Page 1









# 44 • 2007

The rights of the child What is the WCPRC? ....................4 Celebrate the rights of the child! ..8 How are the world’s children?.... 10 The prize ceremony 2006 ........... 12

Candidates for th

Thanks! Tack! Merci ! ¡Gracias! Obrigado!


Cynthia Maung BURMA Pages 16–40


TO HM Queen Silvia of Sweden, AstraZeneca, Banco Fonder, ABN AMRO Bank,, Barloworld Ltd, Sida, Save the Children Sweden, Radiohjälpen, Folke Bernadotte Akademin, Kronprinsessan Margaretas Minnesfond, Helge Ax:son Johnsons Stiftelse and the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation. TO The ForeSight Group, Grenna Polkagriskokeri, Floristen i Mariefred, ICA Torghallen Mariefred, Centas, Euronics Strängnäs, Petter Ljunggren, Lilla Akademien, Spektrumkören i Botkyrka, Gripsholms Slottsförvaltning, Gripsholmsvikens Hotell & Konferens, Grafikens Hus, Maria Printz & Printzens Matverk and Benninge Restaurangskola.



COLOMBIA The people in this issue of The Globe live in these countries BOLIVIA and this area

TO all the children of the prize jury and at Global Friend schools. All Honorary Adult Friends, Adult Friends and Children’s World’s member organisations and partners in cooperation. In Benin, to: Juriste Echos Consult In Brazil: Grupo Positivo (Portal Educacional and Portal Aprende Brasil), SME-São José dos Campos, SEMED-Santarém, SEMED-Belterra, ONG Circo de Todo Mundo, Projeto Rádio pela Educação/Radio Rural de Santarém, Fundação Municipal de Cultura – Centro Cultural Alto Vera Cruz, Secretaria Municipal de Administração Regional Leste – Gerência de Educação, Belo Horizonte In Burkina Faso: Art Consult et Développement In Burundi: Maison Shalom In Colombia: Plan Colombia/Plan Sweden In Ivory Coast: Ministère de l’Education, CAMUA – Berte Zanga, Unicef In Gambia: Child Protection Alliance (CPA) In Ghana: Ministry of Education, ATTWAR – Ekua Ansah-Eshon, Ghana NGO Coalition on the Rights of the Child – Susan Sabaa, Unicef In Guinea-Conakry: CAMUE – Kourouma Oumar In Guinea Bissau: AMIC In India: City Montessori School Lucknow – Shishir Srivastava, Times of India’s Newspaper in Education, Peace Trust – Paul Baskar, Barefoot College In Kenya: CSO Network for Western Kenya and Nyanza Province – Betty Okero In Congo-Brazzaville: ASUDH/Gothia Cup – Bertil Åhman In Congo-Kinshasa: FORDESK – Tuzza Alonda In Mexico: Secretaría de Desarollo Humano Gobierno de Jalisco In Mozambique: FDC, SANTAC In Nepal: Maiti Nepal In Nigeria: Federal Ministry of Education, Ministry of Education Lagos State, Ministry of Education Ogun State, Ministry of Education Oyo State, Unicef, Royaltimi Talents Network – Rotimi


World’s Children’s Ombudsman Now you can pose a question or suggest a task for the first WCO, Olara Otunnu – see page 2 of the Voting Supplement.

Samuel Aladetu, CHRINET – Moses Adedeji In Pakistan: BLLFS, BRIC In Rwanda: AOCM In Senegal: Ministère de l’Education, Ministère de la Femme, de la Famille et du Développement Social, EDEN, Save the Children Sweden, Unicef In the United Kingdom: Save the Children UK, Oasis School of Human Relations In South Africa: The National Department of Education, The Eastern, Western and Northern Cape Departments of Education, The Qumbu District of Education – Zola Tezapi, Bojanala Platinum District Municipality, The Department of Education Bojanala West region – North West Province, The Robben Island Museum In Thailand: Ministry of Education, Duang Prateep Foundation In Uganda: GUSCO, Uganda Local Governments Association – Gertrude Rose Gamwera In Vietnam: Nguyen T.N. Ly, Save the Children Sweden – Vietnam

the WCPRC 2007




Inderjit Khurana INDIA Pages 41–65

The WCPRC jury Page 92 and Voting Supplement pages 29–39

Betty Makoni ZIMBABWE Pages 66–91


Win Gaba’s CD! You can win a CD recorded by Gabatshwane from the jury on page 5 and on pages 2–3 of the Voting Supplement






Sings world for the ’s child ren



Pretty henna hands! Page 58


Hello friend! Friendly greetings in the Voting Supplement



The Global Vote See Voting Supplement

Global Vote! Världsomröstning Votación Mundial Vote Mondial Votação Mundial

G lo


b al

School on wheels! Vote


N ’S

BO PHIEU TOAN CAU The Globe is published by the organisation Children’s World with support from Sida (the Swedish Agency for International Development Cooperation) and is a magazine for Global Friend schools. Box 150, 647 24 Mariefred, Sweden Tel: +46-159-12900 Fax: +46-159-10860 e-mail:

20 0



Page 55 AL F



’ AW












Editor-in-chief and legally responsible publisher: Magnus Bergmar Contributors to issue 44–45: Johanna Hallin, Tora Mårtens, Carmilla Floyd, Kim Naylor, Andreas Lönn, Paul Blomgren, Britt-Marie Klang, Marlene Winberg, Göte Winberg, Christiane Sampaio, Carlos França, Magnus Nordgren Illustrations & maps: Jan-Åke Winqvist, Lotta Mellgren Design: Fidelity Translation: Tamarind (English, Spanish, Portuguese), Cinzia Gueniat (French), Jane Vejjajiva (Thai), Chetan Trivedi, Dinesh Singh (hindi), Dr. M A Jeyaraju (tamil) Language revision: Kerstin Connor, Laura Hannant Cover photo: Paul Blomgren Repro: Grafi t, Västerås Printing: PunaMusta Oy ISSN 1102-8343

GLOBAL VOTE 2007: 15 January – 12 April

Your prize for the rights o Hello Global Friend!

The World’s Children’s Prize for the Rights of the Child (WCPRC) belongs to you and all the other children and young people in the world! Your school (or group) is one of 20,000 Global Friend schools with 11 million pupils in 82 countries. And that number is growing fast. The WCPRC 2007 will take place from 15 January to 12 April.


any schools work on the WCPRC for weeks or months, and in several different subjects – even maths! It’s a good idea to study the rights of the child and the WCPRC in this order:


1. Together for the rights of the child Start by learning more about the rights of the child, with help from the prize magazine (pages 8–11) and If you live in a country where there are lots of Global Friend schools you’ll receive a fact sheet on the situation for the rights of the child in your country along with the prize magazine. “Thanks to The Globe magazine I’ve learned about

Global Vote in Mim in Ghana.

my rights. I wish that all the children in the world took part in the Global Vote every year. I know that many adults in my country don’t know that the rights of the child exist,” says Massala in Congo Brazzaville. “We have to teach the adults what rights we have,” says Adou in Ivory Coast. Koffi in Ivory Coast doesn’t trust adults: “We children have to fight for our rights – we don’t get them for free. I don’t understand why adults don’t respect the rights of the child.” “I would like there to be a government minister for us children, a child minister, who would make sure our rights are respected,” thinks Coumba in Senegal. “Many adults don’t believe that children can have views o

on things like school and society,” says Carine in Brazil. Aishwarya in India agrees with her: “Adults underestimate us. We should be able to express our opinion, just like in the WCPRC. The world’s children are its best hope for development.” How are the rights of the child respected in your life? At home? At school? Where you live and in your country? Do politicians listen to children? What needs to change? Do adults treat children well? If not, What needs to change? How can you and your friends tell people – your parents, teachers, politicians, journalists and other adults – that the rights of the child are not respected, and how things should be? Ayanda in South Africa knows what he wants to say: “You adults have to treat

s of the child me the way that you wanted to be treated when you were children!” 2. Find out about the prize candidates When you have found out about and discussed the rights of the child, it’s time to meet this year’s prize candidates and the children they fight for. On pages 16–40 you can get to know Cynthia Maung and ‘her’ children. Meet Inderjit Khurana and ‘her’ children on pages 41–65, and Betty Makoni and ‘her’ children on pages 66–91. As you’re sure to see straight away, all three prize candidates do fantastic things for children. You would have just the same thoughts and feelings as these children and young people if you had experienced the same things. They are like you – they are your friends. You might read the prize magazine as homework. You might put on an exhibition or a play about the prize candidates and the rights of the child. Perhaps you can

‘travel’ to the candidates’ countries as reporters. Your teacher can get more ideas about what you can do with the WCPRC from the Teachers’ Guide and the teachers’ section of www. To be able to make a fair choice, you need to know the same amount about all the candidates and their work. Three prizes will be awarded: The Global Friends’ Award A prize from you and all the other voting children. In the first Global Vote in 2001, 19,000 children voted. In 2006, 3.8 million children voted. Will you make it 5 million in 2007? World’s Children’s Prize The jury children’s prize – read more on the next page. World’s Children’s Honorary Award The Honorary Award goes to the prize candidate(s) who does/do not receive either of the other two prizes. The jury and the children who vote can give both their

In Colombia, painted cheeks make it impossible to vote twice.

prizes to the same person without knowing it. All three candidates receive prize money towards their work for the rights of the child.

