Haitian children look forward to the National Day of Children every year as their special day. Thirty-five percent of the Haitian population is less than 15 years old. The two main Haitian governmental institutions working on child protection, the National Institute of Social Wellbeing and Researches and the Brigade of Protection of Minors, hold in special activities to celebrate this day. CWS was there to support them and the children we all work so hard to protect.
In Mole Saint Nicolas, in the far Northwest of Haiti, more than 200 children gathered together to celebrate. Boys and little girls happy to be together, chatting, running, singing and eating. Little mouths (some of them lacking teeth) blossoming with innocent smiles, feet drawing invisible, heavenly geometrical figures on the floor, angelic voices humming joyful songs all around, firework of colors moving with no precise destination. What a moment it was to be so many at the same place talking about our own issues and having fun! It was their day. Everyone came with determination to enjoy it to the fullest.
National Day of Children is also an occasion to carry out awareness-raising activities on the rights of the child and child protection issues in Haiti. CWS facilitated the gathering of the children together with our Haitian governmental partners.
A representative of IBESR talked about the main issue of child protection in Haiti: children in domestic servitude. 407,000 children are working as domestic servants in Haiti according to a recent research study. He discussed the risks and consequences of sending children to live as restavèk (child domestic servants). The children gave their opinion about the phenomenon that they considered as “very bad.” None of them wants to live as a domestic servant.
At another CWS-sponsored event, the children received a t-shirt made for the occasion with the slogan: “My vote is a vote for child protection.” A pastor meditated with the participants on child protection, based on Luke 18: 16: “But Jesus called the children to Him and said, Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”
Next came drama, choreography, poetry, songs and a song contest. All the children enjoyed themselves to the fullest. The majority of the shows were based on child protection themes such as the rights of children, health, environmental issues and discrimination against children. Children carrying out awareness raising for other children on child-related issues. What a sight to see.
A fanfare came to pick up the children at the gate of the school building for the final part of the celebration — a march through town. They crossed the downtown of Port-de-Paix singing and dancing. People joined on the sidewalk to watch and ask what was going on. We told them, “It is the national day of children!”
Rodrigue Joseph is a CWS Child Protection Officer.