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Celebrate National Child Day

By David Morley
President and CEO, UNICEF Canada

November 20, 2012

Today is National Child Day.  This Day has been celebrated in Canada since 1993, and it is a time to think about childhood itself. 

Our thoughts of childhood are shaped by where we ourselves grew up – the north, the south, urban, rural or somewhere in between.  And, for some of us, the concept of childhood was reshaped again when we had children of our own. 

Now, since I will become a grandfather next year, I find myself wondering, what will childhood look like in the years to come?  What do we want for our children and grandchildren? 

I see a new vision of childhood, one in which many of the things UNICEF works towards have taken hold.  A world where children aren’t denied access to good quality education because of their gender or race, where children are protected from violence and are not dying from easily preventable diseases. 

I see a time where children’s views are sought by more of us on issues that affect their lives – whether at school, in government or in their families. 

This is more than just an aspiration.  Good things are happening everywhere.  Children are leading important initiatives – even in some of the most hard to reach areas.  From the children of Zanzibar who shaped the development of the Children’s Act (a law providing better protection for children’s rights) to the boys and girls in Colombia who are overcoming conflict to become leaders and peace-builders in their communities, to Aboriginal youth here in Canada – children and youth are making themselves heard, and more of us are listening. 

The right to be heard is a powerful right. 

That’s why UNICEF Canada launched a new initiative called ‘Bring Your MP to School Day’ – so that children could be heard.  This year for National Child Day, elementary and secondary students across the country have had the opportunity to reach out and meet their federal elected representatives – to ask their Members of Parliament what they are doing to advance children’s rights around the world, and for children here in Canada. 

During the more than 20 school visits that took place across the country, from Yukon to southern Ontario, and from Cape Breton to British Columbia, students asked their MPs tough questions that matter most to them. Students in elementary and high schools raised questions about poverty, bullying, protecting the environment, international development, the role of a MP and the right to be heard.

Now it’s your turn. 

Please spread the word about National Child Day with your family and friends.  Go to our Facebook page and leave your wish for National Child Day, or tweet to @UNICEFCanada with the hashtag #timetobeheard. What do you want to see for children’s rights in the months and years ahead?  A national children’s commissioner?  A world free from violence?  Or a time where the voices of all children, everywhere in the world are heard? What questions do you have?

We’re listening.