What happens behind this door? Revealed on the next page.

Why are girls treated worse than boys? On page 70 you can read about how girls all over the world are often treated worse than boys. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child says that girls and boys have the same rights, and of course Global Friend schools agree. How are things where you live? How do you think things should be? How can we change things? Try to give detailed examples. Everyone who sends in their thoughts about how girls are treated and how things should be will be entered into a prize draw and could win a CD recorded by Gaba from the jury or a WCPRC t-shirt. You can use the form on, email your entry to, fax it to +46 159 108 60 or post it to WCPRC, Box 150, 647 24 Mariefred, Sweden. The right to go to school also applies to girls, of course. Elna Stefany in Alter do Chão in Amazonas, Brazil, shows which articles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child are about education.

You can welcome Global Friends! This girl in Dindigul, India, has made a welcoming ’rangoli’ painting from coloured powder, and now she is saying ”Namaste!” which means ”Welcome!” Many schools and pupils all over the world don’t know that they are welcome to become Global Friend schools. You and your school can invite other schools from your area! It’s free for a school to become a Global Friend school. To register a school we need: The name and postal address of the school, a contact person at the school (teacher or head­ teacher) and the total number of pupils. The school is then entitled to participate in the WCPRC. All the pupils can vote in the Global Vote and the school will receive a Global Friend Certificate.


3. Prepare for the Global Vote After learning about all three candidates, some schools make election posters and hold speeches. Anyone aged 18 or over is not allowed to vote. Since the Global Vote is for children and young people, it’s important that you children get to help organise it. You can read about Global Votes all over the world in the Voting Supplement. In order to have a democratic vote, you need: • Voting register. A list of everyone who has a right to vote.

• Ballot papers. Copy the examples on the last page of the Voting Supplement or make your own. • Voting booth. So that noone can see how you vote. • Ballot box. • Paint to prevent cheating. Either tick off names on the voting register, or mark one finger with paint after putting your vote in the ballot box. • Election supervisor. Ticks off voters on the voting register and gives out voting slips. • Voting observers. Oversee the voting and the vote count, and check that all who have voted get a paint mark. • Vote counters. Count the votes and send in the results. 4. Global Vote Day Decide on a date for your Global Vote in good time. In South Africa and Brazil, for example, whole school districts have chosen the same Global Vote Day for all the schools. Now you are experts on the rights of the child, who know how to demand respect for those rights. You know all about the prize candidates and the

children they fight for. You also know all about your prizes, and about how a democratic Global Vote works. Hope your Global Vote Day is fun! Good luck and don’t forget to invite the press, radio and TV to come along! We’re going to celebrate! In the Thar Desert in Pakistan the pupils celebrate their Global Vote as the sun sets with dancing, tea and biscuits. In Santarém, Brazil they hold a dance performance and eat acai berries. In Båstad and Uppsala in Sweden, cakes decorated with the WCPRC’s rainbow children are served. Report the results of your vote Don’t forget to report your results for all three candidates by 12 April. All the votes cast all over world are added together. You can put the results of your vote in the ballot box at, email them to, fax them to +46 159 108 60 or post them to WCPRC, Box 150, 647 24 Mariefred, Sweden.

Counting votes in Senegal.

The award ceremony The children will reveal the recipients of the prizes for 2007 at a press conference in Stockholm on 13 April. If you want to know the results, check out This year’s award ceremony will take place at Gripsholm Castle in Mariefred, Sweden on 16 April. The award ceremony always takes place in mid-April, in memory of Iqbal Masih, the first winner of the WCPRC, who was killed on 16 April 1995. 5. Demand respect! Now that you are experts on the rights of the child you can demand that these rights are respected at home, at school, and with journalists and politicians! 

Once the pupils at Dom Pedro School in Urucureá in Brazil had learnt about all the prize candidates they held speeches about them.

Behind the door: The jury children meet

The international child jury of 2006 with Queen Silvia of Sweden after the award ceremony.

When the door closes at the jury prize meeting, the translators, who are the only adults in the room, know that they must only translate exactly what the jury children say. Before the day is over, the jury must decide on the recipient of their prize, the World’s Children’s Prize.

The jury children, who come from around 15 countries, are themselves experts on the rights of the child through their own experience. They have, for example, been child soldiers, slaves, refugees or lived on the street. They fight for the rights of the child.

There are special adults who are patrons of the WCPRC. They are called Honorary Adult Friends. Some of them are patrons for the whole world, others for their country. Queen Silvia of Sweden was the first Honorary Adult Friend. Others include Nelson Mandela, Graça Machel, President Xanana Gusmão, East Timor, Nobel Prize Laureates Joseph Stiglitz, USA and José Ramos Horta, East Timor, former Executive Director of Unicef, Carol Bellamy, USA, former Chairman of the UN Security Council and UN UnderSecretary General for children and armed conflict, Olara Otunnu, Uganda, Chief Oren Lyons, Onondaga Nation (USA), philosopher Ken Wilber, USA, and model and former refugee Alek Wek, Sudan and UK. Send in your suggestions for who you’d like to see as an Honorary Adult Friend and tell us why!

Celebrating Global Vote Day in Antônio de Souza Pedroso School in Alter do Chão in Brazil.

The WCPRC and the Global Vote are not a competition. All three candidates have made fantastic contributions to the rights of the child, and will be honoured for that at the award ceremony. All three also receive prize money which they must use in their work for the rights of the child. In 2007, the total prize money is 140,000 US dollars. In the Global Vote and the jury meeting, you and other children and young people decide who will receive the prizes.

Global Vote cakes in Sweden.

IMPORTANT! WCPRC is not a competition! Queen Silvia of Sweden

Each child on the jury represents all the children in the world who have experienced similar violations of, or struggles for, the rights of the child. You can learn about the different parts of the rights of the child by reading about the jury children in the Voting Supplement or at It’s hard to become a member of the jury. Millions of children all over the world must be able to experience and learn from each jury member’s life. That’s why it is your experience of violations of the rights of the child, or your fight

for those rights to be respected, and your story about this, which determines whether you can join the jury. The jury children must also, if possible, represent all continents and major religions. When the door opens again on the evening of the 11th of April, we’ll know that the jury are agreed on who is to receive the World’s Children’s Prize 2007. The jury children choose their own chairperson and select five jury members to be on the prize committee that chooses the three candidates for the following year.


Honorary Adult Friend Nelson Mandela smiles as he reads a comic strip about his life in the Globe magazine from 2005.




the rights o

 illustr ation : lot ta mellgren/ester

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (The Child Convention) consists of 54 articles. We have summarised a few of them here. The full text of the Convention can be found at Basic principles of the Convention: • All children have the same rights and are of equal worth. • Every child has the right to have his or her basic needs fulfilled. • Every child has the right to protection from abuse and exploitation. • Every child has the right to express his or her opinion and to be respected Article 1 These rights apply to all children under 18.

Article 6 You have the right to life and the right to develop.

Article 2 All children are of equal worth. All children have the same rights and should not be discriminated against. Nobody should treat you badly because of your appearance, your colour, your gender, your religion or your opinions.

Article 7 You have the right to a name and a nationality.

Article 3 Those who make decisions affecting children must first and foremost think about what is best for you. 

Article 9 You have the right to live with your parents unless it’s bad for you. You have the right to be brought up by your parents, if possible. Articles 12–15 You have the right to say what you think. You are to be consulted and your opinions respected in all matters concerning you – at home, at

school and by the authorities and the courts. Article 18 Your parents are jointly responsible for your upbringing and development. They must always put your interests first. Article 19 You have the right to protection against all forms of violence, neglect, abuse and maltreatment. You should not be exploited by your parents or other guardians. Articles 20–21 You are entitled to receive care if you have lost your family.


The 20th November is a day of celebration for the world’s children. It was on that day in 1989 that the UN adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It is known as the Child Convention and applies to you and all other children under 18. All the world’s countries except for Somalia and the USA have ratified (pledged to follow) the Child Convention. This means they are obliged to take children’s rights into consideration and to listen to what children have to say.

I demand respect for the rights of the child!

s of the child Article 22 If you have been forced to leave your country you have the same rights as all the other children in your new country. If you are alone you have the right to special protection and help. If possible you should be reunited with your family. Article 23 All children have the right to a decent life. If you are disabled you have the right to additional support and assistance. Article 24 When you are sick you have the right to receive all the help and care you need. Articles 28 and 29 You have the right to attend school and to learn important things such as respect for other people’s rights and respect for other cultures. Article 30 The thoughts and beliefs of every child should be respected. If you belong to a minority you have the right to your own language, your own culture and your own religion.

Article 31 You have the right to play, rest and live in a healthy environment. Article 32 You should not be forced to perform hazardous work which interrupts or prevents your schooling and which could be harmful to your health. Article 34 No one should subject you to abuse or force you into prostitution. If you are treated badly you are entitled to receive protection and help.


Article 35 No one is allowed to kidnap or sell you. Article 37 No one should punish you in a cruel and harmful manner. Article 38 You never have to be a soldier or take part in an armed conflict. Article 42 All adults and children should know about this convention. You have the right to learn about your rights.


