By Pi James
NEW YORK, USA– Too often around the world, in countries affected by conflict, violence and poverty, education is denied at the most basic level.
UN and UNICEF Radio Moderator Amy Costello recently spoke with International Children’s Peace Prize winners Mayra Avellar Neves and Thandiwe Chama, as well as Prof. Shantha Sinha, Chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, on their pioneering work to bring peace and educational opportunities to children worldwide.
The Children’s Peace Prize is an initiative of the KidsRights Foundation with the support of the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates.
‘We want to fight for our rights’
Mayra, 18, grew up in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and was awarded the prize for her courageous battle against extreme violence in her community, where drug wars have claimed the lives of thousands of children.
During a September visit to the United Nations, where she attended a meeting on combating violence against girls, Mayra showed world leaders her fierce inner spirit, which has always led her to challenge the status quo.
“The most important thing that people must have is the spirit of changing things. It must be inside,” says Mayra. “For example, we in the slums, we don’t have money but we are anxious for results. We want to fight for our rights.”
Breaking the cycle of poverty
Thandiwe, also 18, received the Children’s Peace Prize for her campaign to bring child rights to Zambia – in particular, the right to education.
“I thought if I just sit back and relax, then what am I going to end up in the future? Am I going to be roaming around the streets, begging for money?” says Thandiwe. “I know I’ve got rights as well. So I took action because I saw there was something wrong.”
Prof. Sinha, a child rights activist from India, argues that education is the key to lifting societies out of poverty.
“There is a very clear perception among the poor that it’s education, and education alone that can break the cycle of poverty and deprivation. They know it,” she says. “I think the rest of society doesn’t know that the poor aspire for education. And that seems to be the problem.”