World Children’s Day, a day for the children, by the children, is celebrated annually to mark the anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). This year, ahead of the November 20 celebration and the 30th anniversary of the CRC, children from schools across Oman gathered for two panel-style interviews with the Minister of Health and the Minister of Information, separately.
Facilitated by the Ministry of Education, H E Dr Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Obaid al Sa’eedi, Minister of Health, and H E Dr Abdulmunim bin Mansour al Hasani, Minister of Information, held candid discussions with the children.
The children, from grades 4-12, later conducted a press conference to share the outcomes of their discussions, which also included a sit-down with Reggy Vermeulen, chief executive officer of Port of Duqm, and called on leaders around the world to recommit to the CRC and build a better future for children.
“These sit-downs were about putting children and young people at the heart of the agenda and providing a platform for them to speak up about what matters most to them. Every day in my work, I see children who are fully capable of taking the lead in demanding urgent action. I see children who are excited to learn about and shape their country and the world around them. Many are already taking a stand, and we are listening, as they develop into the leaders of the future. I thank the children and young people of Oman for challenging and inspiring us,” said Lana al Wreikat, Unicef representative to the sultanate.
She added, “We must work with them to find the solutions to the challenges of today, to build better futures for tomorrow and improve the world they and future children will inherit. We know that investing in children is investing in the future of our communities, and it is important that adults are listening to children and prioritising them in any decision-making, if we are to achieve long-lasting results.”
Lana said, “On the 30th anniversary of the CRC, we are calling on leaders around the world to recommit to their promise of delivering better outcomes for children and show that adults in positions of power will advocate for them, not just on World Children’s Day, but every day.”
During the session with H E Dr Sa’eedi, children discussed nutrition, inclusive environments for children with disabilities and healthcare services.
The children also expressed their desire to receive more hands-on, practical development at school, through courses like first-aid training, to better prepare them for their life and career. The most important issues raised by the children were in relation to non-communicable diseases, and in particular nutrition and mental health awareness.
Mental health has become a priority focus for world leaders, including here in the sultanate where, said H E Dr Sa’eedi, explaining there is a cross-sectoral approach in place between the ministries of Health, Social Development and Education.
“This was a very exciting opportunity to raise the topics that matter to us and affect us in our daily lives. We want everyone to know that children not only have valid issues to raise, but that we can work with leaders to come up with solutions and be part of the decision-making process. We are grateful to the excellencies for listening to us and showing us that we matter,” said Fatima al Farsi, who participated in the event.
As part of the interview with H E Dr Hasani, the children discussed ways in which the ministry prioritises children in their policy-making decisions and upholds its responsibilities. H E Dr Hasani explained how ministry is making efforts to contribute to the development of reading and research skills in the sultanate, through initiatives such as the Muscat International Book Fair. The children also raised the idea of a ministry platform for children to access relevant information.
H E Dr Hasani commended the suggestion and confirmed that the soon-to-launch Oman media portal will contain a section devoted to children. The ministry also supports the development of children’s skills and talents through programmes that provide training for children and encourage them to participate in media work.
The children broached the subject of online bullying and safe use of Internet, to which the minister stressed the importance of parental supervision.
He also spoke of the ministry’s cross-sectoral approach with the Ministry of Education to educate children on ways to safeguard themselves online.
“We wanted to use our voices to speak up for ourselves, and for those that might not have a voice. We hope that through the interviews we can inspire other children to be aware of their rights and what they can do,” said Azzam al Rahbi, another participant.