How are the wor Survive and grow

2.2 BILLION CHILDREN UNDER 18 79 million of these children live in Somalia and the USA, which have not agreed to honour the rights of the child. All other countries have promised to uphold the rights of the child.

Name and nationality From the day you are born you have the right to have a name and to be registered as a citizen in your home country. Around 48 million of the 133 million children born every year are never registered. In other words, there is no documented proof that they exist!

10 10

You have the right to life. Every country that has ratified the rights of the child must do all it can to allow children to survive and develop. 1 out of 13 children (1 out of 6 in the poorest countries) dies before he/she reaches the age of 5, usually due to causes that could have been prevented.

Health and health care You have the right to food, clean water and medical care. Every day 29,000 children under the age of 5 (10,5 million a year) die of illnesses caused by lack of food, clean water, hygiene and health care. Vaccinations against the most common childhood illnesses help save 3 million lives a year. But 1in 4 children is never vaccinated. 2 million children die every year of diseases that can be prevented by vaccinations.

A HOME, CLOTHING, FOOD AND SECURITY You have the right to a home, food, clothing, education, health care and security. 3 out of 4 of the world’s children live in poverty. Around 600 million children have less than 1 US dollar (0.52 UK pounds) a day to live on. An additional 900,000 have less than 2 US dollars a day. One half of all children don’t have access to clean water.

Children with functional disabilities Children with functional disabilities have the same rights to get support and be given the chance to play an active role in society as everyone else. Children with functional disabilities are among the most vulnerable in the world. In many countries they aren’t even allowed to go to school. Many are treated like inferior beings and are kept hidden away from the public eye. There are over 150 million children with functional disabilities in the world.

Street children You have the right to live in a safe environment. All children have the right to education, medical care and a tolerable standard of living. 60 million children make their only home on the streets. An additional 90 million work and spend the day on the street but return home to their families in the evenings.

Hazardous child labour You have the right to be protected against both eco­ nomic exploitation and work that is hazardous to your health or which prevents you from going to school. All work is prohibited for chil­ dren under 12. Around 200 million children between 5 and 14 work, and for three out of four of them, this work is harmful for their safety, health, morals and schooling. Some 8.4 million children are forced into the worst forms of child labour, such as being debt slaves, child soldiers and prostitutes. At least 1.2 million children are bought and sold every year like a commodity.

Protection against violence You have the right to protection against all forms of violence, including neglect, maltreatment and abuse. Every year, 40 million children are so badly beaten that they need medical care. Only 15 countries, with 53 million children, have forbidden all forms of corporal punishment for children. Many still allow caning in schools.

Crime and punishment Children may only be im­­ prisoned as a last resort and for the shortest possible time. No child may be subjected to torture or other cruel treat­ ment. Children who have committed crimes should be given care and help. Children may not be sen­ tenced to life imprisonment or receive the death penalty. At least 1 million children are being held in prison. Imprisoned children are often badly treated.

Minority children Children who belong to minority groups or indige­ nous peoples have the right to their language, cul­ ture and religion. Examples of indigenous peoples include Native Americans, Aborigines in Australia and the Sami people of Northern Europe. The rights of indigenous and minority children are often violated. Their language is not respected and they are bullied or discriminated against. Many children do not have access to medical care.

You have the right to pro­ tection and care in times of war, and also if you are a refugee. Children affected by war and refugee children have exactly the same rights as other children. Over the last 10 years at least 2 million children have been killed in war. 6 million have received serious physical injuries. 1 million have lost or become separated from their parents. 300,000 children have been used as soldiers, carriers or mine clearers (8000 children are killed or injured by mines every year). At least 10 million children have had to flee their homes or countries.

School and education You have the right to go to school. Primary and sec­ ondary schools should be free for everyone. More than 8 out of 10 children in the world go to school, but 121 million children never even begin school. Nearly 6 out of 10 of them are girls. Over 150 million children, 100 million of them girls, leave school before the fifth grade.

YOUR VOICE MUST BE HEARD! You have the right to say what you think about any issue that affects you. The adults should listen to the child’s opinion before they make decisions, which must always be for the child’s best. Is that how things are in your country and in the world today? You and the rest of the world’s children know best!



orld’s children?

Protection and safety in war



THE GLOBAL A prize from 3.8 million FRIENDS’ AWARD voting children Laury Christina Hernandez Petano and her friends from the jury welcome everyone to the award ceremony in their own languages.

HM Queen Silvia is surprised by a dancing Tibetan yak. The children from the Tibetan Children’s Villages (TCV) in India performed: Tenzin Lhasey, Chemi Dolker, Ngawang Lhamo, Jampel Lhundup, Dorjee Phuntsok, Tenzin Desel and Tenzin Dawa.

AOCM 3,798,818 young people under the age of 18 participated in the Global Vote and chose the AOCM orphans’ organisation in Rwanda as the recipient of their prize. All the candidates received over one million votes. AOCM is made up of 6000 people orphaned by the genocide in Rwanda, who help each other to survive and to have a decent standard of living with food, education, homes and healthcare. HM Queen Silvia presents the Global Friends’ Award to Roger Rwamasirabo. Also representing AOCM were Naphtal Ahishakiye, Marie Grâce Nyiraminani, Jean Claude Habineza and Alice Kayitesi.


Erison Verissimo da Silva of Maracatu Mirim from Brazil was a fantastic dancer.

EREMONY 2006 Abeba Abebe from Sweden led the Award Ceremony. Here she is talking about Iqbal Masih, the former debt slave in a carpet factory in Pakistan, who fought for the rights of bonded children. Iqbal was murdered on 16 April 1995 and was awarded the prize posthumously (after his death). In the foreground are musicians from the Lilla Akademin in Stockholm.

THE WORLD’S CHILDREN’S PRIZE The jury children’s prize Craig Kielburger The children of the WCPRC jury chose to give their prize to Craig Kielburger from Canada. At the age of 12, Craig founded Free The Children. He fights for young people’s rights to make their voices heard, and to release children from poverty and violations of the rights of the child. “To receive the World’s Children’s Prize has a deep personal significance for me because it was first awarded to Iqbal Masih, who inspired us to start Free The Children. You are never too young to strive for a more just and peaceful world!”

Omar Bandak & Veronica Liberzon from

Mary Smart from a school supported by Free The Children in Sierra Leone and Kim Plewes from Free The Children in Canada joined Craig Kielburger on stage when he received the glass WCP globe from HM Queen Silvia.


Palestine and Israel presented different children’s thoughts on the WCPRC. Massala in Kongo Brazzaville was one of these children: “Thanks to the Globe magazine I’ve learned about my rights. I wish that all the children in the world took part in the Global Vote every year. I know that many adults in my country don’t know that the rights of the child exist.”

The award ceremony continues!

Jetsun Pema, joined on stage by Tashi Dolma and Jangchup Gyaltsen, received the World’s Children’s Honorary Award from HM Queen Silvia. The Dalai Lama’s sister was honoured by the children for her 40 years working for the rights of Tibetan refugee children. 13


We demand respect for the rights of the child! Sukumaya Magar from Nepal and all the other jury children demanded respect for the rights of the child in their own languages. Svetlana Krosténova from Olara Otunnu has been a lawyer, Minister the Czech Republic and for Foreign Affairs, President of the UN Thomas Opiyo from Uganda Security Council and of the UN Commission listen. on Human Rights, UN Under-SecretaryGeneral and Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict. At the Award Ceremony the children gave Olara Otunnu two new titles: Patron and Honorary Adult Friend of The WCPRC and The World’s Children’s Ombudsman!

World’s Children’s Ombudsman

Thai Thi Nga demands respect for the rights of the child. Sitting with her are the jury children Gabatshwane Gumede, South Africa, Railander Pablo Freitas de Souza, Brazil, Isabel Mathe, Mozambique and Idalmin Santana, USA.

Read more on page 2 of the voting supplement about how you can give the World’s Children’s Ombudsman a task and how you can help children who are affected by armed conflict.

Iqbal Masih

Anne Frank

Hector Pieterson

Asfaw Yemiru

Barefoot College

Children’s Peace Movement

Nkosi Johnson

Maiti Nepal

Casa Allianza


In the first year, three children from the billions who had their rights violated during the 20th century were honoured posthumously (after their death).


The World’s Children’s Prize & The Global Friends’ Award Asfaw Yemiru, Ethiopia, was a street child at the age of 9. At 14, he opened his first school for street children underneath an oak tree. Since then he has The World’s Children’s Prize devoted 45 years to giving underprivileIqbal Masih, former debt slave ged children in Ethiopia the chance to in a carpet factory in Pakistan, go to school. for his fight for the rights of child debt slaves. World’s Children’s Honorary Award Barefoot College, India, for their 30The World Children’s year pioneering efforts, including their Honorary Award creation of a Children’s Parliament and Anne Frank, Holland and evening schools in Rajasthan. Hector Pieterson, South Africa. Children’s Peace Movement, Colombia, which helps children campaign against the war and runs activities to bring 14 happiness to children.

2002 The World’s Children’s Prize & The Global Friends’ Award Nkosi Johnson South Africa, (posthumously) who fought for the rights of children suffering from HIV/AIDS. The World’s Children’s Prize Maiti Nepal, which fights the trafficking of poor girls from Nepal to India where they are forced to work as slaves in brothels, and which rehabilitates girls who have been affected by trafficking. The World’s Children’s Honorary Award Casa Allianza, Central America, which works for children who live on the street.

