Katura Halleday believes in equality and she has made it her mission to promote the right to quality education of children, and particularly girls, her age in different parts of the world.
She started her human rights defender journey two years ago, at the age of 12, when she worked with children in Bali. A year later in Mozambique she shared her artistic passion with the three girls she sponsors and their fellow classmates at the King of Kings School in Beira, an institution supported by the faith-based Australian aid organization, Mission Educate.
“I have a massive passion for art, it's always been something very close to me, and when I was in Mozambique it helped me break down those barriers because art isn't just one language it's every language, the universal language just like music and dance.”
Katura experienced a “reverse culture shock,” not in Mozambique but when she and her mother returned home to Katura’s father and her younger sister, Matika, in Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. She realized how much she had taken her life for granted.
“I was 13 at the time and while I was [in Mozambique] I got to meet a lot of kids roughly or basically my age, and I got to see that they are in some ways the same as me,” she recalls. “They all have dreams, hopes, and passions. They want to become lawyers, they want to become teachers, they want to become technicians. But the difference between them and me was that they had so few opportunities in comparison to what we have here.”
Katura decided to help. She started her research and found out that there are 1.8 billion youth around the world, mostly living in developing countries, and many of whom do not have access to quality education. ”Because of many different reasons, some because of poverty, some because of political issues and others because of their gender,” she explains. “To me, at first, this seemed incomprehensible especially considering that in my world there were so many opportunities for everyone.”
Katura wanted to do more for the King of Kings School in Mozambique. She is raising funds and awareness in Australia by organizing screenings of a film entitled “Katura’s Story” that was produced she when was in Mozambique, at schools and events. In the past nine months, she was able to raise over AUD 130,300 for the school, consisting of goods and cash.
In November, she is also planning to host an art competition entitled “Eight by Eight Educate” to sponsor more girls in school in Mozambique. She hopes to make her competition an annual event and open it to more people through an online platform.
Katura’s younger sister, Matika, has also joined in her sister’s efforts: they both illustrated a book called “Rina's Story” about a young girl who has to find the strength and the courage to find her way home. The total profits of the sale of that book will also go towards helping education in Mozambique.
For Katura, children's rights are the minimum standards necessary to live with dignity.
“Every single child in this world, no matter where they are and no matter who they are deserves to live with dignity,” she says, fervently. “Children should have the freedom to choose how they will live and how they will express themselves, and what type of governments they will support. They should be protected against things like abuse by those who are more powerful and have the ability to stop it.”
She adds that every child should be able to satisfy their basic needs such as food, housing and education, so they can take full advantage of all the opportunities that are afforded them.
“Children should be able to fully develop into adulthood and use their human qualities such as their intelligence, their creativity, their talents, their skills, and their empathy to secure their own future,” she says. “And it's up to those with a voice now to ensure that these things are the minimum standard for the 1.8 billion children in our world for the future.”
Halleday addressed a plea to world leaders: to make policies, commitments, and strategies to engage and empower the youth.
“Educate them so they can be heard and believe that they can make a difference. I cannot tell you how encouraging it was to hear that 77 Member States mentioned youth in their national statements at the U.N. conference last year,” she says. “But the thing is, these ideas, these statements they need to turn into actions or else nothing is going to change.”
“If the future generations want to live in a world where we have sustainable development, peace, security and human rights, we need to educate every single member of the youth, not just those that are born into privilege,” she adds.
This year the world marks the 30th anniversary of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, the most ratified human rights treaty in the world. The Convention protects the right of all children, everywhere, to be free from discrimination, violence and neglect, and states that children have a right to an education.
On the International Day of the Girl Child, 11 October, we also celebrate Katura and Matika Halleday, and the countless other girls who are proving they are unscripted and unstoppable.
11 October 2019