Yemeni teenager Dea’a alddin Abdo Mohammed Obaidel is 16 years old. As a member of the Children’s Parliament of Yemen,* he speaks out on behalf of children who have been forced into labour due to the ongoing conflict that has devastated the country. According to UNICEF, some 2 million children are out of school, a major contributing factor to their exploitation in the labour market.
Despite the unavailability of textbooks and notebooks, as well as the cost of transportation, Dea’a himself is doing his best to continue going to school, and to advocate for the rights of others to do the same.
As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, in his own voice, Dea’a shares how he is fighting for a better future for the children of Yemen.
“Many children in Yemen don’t have their basic rights, and they cannot raise their voices. This is especially the case for some groups like children who are blind, children who are working, and children in extreme poverty.
I decided to join the Children’s Parliament to raise their voices, and to deliver them their rights.
During the war, many children have stopped going to school. Some of them now have to work, some of them beg on the streets. Some children have even stopped activities like playing soccer, playing chess, reading, drawing and painting. I try my best to advise them to keep doing these things, to help them forget about the war for some time.
My message to these children is “Don’t leave school. Because it is the educated children who will develop this country. We need to continue to demand to stop the war. We need to start with ourselves and keep up our education, because we are the future men and women.”
If we raise an educated child, we will have a well-educated generation.
It is important that children’s voices are heard. Nobody can better express the fear and suffering of children, than children themselves. Adults might be able to express some of it, but not all of it.
Children can understand things that adults cannot understand. Age is not a standard for good minds.
If we don’t care for children – the future generation – then who do we care for? As psychologists say, young children quickly pick up behaviours and habits, so if we educate children about their rights, this allows them to make a plan and target for their lives. With a clear target in mind while they grow up, they will be able to achieve their target.
I think that in general, the situation of children today is better than the past. If we compare the children who were born before the Convention of the Rights of the Child, and those who were born after, you can see a big difference. Before, children were not given their rights, and were neglected. The war here in Yemen means that children have minimal rights, but at least there are organisations and foundations dedicated specifically to making their situation better.
A message to world leaders
My first message is to stop the war in Yemen. If the war is stopped, everything will recover. All the services will return to normal.
Second, please take seriously the critical issues of our education and health.
What is the difference between a Yemeni child and a child from another country? Aren’t we equal in rights? While there are some NGOs who work here and who care about delivering children’s rights, this is not enough. We need your support to gain our basic rights.
We feel that we are lost. I hope that together we can work on delivering rights for all children. We are all brothers in humanity.”
*The Children’s Parliament sits every three months for five-day sessions – discussing topics such as the environment, health, human rights and education - and then issues its recommendations to the Yemeni government.
19 November 2019