Maggy Barankitse

James Aguer

2003 The World’s Children’s Prize Maggy Barankitse, Burundi, who has, over 10 years, saved tens of thousands of orphaned children in war-torn Burundi and given them a home, love and schooling. The Global Friends’ Award James Aguer, Sudan, who has, over 15 years, freed thousands of kidnapped children from slave work in Sudan. James has been imprisoned 33 times and two of his colleagues have been murdered. The World’s Children’s Honorary Award Pastoral da Criança, Brazil, which works to reduce infant mortality and malnourishment among poor children.


Tack! Merci ! ¡Gracias! Obrigado!

Tays Bezerra dos Santos Costa, Gemeson Rodrigues Barros de Andrade and Monique Maria Tavares da Silva of Maracatu Mirim dance before Tays presents the children’s ‘thank you’ to the Queen. Lamartine Manoel Silva dos Santos, Jefferson Viana Ernestoda Silva, Artur Ferreira da Silva Neto and Jhoamy Alcântara Barreto Lins took care of the music.

Pastoral da Criança

Prateep Ungsongtham Hata

Paul, Mercy Baskar

2004 The World’s Children’s Prize & The Global Friends’ Award Prateep Ungsongtham Hata, Thailand, was a child worker at the age of ten. Since starting her first school at the age of 16, she has spent 35 years fighting to give the neediest children the chance to go to school. The World’s Children’s Honorary Award Paul and Mercy Baskar, India, who for 20 years have fought against hazardous child labour. Liz Gaynes and Emani Davis, USA, who for 20 years have worked defending the rights of children of prisoners.

Liz Gaynes/ Emani Davis


This was the last award ceremony for Svetlana Krosténova from the Czech Republic and Veronica Liberzon from Israel, since they are now 18 years old and are therefore retiring from the child jury.

The 20 mothers of St. Rita

Nelson Mandela/ Graça Machel


The World’s Children’s Prize The 20 mothers of St. Rita, Kenya, who for the past eight years have been fighting for the rights of AIDS orphans. The Global Friends’ Award Nelson Mandela and Graça Machel, South Africa and Mozambique. Mandela for his life-long struggle for equal rights for all children in South Africa and his work to defend their rights. Machel for her 20-yearlong fight for the rights of vulnerable children in Mozambique, in particular for girls’ rights. The World’s Children’s Honorary Award Ana María Marañon de Bohorquez, Bolivia, who for the past 20 years has fought for children living on the streets of Cochabamba.

Ana María Marañon de Bohorquez


Craig Kielburger

Jetsun Pema


World’s Children’s Prize Craig Kielburger, Canada, who at the age of 12 founded Free The Children. He fights for young people’s right to make their voices heard and to liberate children from poverty and violations of their rights. Global Friends’ Award AOCM, Rwanda, 6000 people orphaned by the genocide in Rwanda, who help each other to survive by sharing food, clothes, schooling, homes, healthcare and love. World’s Children’s Honorary Award Jetsun Pema, Tibet. The Dalai Lama’s sister has been working for the rights of refugee children for 40 years.



NOMINATED • Pages 16– 40

CYNTHIA MAUNG Khaing Tha Zin, 11 years old, has had fever for so many days that she’s lost count. At home in her village in Burma, her father lifts her up onto his back, wraps her in a blanket and begins the long trek to Doctor Cynthia Maung’s clinic in the neighbouring country of Thailand. 18 years ago, Cynthia Maung fled Burma by the same path. she fought for democracy, but had to flee from the military government that has been in power in Burma since 1962. Khaing being carried by her father.


WHY Is CYNTHIA MAUNG BEING NOMINATED? Doctor Cynthia Maung is being nominated for the WCPRC 2007 for her near 20­year struggle on behalf of hundreds of thousands of children who live as refugees in and outside Burma. Cynthia has been running the Mae Tao Clinic in Thailand since 1989. Over 200,000 refugees and immigrants from Burma receive free healthcare here. Most of these are children. The clinic also trains medics who return to their villages in Burma or to refugee camps in Thailand to work. The clinic sends hundreds of “backpack medics” to Burma. They carry medicine, train children in health and hygiene and treat 150,000 internally displaced people, many of them children. Cynthia’s clinic gives birth certificates to the many children who lack these, runs two schools and 16

school hostels, and regularly visits 50 other refugee schools to give the children vitamins, vaccinations and teach them about health and hygiene. Cynthia’s clinic also runs children’s homes, teaches about the environ­ ment and HIV and AIDS, and gives food to malnourished children.





(Myanmar) Rangoon

indian ocean

vietnam laos

Mae Sot

thailand Bangkok



haing can’t stay awake, even though she’s bumping along uncomfortably on her father’s back. Once when she wakes up, his shoulder is red with blood from her nose. When they have crossed the border and arrived at the Mae Tao Clinic, Khaing gets cramp. The fever makes her muscles tense up on their own. She has malaria, one of the most common illnesses to affect children in the bor-

der area. It all starts with a little mosquito bite and, without medicine and treatment, it can end in death. In the mountainous areas of Burma there are no hospitals or doctors. That’s why Doctor Cynthia Maung’s clinic on the Thai side of the border is absolutely vital for Khaing – and for more than a hundred thousand other children. One of the medics lifts Khaing under the arms, sits her on a low plastic stool and washes her with cold

Helping ALL children Cynthia Maung and her Mae Tao Clinic helps all children from Burma, whether they are refugees in Thailand, refugees in their own country, Burma (called internally displaced people) or are in Thailand because their parents are looking for work. water. The sudden cold almost makes it hard to breathe, but it’s refreshing at the same time. After the medical examination Khaing falls asleep on a bench in the waiting

room with her head on her father’s lap. He is holding three small plastic bags containing medicine and vitamins. Khaing needs to take these every day for a week. Soon they’re on the way

BURMA | THAILAND The Moei River on the border

Hi friend! Have you had breakfast? In Burma, food is an important part of the day – so important that friends greet each other by saying: “Hi friend! Have you had breakfast?” Say K’Blar Moo, 12 years old, is greeting Ei Mon Son, 13 years old, who replies: “Of course, I had fish curry, what about you?” Say K’Blar Moo (on the left) is wearing the traditional dress of the Ka Chin people and Ei Mon Son is wearing typical Pa Laung clothing. 17

Burma or Myanmar? In 1989, the military government in power in Burma changed the country’s name to Myanmar. The capital city was also renamed, from Rangoon to Yangon. Many more cities and places were also given new names. But Cynthia Maung, and all the others who fight for freedom, still say Burma.

The military rule by force Burma is ruled by a military group, known as a military junta. Many people were killed when they took power, and Burma became a military dictatorship. The junta uses threats and violence to govern the country. Anyone who has a different opinion to the junta risks being put in prison or killed. Doctor Cynthia Maung and many others in exile fight for freedom and democracy, where everyone is allowed to say what they think and vote for whoever they want to govern the country. In a democracy, no-one is allowed to be threatened, tortured or put in prison for their opinions.

One country – a hundred people groups Burma has over 50 million inhabitants. Officially they belong to eight different ethnic groups – Burmese, Shan, Mon, Karen, Kayin, Chin, Kachin and Rakhaing. But in reality, around 135 different peoples live in Burma. The ruling military junta belongs to the largest group, the Burmese. The junta not only persecutes all those who fight for democracy, but also all those who belong to other ethnic groups. 18

All the children who go to Doctor Cynthia’s school look up to Cynthia Maung for her fight for their rights. Here they are wearing the traditional dress of different ethnic groups in Burma.

home to their village in Burma. Khaing can’t wait to finally get back to school. Cynthia’s escape Cynthia Maung also walked the long road through Karen State in Burma to escape over the border to Thailand. This was after the huge demonstrations for democracy in 1988. Cynthia had taken to the streets along with tens of

thousands of others to demand freedom, democratic elections and respect for human rights. The army that governs Burma responded by closing all the schools. They stopped deliveries of food and shot at the demonstrators. At night, many of those who fought for freedom disappeared without a trace. Cynthia decided to flee.

Hi friend! Have you had lunch? A Ket, 13 years old (on the left) who comes from the Po Karen ethnic group, greets his friend Mg Hla Win Kying, 16, who is wearing the traditional dress of the Ka Chin people.


Dr Cynthia was 29 when she fled from Burma with her medicine bag and started the Mae Tao Clinic in Thailand.

Cynthia Maung started the Mae Tao Clinic in 1989 in this old barn. Now the clinic has grown to become a little village, but the barn is still there as a reminder of the past and is used as housing for the staff.

On her last night in Burma, she slept with a group of villagers and students. At four o’clock in the morning, they slipped out of the village. “We were terribly afraid. But we wanted to continue

the fight for freedom and to help other people, and it was impossible to do that in Burma,” she explains. They walked at night-time to avoid being discovered by the military. Cynthia – a

doctor – carried a bag on her back with some medicine, a stethoscope, some medical books and a change of clothing. During the daytime they hid and tried to sleep. Barn transformed When she got to Thailand, Cynthia immediately started to help other refugees who were suffering from malaria, infections, broken legs and lung inflammations. She boiled her instruments in a rice cooker to sterilise them.

