial.

Since then he has been arrested twice for speaking out against the government. He had to go to court because he was defending young girls who were victims of sexual violence.

“I will be able to rest when every child across the globe will be able to smile and say that violence has been eliminated.”

When he was presented the 2015 International Children’s Peace Prize, it was a clarion call to children that no matter where you come from or live, change is possible.
KidsRights is proud to empower Keita as a changemaker for children who are victims of violence. He is an inspiration to many hundreds of children and young people, through direct action, lobbying the media, informing and mobilizing them to stand up for their right to be safe from violence.

“It is high time to protect all of us, the world’s children, particularly the most vulnerable.”