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FOCUS March 1999 Volume 15

From the Eyes of the Child

First-prized artwork in 6-9 age category, "My Little Brother Will have the Same Rights" by 6-year-old O. Myagmarsuren (Mongolia)

A six year old girl from Mongolia drew a picture of a pregnant woman with a young child in tow. The bulging stomach of the woman shows a happy, little boy. The girl also drew children playing and several sunflowers. The whole art work has various colors from violet to green to red and orange. It is entitled "My little brother will have the same rights."

From the eyes of this little girl, babies unborn will be given the same rights that she and other children in her neighborhood already enjoy. She is expressing excitement about her brother who will soon be born.

In this part of the world where girls are given less rights than boys, the idea of a little girl talking of the same rights for her little brother yet to be born is striking. It conveys the idea of absence of distinction between girls and boys as far as rights are concerned. It speaks of equality in its colorful and meaningful sense.

The other winning entries speak of joyful experiences of going to school, playing games and being in the playground. They also speak of difficult lives as child workers and starving refugee children dreaming of returning to a happy home.

The drawings certainly evoke messages that are normally written by adults in human rights reports. They set in vivid pictures the ideas that capture the children's imagination and real life experiences. They both express hopes and realities.

Such are the messages that the more than 600 drawings of children from 14 Asian countries are trying to convey. The colorful winning entries bear testimony to the different experiences of children. They express different views and emotions. But whether the message is one of joy or sorrow, the drawings are still set in bright colors that seem to suggest the unstinting hope of the children for the future.

Participating children artists have varying situations in life. Some go to school while others are stuck in refugee camps in the Thai-Burma and Nepal-India borders. They come from various countries in South, Northeast and Southeast Asia. They come from both rural and urban areas.

These are the results of "My Drawing, My Rights" contest held by the Asian Regional Resource Center for Human Rights Education (ARRC) in 1998. The art contest is designed as an awareness campaign on the rights of the child. But more than just a campaign, it allowed the children from age 6 to 15 to think about their rights and express them in the image they find appropriate.

ARRC required the national partner organizations (usually non-governmental institutions working with children) to use the art contest as a means of educating children about their rights. Prior to the actual on-the-spot drawing sessions, the contest was publicized by the national partner organizations through print and broadcast media (including television promotion in Cambodia) and through posters in schools, malls and other public places. There were also discussion sessions before and after the drawings to allow the children to explain the ideas they would like to express. These discussion sessions helped the children think more about child rights as they explain their work to fellow children and supporting adults.

The art contest proved that children are very capable of understanding concepts which adults sometimes find difficult to accept. They are not so much bound by the social, political and cultural restrictions which in many ways affect the fuller appreciation of human rights and thus consequently cause violations in various ways.

In the same manner, the art contest is a proof of the power of visuals in comprehensively portraying both dreams and sufferings. Children, with their art skills still at the early stage of development, manage to create drawings with meaning. Visuals become a useful tool for human rights education that appeal to children as well as to adults.

The drawings in the ARRC art contest are significant human rights materials that can be used for human rights education activities. ARRC produced a report on the art contest with photos of the winning entries.

For a copy of the art contest report and other information contact: Asian Regional Resource Center for Human Rights Education (ARRC), 494, Soi 11, Lardprao 101, Klongchan, Bangkapi, Bangkok 10240 Thailand, or P.O Box. 26, Bungthonglang P.O. Bangkok 10242 Thailand, ph (662) 370-2701; 731-2216; 3779357, fax (662) 731-2216; 3740464, e-mail: arrc@ksc.th.com

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