Cynthia started to receive patients in an old barn. She thought that she’d soon be able to return to a free Burma. But today, nearly 20 years later, the situation in Burma is no better. During that time the Mae Tao Clinic, as Doctor Cynthia’s clinic is now called, has grown and new buildings surround the old barn. “In Burma, the healthcare system doesn’t work. Children and adults suffer






6 19

Threats to the rights of the child The most common illnesses for the children in Burma are malaria, diarrhoea and respiratory infections. Each day, many children receive treatment at the Mae Tao clinic. But there are even more grave dangers that threaten children from Burma, says Cynthia: • Children are kidnapped and forced into child labour or prostitution. • Children are forced to work for the army, as porters or child soldiers. • Children who are born “do not exist”. Since they are not registered at birth, it becomes difficult for them to go to school, get healthcare or move around the country later in life.


and don’t receive any help. That’s why we’re always trying to make the clinic bigger and better. When freedom comes to Burma and we can return, we’ll know from our experiences here how to organise healthcare services and treatment,” says Cynthia. The Mae Tao Clinic treats hundreds of patients every day. The clinic also trains medics and healthcare workers who then return to their villages in Burma or to refugee camps in Thailand to work. Hundreds of backpack medics are also sent to Burma from the clinic. They take medicine with them, train people in the villages and offer medical treatment. Children are the key Cynthia’s goal is to see Burma become a better country to live in. The most important part of that work is children, and they are a constant presence in

8 20

Cynthia’s life. She gives breakfast to her own six children, four of whom are adopted, and other children who live in her home temporarily. When the children have gone to school – which is run by Cynthia’s clinic – she starts work at the clinic. “We must give the children a chance to make a difference. They are the key to Burma’s future. Respecting the rights of the child, democracy and cooperation between different ethnic groups – all of this is difficult. We must train people to live in freedom,” she says. Cynthia started the clinic to help children and adults, refugees and immigrants from Burma. But some medicine and a bandage isn’t enough to make people healthy, she says – they need education, safety and love. 

Celebrating Environment Day Once a year on the 5th of June, the children at Dr Cynthia’s clinic and schools celebrate Environment Day. But Moon Shine, 15, thinks about the environment all year round.

“On Environment Day we planted a tree and cleaned up the whole schoolyard, getting rid of weeds and brushwood. Then we celebrated with fried noodles and coffee. I wish we had a garden with flowers – that would make the school look much prettier.” “In Burma nobody takes our rubbish and waste

away. And there’s no good system for sewage either. Dirty puddles of water are perfect for mosquitoes. And mosquitoes spread malaria, dengue fever and other life-threatening diseases. Children in Burma and in the refugee camps often fall ill. Of course I want to live in beautiful natural surroundings, but most of all I want to have a clean, healthy environment that people can live in safely.”

Kidnapped slave loves mother’s

ghost story Dwey Myo Aung, 12, has hardly any memories of his mother. That’s why he likes the ghost story she told him when he was little, before he was kidnapped…


hen Dwey Myo Aun was eight, he was kidnapped by a man on the street near his home in Burma. He was taken in a lorry to the border town of Mae Sot in Thailand, where Dr Cynthia’s clinic is. He was forced to gather rubbish on the streets. Every evening he got one meal from his ‘owner’. He was a rubbishcollecting slave. Dwey Myo Aung worked on the streets every day for three years, until one day when he was saved by a taxi driver. He had driven past Dwey Myo Aung on his motorcycle taxi so many times, and realised that something was wrong. He drove Dwey Myo Aung to an organisation called SAW

that helps children and works with Dr Cynthia. Dwey Myo Aung does not remember where he is from and SAW has not managed to find his parents. That’s why he is now living with the organisation and going to a SAW school. But he remembers his mum’s ghost story and loves telling it: “I’m really scared of ghosts. My mum once pointed to a big tree, right outside my home town, where she had seen a ghost-spirit, called a nat. Sometimes at dusk the tree-spirit began to whisper and then scream: Oooo! If a chicken or duck from the garden happened to wander

Three friends – three religions Every morning, the children at Dr Cynthia’s school start their day by praying for two minutes. Christians, Buddhists and Muslims attend the school, and all are allowed to pray in their own way. “When we’re playing and having fun we never think about what religion our friend practices. We are all friends,” says May Zin Soe. “Of course we have discussions and tease each other playfully, but all religions have the same basic principles,” says Myo Myint Aungo

Myo Myint Aungo, 16 Religion: Buddhist. Important days: Going to the monastery to meditate and lighting candles beside the statue of Buddha every Friday, which is the day when I was born. At every full moon I take food to the monks. Important things: Prayer beads, a bracelet that is meant to protect from problems and spirits. Important event: When I was nine I was a monk for two weeks. I lived with the monks and learned about Buddhism. Way of praying: I meditate, close my eyes and control my heart and my thoughts.

into the shadow of the tree just then, it would disappear! All that was left was a pile of feathers. One evening at dusk my mum walked past the tree, and suddenly she saw the ghost. It had a white, transparent face, pointy teeth and a horn on its forehead. The ghost-spirit didn’t have any legs. Instead it floated above the ground with a white snake-like tail twisting behind it. Mum went cold inside. She began to run, but whatever way she ran she was met by the ghost and its evil

Si Blu, 15

May Zin Soe, 12

Religion: Christian. Important days: Going to church every Sunday and taking communion. Christmas Day is the most important day of the year. We celebrate at church with bread, rice and curry. Important things: The Bible translated to Karen and the hymnbook. Important event: When I was baptised. Way of praying: I clasp my hands, close my eyes and pray.

laughter. Eventually she fell down to the ground, exhausted. The ghost was right above her, but with a last effort she began to read one of the Buddha’s mantras. And the ghost disappeared! Shaking and with big, round eyes, mum crept back to the house. Every week since then she has left a little bit of rice or maybe a flower beside the tree, so that the ghost-spirit will be kind.”

Religion: Muslim. Important days: Every Friday all the boys go to the mosque. I wish the girls were allowed to go to, but we stay at home and pray. The end of Ramadan is the most important time of year. Important things: The Koran and my headscarf. Way of praying: I pray by going down on my knees on my prayer mat, fi ve times a day.

Health sweeties! To That Zin Oo, 10, it´s party time when Dr Cynthia’s health team arrive at his school. “We get vitamin A tablets. I think they’re just like sweets, and I love sweets! But vitamin A is also good for the eyes and the brain. If you could buy them at the market, where they sell normal sweets, I’d buy vitamins instead. Each week

I get five baht pocket money from my mum. My best friend, Thein Ko Ko, doesn’t get any money, so we share it. We love orange sweeties!


Why are Htoo k’Paw and the other children fleeing?

Htoo k’Paw, 13

Htoo k’Paw curls up in the kitchen, under the window, with his brother. Through the bamboo wall they see soldiers with rifles, looking for young boys to take with them.



too k’Paw is only a small, thin eightyear-old, so the soldiers won’t take him. But if the soldiers see his brother they’ll force him to carry heavy loads through dangerous conflict zones. The brothers are very scared. They hold each other tightly until their mum comes into the kitchen and says: “The soldiers have gone now. We were lucky, but you have get away from here.” The very next day they leave. Their mum has


packed two bundles of clothes and food. She cries and tells Htoo k’Paw to listen to his brother and to be good. Htoo k’Paw would rather have a hug, but his mum turns away. They walk for two days along a narrow jungle path. When they get to the border river, they wade across it with their bundles balanced on their heads. Finally they get a lift to the Mae Tao Clinic. There they meet Dr Cynthia. “Come and stay with me for a few days,” she says.

For three days, Htoo k’Paw plays with the children at Dr Cynthia’s place. Then it becomes clear that he is going to be able to live in one of Cynthia’s children’s homes, in a refugee camp south of the city. Htoo k’Paw is delighted, but also very nervous. His brother stays at the clinic to work, and Htoo k’Paw is alone for the first time. Misses mum Htoo k’Paw has now been living in the refugee camp

Lives: In Dr Cynthia’s children’s home. Misses: My brothers in Burma and my brother who works at the Mae Tao Clinic. Likes: Playing football, swimming, playing in the jungle. Dream: To be a basketball player.

for five years. Sometimes at night, when he’s lying in bed, he thinks about his mum in Burma. “Then I get really sad, but I never tell anyone,” he says. But he usually sneaks over to see his friend. They lie in the dark and whisper about the next football match and about going to their special place in the jungle outside the camp. Then things feel better. 


Hide the girls! Nobleh Too, 16, and her four sisters fled from the soldiers who were always closing their school. “My mum ran the school in our village. Every time soldiers came to the area the school got shut down. All the girls had to hide. We were terribly afraid that what happened to the girls in the next village would happen

to us. There the soldiers destroyed the school and raped the girls.” “We were the richest family in the village, so we could bribe the soldiers with food and money. Mum didn’t want to leave the village, but she realised that we girls couldn’t be safe or go to school if we stayed.”

Heart stopped Mu Soe, 14, and her family are not refugees. They are migrants from Burma, who have come to Thailand to find work. Since Mu Soe came to Thailand she’s found friends and a new school – and a heart that just keeps beating! “Ever since I was born I’ve had a heart defect. When I lived in Burma I couldn’t play and I felt really alone. My parents couldn’t afford to take me on the long journey to hospital.”

“When I was eight we moved to Thailand and I’m really happy here! Four times a year I visit Dr Cynthia’s clinic for treatment. I get medicine which makes my heart beat the way it should. I’m well enough to go to school and play, and I’ve made loads of friends.”

Then he’s promised that I’ll be able to come home.” “If we don’t have democracy in Burma by the time I’m grown up, I’m going to be­­

When children and adults flee through the mountains to Thailand, they come across lots of tasty fruit. It’s a good way of getting extra energy for the journey.

Kyat Maout Thee

Ya Ngay Thee Banana

Wanted to stay and fight Ka Nay De, 16, lives at Dr Cynthia’s school in Mae Sot. His father was often arrested in Rangoon, Burma’s capital. “My dad’s a member of the NLD, the party that fights for democracy in Burma. He’s been arrested many times. Mum is a member of the women’s organisation and I’m in the NLD youth wing. I didn’t want to come here. I wanted to stay in Burma and fight for democracy. But dad said I should go to school here and learn lots.

Fruit for the road

come a politician like Aung San Suu Kyi. But if we have democracy I want to become a computing teacher.”



The Hero Aung San Suu Kyi is Ka Nay De’s hero. She’s the leader of the NLD, the National League for Democracy. Her party won Burma’s only democratic election, which was held in 1990. But she never got to lead the country. Instead she was put under house arrest by the military junta. House arrest is like being in jail, but in your own home. Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.


Po Chit loves school … Burmese soldiers shot at Po Chit’s family with rifles when they fled across the border river from Burma to Thailand seven years ago. But tonight it’s the Thai police that have the family scared…


Po Chit, 14


Idol: Tun Tun, the Burmese rapper. Wants to be: An engineer, so I can build cars. Hobbies: Kickball, badminton, cycling, fishing and boules. Misses: Favourite tree with liana vines in the village where I grew up. Loves: My friends in school. Hates: Drugs.

Po Chit’s favourite sweets.


ust before closing time, the police came to the factory where Po Chit’s big sister works. All the workers from Burma were arrested. They’re not allowed to work in Thai­ land, and now Po Chit’s sister is being held in custody. Back at home, Po Chit’s dinner is already cold, but he doesn’t want to eat it. Not until his sister comes home. He has to wait late into the night before she does. The owner of the factory has paid a fee to the police and promised to get work permits for all of his workers. Po Chit’s mother cries tears of relief, but she knows that the police could come back. Escape to Thailand The journey from Po Chit’s village in Burma to Mae Sot in Thailand starts when he is seven years old. But at the time he doesn’t know that. His mum has packed sleeping mats, clothes and food. “We’re going to the monastery in the mountains,” she says. They stay there for three days. Po Chit eats sweets that have been donated to the monks. But after that they don’t return home, continuing instead by bus to the Burmese border town of Myawaddy. They carry their bundles down towards the river. “It’s unusually quiet on the streets,” says his mother’s friend, who has prom-

ised to guide them across the border river. Suddenly they hear rifle shots. Burmese soldiers are firing. People stream through the narrow streets. Po Chit’s mother takes their bundles of possessions in one hand and Po Chit’s sister in the other. The guide carries Po Chit. Then they run, straight into the river! Po Chit screams. He sees his sister disappear under the water, but his mum has a hold of her wrist and pulls her back up to the surface, again and again. The firing continues as they crawl out of the river on the other side. They creep up the river bank and into a bamboo grove. They lie there, pressed to the ground, completely still. When they get up, Po Chit’s mum is limping and bleeding. She has injured her foot. “It doesn’t matter,” she says, “now we’re going to see your dad. We’re in Thailand!” Welcome to school Po Chit doesn’t remember his father, who has been working in Mae Sot since Po Chit was a baby. He is a construction worker and the whole family is going to live in a little room which his Thai boss owns. Po Chit’s mum really wants him to start school. But how? None of them speak Thai. What’s more, they have neither the right

papers nor the money to pay school fees. Instead, Po Chit has to go with his mum to the bean processing plant. From early in the morning, he sits with a small knife and makes small cuts in yellow beans. It’s easy to cut yourself and he often has cuts on his fingers that never seem to heal.

… and fishing One day Po Chit’s friend Thein asks him: “Don’t you want to come to school with me?” “Yes, I’d love to. But what if the teachers get angry with me?” answers Po Chit. That night, Po Chit decides. In the morning he says goodbye to his mum without telling her where he’s going. Then he goes with

Thein to Dr Cynthia’s school. “Of course you can start school here, but you must bring your parents here first,” says the teacher, laughing. Po Chit is delighted. That night, when he tells his parents, they laugh too. They

hug him and tell him that it really was clever of him to figure out a way to be able to go to school. Scared of the police Now Po Chit is in the seventh grade. He’s the first one in his family who has learned to read and write. The family has moved to a

In the afternoons, Po Chit, his brother and their friends usually play in the rice fields and swim in the stream. On the way home they pick vegetables for dinner.

Po Chit’s favourite place is under the neighbour’s house, with a giant teddy bear. Po Chit loves bamboo hats from Burma.


Po Chit borrows his classmate Khun Lay Lay’s fishing crossbow to catch fish in the stream.

little house that has electricity. But it’s hard for Po Chit’s parents and sister to find jobs. Since they don’t have residence permits for Thailand, the police could arrest them at any time. “I’m scared of the police. I often miss our home village in Burma, but we can’t go back there. There’s no work and we have nowhere to live.

But our life here is also hard. We never have enough money,” says Po Chit. “When I’m at school it’s easier to forget all our worries. I love science. I want to build cars or maybe become a teacher and teach other children from Burma.” 

Po Chit’s family in their new house with electricity and a TV.


Lesson with giggles Exciting, surprising and very giggly – that’s how it was when San Thaw Dar, 14, did a course about the body and your future family. “It was a bit embarrassing. And exciting. But the nurses from the Mae Tao Clinic were really good at explaining, and we got to hear lots of things we had never heard before. I went on the course along with two girls from my class, and we really tried to be serious and listen. But it was impossible! We had such fits of the giggles that we could hardly breathe!” “We also learned about how to protect ourselves against diseases like HIV and AIDS. And that two children is the perfect number in a family, because then the parents can afford to send the children to school. But I’m never going to get married. In Burma and in the refugee camp I’ve seen lots of adults fighting and being nasty to each other, so that has scared me off. I’m going to concentrate on school, and when I’m finished I want to become a teacher and work in a nursery.”

Po Chit’s fish curry Po Chit and his friends like fishing in the stream that flows past their houses. They use fishing rods or fishing crossbows. Po Chit’s family loves it when he has caught fish and makes his special fish curry. 1. Light the fire in the kitchen. 2. Clean the fish. 3. Crush garlic in a mortar, mix with chopped onion and red chilli. 4. Heat up bean oil in a pan, then add the onion mix, curry spices, sweet spice mix, ginger and salt. 5. Put the fish and vegetables into the pan. 6. Finish off with green curry spices. 7. Enjoy!

Fewer children in school Fifteen years ago, almost all children in Burma – 98 per cent – started school. Now only 84 per cent of children start school. By the time the children get to fifth grade, almost half of the pupils have stopped going to school. It is often children from minority groups living in the country­ side and the mountains that can’t or aren’t allowed to go to school.

Over the river There are four different ways to get across the border river between Burma and Thailand. To walk over the bridge, you need approved papers from both Burma and Thailand. Going by boat costs 50 baht (US$1.30) Crossing in a giant rubber ring costs four baht – about 10 US cents. You can also swim across with your clothes and belongings on your head.

The river guide Khat Htun Aung, 17, has a giant rubber ring. He uses it to take children and adults over the river between Burma and Thailand. That’s the cheapest way to get over the border while keeping your feet dry. Six times a day, he lies down across the ring and paddles across using his hands. “In the rainy season, the water is high and currents are dangerous,” he says. Khat earns 80 baht, just over $2, every day. He gives half of that to the man who owns the rubber ring. He uses the rest to buy food and anything else he needs. 27

The children who have fled Burma love getting dressed up. There are many people groups in Burma and each one has its own traditional dress. The different groups in Burma are isolated from each other. The roads are poor and it is difficult to get past the military roadblocks. But in exile, outside Burma, all the people groups can meet and all the children are proud to be able to show off their unique traditional clothes.

Burma’s w

CHIN Cho Mar Oo, 14, and Khun San Win, 15. The tie is part of the Chin boys’ traditional dress.

BURMA Than Dar Myint, 13, and Pyit Pyo Aung, 15.


KA CHIN Say K’Bla Moo, 12, and Mg Hla Win Kying, 16.

The Burmese traditional dress is the only one which has special shoes. The Burmese shawl is made of crochet lace and worn with a fine brooch.

MON Htoo Htoo Eh, 12, and Saw Si Blut, 14.

The Jewel People The Ka Chin group are said to be rich in diamonds, silver and jade. That’s why the silver sword is a natural part of their traditional dress. Legwarmers The Ka Chin girls have cool legwarmers.

KA YAH Yon Htight Ei, 14, and Khun Wai Hein, 15. Ka Yah people are sometimes called “Kareni” or Red Karen people. Ka Yah girls wear a red mantle.


SKAW KAREN Spring Song, 12, and Kauns Htet Ko Ko, 12.

PO KAREN Htet Htet, 12, and A Ket, 13. The Karen people like plaits, tassels and embroidery.

s wardrobe Bamboo dance!

RA KHAING Oh Moo, 14, and Lar Eh Gay, 13. Ra Khaing is one of the groups where the boys wear a lungi, and kind of wrap skirt. The girls’ wrap skirt is called a sarong.

To dance the bamboo dance you need eight dancers, twelve bamboo drummers and twelve bamboo poles. The drummers hit the bamboo poles together, creating a rhythm and a pattern of squares on the ground, where the dancers jump. But if they don’t take care they get their feet caught! Watch the bamboo dance at SHAN Cho Mar Win, 13, and Yan Naing Soe, 14. The Shan girls’ headgear has two small wings.

DA WER Ei Mon Son, 13, and Pyit Pyo Win, 13.

PO-O Hling Hling Moe, 13, and Po Chit, 14. The Po-O turban is made from a towel.

PA LAUNG Than Than Oo, 13, and S’Eh Thau, 14.

LA HU Moe Zar, 14, and ’Sin Lin, 14.

The Pa Laung girls have the most brightly-coloured clothing with lots of jewellery and beads.

The La Hu dress uses lots of silver jewellery and brightly coloured tassels.



Htoo Htoo exists! Finally – a birth certificate! Htoo Htoo and his mum are delighted that he can start school now. “I wish that all parents made sure their children got an ID card,” says Htoo Htoo.

The children who wait in the queue with their parents for a birth certificate are usually only a week old. But today, Htoo Htoo, 9, is also getting a birth certi­ ficate, which shows that he actually exists.


too Htoo watches with a serious face as the doctor fills in the form. The doctor describes a visible blood vessel in his face, his eye colour and other details of his appearance. Then Htoo Htoo has to make foot and hand prints. When everything is finished,

he gets a newly laminated ID card. “Now I can start at a Thai school! When I grow up I’m going to be a doctor and help children and animals.” Both his parents fled Burma when the government soldiers attacked their village. Htoo Htoo was born

in a refugee camp in Thai­ land. Like many other children from Burma, he never got a birth certificate when he was born. Children who are not registered are often called “the children who don’t exist”. Without a birth certificate, they can’t start school, apply for citizenship, get a passport or demand their rights. That’s why Dr Cynthia has started to issue birth certificates. This is mostly for the children born at her clinic, but every Saturday the registration desk is open to all children. 

A day in the life of the Mae Tao Clinic Noi Yi Win, 12, and her family have come all the way from Burma to the Mae Tao Clinic. She is healthy, but her brother Bo Bo, 3, has a heart defect, and her sister Moi San Dar, 8, has malaria. 06.30 Noi Yi Win wakes up when the sun rises. At the clinic the family sleep under a mosquito net, but at home they don’t have one. Mosquito bites at night carry the highest risk of malaria, and without a mosquito net the children catch malaria again and again.




10.15 Noi Yi Win is reponsible for washing the family’s clothes and collecting food. She has more or less the same chores when the family is at home. She doesn’t go to school. Instead she looks after her younger siblings while their parents work making charcoal. “I wish I could read. Mum is trying to teach me. There’s

Cynthia Maung with a tiny baby and its new birth certificate.

Fingerprints and footprints show that Htoo Htoo really exists...

no school in my village and I don’t want to leave my family,” says Noi Yi Win. 13.45 The doctor examines Bo Bo. Soon he’s going to Thailand’s second biggest city, Chiang Mai, for an operation. It costs several hundred dollars and Dr Cynthia’s clinic is arranging a hospital bed and paying for the operation. That’s lucky, because Noi Yi Win’s mum only has one dollar with her.


Jewellery for her eyes Last year Kin San Win, 14, always had to sit in the front row in the classroom. Even then she could hardly read what the teacher wrote on the board. “Now I see everything really clearly, wherever I sit!” says Kin San Win. Although she can see much better with the glasses

she got at the Mae Tao Clinic, she doesn’t like to wear them in her free time. “They’re too big and stick out behind my ears, but they were the only ones they had. I’d love a pair of glasses with a beautiful fine gold frame. That would be like having a piece of jewellery.”

Comic against malaria The Mae Tao Clinic has printed comics which the children read in the wait­ ing room. They are all about how to avoid malar­ ia and other common ill­ nesses.


15.10 Noi Yi Win has been tired the last few days. The doctor sends her to have tests done to see if she too has malaria. She gets pricked in the finger, but luckily enough the test shows that she doesn’t have malaria.

18.50 If her brother and sister feel up to it, Noi Yi Win will take them to the clinic playground.


Big and strong thanks to vitamins Many of the children who visit the Mae Tao Clinic get small bags with vitamin A, vitamin B and iron tablets. The children need these vitamins to grow and become strong.

Superhero in plaster! One day when Maung Han Sein, 12, is playing with his little nephew, he gets the idea of balancing on the railing around the open room in their house. The baby laughs and Maung Han Sein imagines he’s a superhero who can climb walls. But suddenly he loses his balance and falls straight down onto the ground. His arm is broken! At the Mae Tao Clinic, the doctors insert two metal pieces into his elbow so that it heals in the right way. For two months, Maung Han Sein has to go to the clinic to have his bandage changed. “Now it’s not sore any more, but I have to be careful when playing. Sometimes I forget all about my arm and just play,” says Maung Han Sein.


Myo Myit Aungo loves playing football and is a talented forward.

Myo Myit Aungo

guards the school Every evening, Myo Myit Aungo takes his slingshot and torch and patrols around the CDC school. No thief, stray dog or snake gets past him.


uring the day, Myo Myit Aungo is in sixth grade at Dr Cynthia’s school, the CDC School. Then, when the other pupils disappear off on the school bus, the school becomes home to him and 25 other boys. His task is to guard the school.

“Sometimes it’s scary. I’ve come across thieves a few times, trying to take the furniture from the schoolyard. Each time I shout and shoot stones at the thief to make sure nothing is stolen.” Two years have passed since he asked the rector for permission to move in to the

school. His parents had threatened to send him to Bangkok to work. “I was so afraid that he would say no and that I wouldn’t be allowed to go to school. But he said yes!” The CDC team has won lots

of tournaments against the other migrant schools in the border area.

Can’t be called a school Dr Cynthia started the CDC School because lots of children from Burma didn’t have a school they could go to. But since it is in Thailand and isn’t part of the Thai education system, it cannot be called a school. Instead it is called a ‘Child Development Center’. Around 500 pupils attend the CDC School, and about 200 pupils go to the newly-built high school, the ‘Student Learning Center’.

The 1­2­3­4 game At lunchtime the CDC schoolyard is chaotic. Many of the pupils live far away from each other, and can only play together in their lunch breaks. One popular game is the 1-2-3-4 game. Normal elastic bands are joined together to form a long elastic string. Two people act as posts and 32

The high-jumper. Yamon Soe, 12, is one of the best in the school at the 1-2-3-4 game.

start by holding the string round their calves, then their knees, thighs, stomachs, chests, necks, ears and above their heads. The six “jumpers” have to clear the highest level they can. At you can learn more of the CDC students’ games: The three house game, the stone game and chin khat or kickball.

Kick the bamboo ball! Chin Khat or kickball is very popular among the boys at Dr Cynthia’s school. Hay Tha, 12, usually plays during break times. “But I have to be careful not to get my clothes dirty. Then my parents get angry,” he says. The ball for kickball is made of bamboo and is hard and hollow. The idea is to keep it in the air as long as possible using your feet, knees and head.

There are as many languages as there are ethnic groups in Burma. In Dr Cynthia’s school, many of the children speak Karen, but not all of them. The pupils at the school speak over 20 different languages. The common language in Burma is Burmese, so that is the language everyone uses during lessons. You can learn to count to ten in Karen and Burmese at

Speak Karen and Burmese Hi Yes No Thank you Goodbye What’s your name? How old are you? Mum Dad Brother Sister

Karen Ought may we lee yar May Ta may ba Tar balu Tar tar Na mee dee lae? Na tha oh sar lee lae? Moe moe Pa pa Kyaw kyaw Naw naw

Burmese Mingalabar Hope kaet Ma pee they boo Ce zu beh Tar tar Na mae bae loe kaw lae? Ah that bae laut she bee lae? May may Pay pay Ko ko Ma ma

Htay was a domestic slave The most dangerous thing for a child is not to be able to go to school, believes Dr Cynthia, because then they can easily fall victim to kidnapping, trafficking and dangerous child labour.” Htay Htay Khaing, 16, knows what can happen.


hen Htay Htay Khaing was 11, her mother sold her to a man in Rangoon, the capital of Burma. She slept on a rug in the kitchen and was forced to clean, cook, wash clothes and do errands. She was often hungry, because all she got to eat was the leftovers from the family dinner. At first she asked to be

The sabae flower

allowed to go home. “If you run away from here I will kill both of your parents,” the man said. After that, Htay Htay Khaing never dared to speak about her family or ask to go home again. After a few years, the man was forced to escape to Thailand, and he took Htay Htay Khaing with him.

Htay Htay Khaing loves to put hair clips and flowers in her hair. She was never allowed to do that when she was forced to work as a domestic slave.

English is computer language Lewis, 12, loves playing computer games. He plays every day, and he has become so good at it that the older boys in the school love to watch him play. “But I can’t type Burmese characters on the computer, so English is our computer language. If I send an e-mail to a friend I always write in English, although we speak in Karen when we meet.”

When they arrived, he shaved all her hair off. “Don’t even try to escape – now everyone can see you’re a domestic slave,” he said. Htay Htay Khaing cried, but her shaved head became the thing that saved her. A woman from the organisation SAW, which Dr Cynthia supports, saw her and threatened to report the man to the police. Since then, Htay Htay Khaing has been able to go to school, and her hair is growing long again. “I want to have hair down to my waist, with ornaments in it,” she says. Now she lives with other children who have also been rescued.



Which language do you speak?

Say k’Blar Moo is a mini b Say k’Blar Moo rubs the sleep from her eyes. It is only four o’clock in the morning, but it’s important that they get going. The backpacks are packed. Now she’s going to the clinic in the jungle!



he backpack medics’ car picks up Say k’Blar Moo and her sister, brother and mum to drive them to the border river. Say k’Blar Moo is only twelve years old and isn’t a real backpack medic. Yet. But she plans to become one,

when she has finished school and university and knows all about how to heal diseases. Right now she pretends to be a mini backpack medic. Just like the backpack medics, she boards a long boat at a secret place, to slip over the border from Thailand to Burma. On the other side, they begin the hike to the jungle clinic where her father works. They have to walk carefully. The guide knows a safe route, with no landmines. Say k’Blar Moo creeps along after him, stepping in his footprints. Dangerous job It’s already the middle of the day and they take a break to eat lunch. Say k’Blar Moo longs to see her father. He is one of Dr Cynthia Maung’s backpack medics, and is

Animals that Say k’Blar Moo has come across in the jungle hospital: Squirrel Monkey Snake Elephant Tiger!

Jungle wardrobe Say k’Blar Moo doesn’t have special jungle clothes. It’s important that she and her family look exactly like normal villagers; otherwise it would be difficult for them to hide if they met soldiers.


When Say k’Blar Moo slips over the border to visit her dad in a temporary clinic in the jungle, she takes two changes of clothing, a torch and some potato and onion. She always takes mosquito nets and blankets for the patients too. “When I grow up I’m going to carry medicines too, just like the backpack medics,” she says.

responsible for all the backpack medic teams. When he’s out in the jungle, things are quiet at home. The only noise to be heard in the evenings is Say k’Blar Moo playing her piano. When her dad is home, there are always lots of visitors. Although Say k’Blar

Moo has to help with cooking, cleaning and washing up for all the guests, she is happy. Her dad has an office in the basement where the backpack medics hold meetings. In the evenings she lies on her bed and listens. “The situation is worse than ever…” she hears from the cellar. Say k’Blar Moo knows that it is very dangerous to be a backpack medic. The

ni backpack medic Romel carries medicine along with two students who are going to be backpack medics. Many of the children who have grown up in Mae Sot want to become backpack medics, but Dr Cynthia says they must finish school first.

military would catch, torture and imprison her father and the others if they got the chance. They have already been shot at many times and have had to run for their lives. Despite all this, she dreams of becoming one of them. “One day, I too will help children in Burma,” she promises herself in a whisper. “I’m going to give them food, health and hope.”

Ready for action! Say k’Blar Moo loves visiting her father in the jungle clinic. Every time the school is on holiday, the family pack their backpacks. They take a few items of clothing for themselves, along with blankets and mosquito nets for the patients. Say k’Blar Moo is more than happy to carry them. She’s proud of being able to help. The sun is setting over the

mountain tops when they finally reach the clinic in the jungle. Outside the simple bamboo building, Say k’Blar Moo gets a huge hug from her dad. Then she and her brother and sister start to tease each other and giggle. Now they can finally relax. In the evening she lies on a sleeping mat and listens to the noises of the jungle. Splashing water, small lizards laughing, birds clicking their beaks. She can’t wait until the morning. That’s when she’s going to watch the backpack medics treating patients, packing medicines and training villagers from all over the mountainside. Her father thinks that she is just playing, swimming and messing around. But mini backpack medic Say k’Blar Moo is ready for action! 

What is a back­ pack medic? A backpack medic is a healthcare worker who helps people who have had to flee within Burma. There are no roads, hospitals or medicines. That’s why the backpack medics carry large, heavy backpacks full of medicine and equipment. They slip across the border and hide from the army. They hike through the jungle and look for villages where the people need help and medical care.

What is an IDP? IDP stands for “internally dis­ placed person”. That’s what internal refugees are called – people who have had to flee within the borders of their own country. There are around 150,000 internal refu­ gees in the border area between Burma and Thai­ land. Cynthia’s backpack medics are their only chance of receiving help and medical care.

Say k’Blar Moo, 12

When her dad is at home and Say k’Blar Moo is meant to be sleeping, she hears her father through the floor, discussing their dangerous missions with the other backpack medics.

Say k’Blar Moo likes playing piano, drawing and playing badminton.

Likes: Having my own room. Scared of: My dad – a backpack medic – being caught by the military. Hobby: Playing piano, drawing and playing badminton. Wants to be: A doctor. Dream: To work as a backpack medic and help children in Burma.


A hospital in a back The backpack medics have to take everything they need in a backpack. Each team is made up of five backpack medics. But they can’t carry everything on their own, so in every village they are met by volunteers who want to help carry things. The mobile hospital can be carried in...

...a backpack

In the children’s department of the backpack you will find... … a plastic bag … a basket

clamp for newborn babies’ umbilical cords plastic gloves cotton wool

… or a lungi iron tablets

mucus extractor

“The children save the village” R

omel was there when Cynthia called the very first meeting for backpack medics. Since then, he has slipped over the border to Burma many times to help children and villagers deep in the jungle.


“We help people who are ill, but perhaps the most important work we do is in the schools. We teach children the importance of things like clean water, good toilets and mosquito nets. And we give out vitamins,”

says Romel. “We teach the children, and then they teach their parents. In this way, the children are the saviours of the whole village.” Besides medicine and information, the backpack

medics also bring playful activities. In every village where they set up a temporary clinic, they also organise football matches, volleyball tournaments, dances and plays.

ckpack measuring tape

Backpack medics saved Pwe Hser vitamins A and B

posters for schools

“When I lived with my aunt in Burma I got malaria. It felt as though my head was going to explode. Everything was spinning – the house, the walls, the floor and the ceiling. One second I thought I was going to burn up, the next second I thought I was going to freeze to death. I lay on the bamboo floor we didn’t have sleeping mats or a mosquito net. I hardly noticed when the backpack medics turned up at the door. They used to visit our village about twice a year, but this was the first time I really needed them. They took blood tests and listened to my heart, and then I got some medicine. A week or so later, I went to the backpack medics’ jungle clinic with my aunt. I was to get more medicine. When we arrived, one of the backpack medics said that I should go to Thailand so that I could go to school. I was angry at first when my

aunt wanted to send me away, but here in the refugee camp I get to go to school for the first time! I like learning new things and being with my friends much more than wearing myself out on the rice fields.”

Pwe Hser, 15 Lives: In Umpium refugee camp in Thailand. Misses: My three brothers in Burma. Loves: Going to school. Hates: Soldiers. Dream: To return to Burma and work as a translator.




fever thermometer

Pan Thint sar in bamboo jungle ambulance When Pan Thint sar was nine, she was finally on her way back to her home village in Burma. she could see the roofs of the houses, the play­ ground and the cows grazing. But suddenly the path on which she was walking blew up. she had stepped on a landmine.


an Thint Sar’s little home village is situated on a mountainside in Burma. The houses have bamboo walls and roofs made from large leaves. She

Pan Thint Sar, 14 Loves: Brothers Pi Oo, 11 and Bo Bo, 8. Hates: When people tease others or talk behind their backs. Misses: Mum, who works in Bangkok. Looks up to: Dr Cynthia. Likes: Weaving. Would like: A new, less bulky artifi cial leg.

remembers how she used to play shop, selling sand curry and stone fish. Sometimes she would go out to the rice fields with her parents to gather small shrimps for dinner. One day when Pan Thint Sar was five, her mother said, “You have to go to Bangkok in Thailand and work. Your aunt needs a nanny.” Pan Thint Sar didn’t want to go, but she knew that almost all the children from the village went to Thailand to work. Although most of them were older than she was when they went. In Bangkok, Pan Thint Sar took care of her little cousin, from early in the morning until they both fell asleep at night. Sometimes they played at being a family. She cuddled her cousin and pretended that it was her own

mum who was holding her. One day, after four years, Pan Thint Sar’s mother came to get her. Finally, she was going to visit her home village! The journey home It is a long journey. First travelling by train, car and boat to Burma, and then a long hike through the jungle. When they see the village, they have been walking all day. Pan Thint Sar can’t wait any longer. She wants to get there now! She starts to run along the path, past her mother. Then it happens. A landmine explodes when Pan Thint Sar steps on it. She hears a deafening noise and then everything goes dark. It feels as though she is lying under red water, and she hears voices far away. The villagers lift her up and car-

Tana­ka! The children from Burma use tana­ka to cool their faces when the weather is warm and to protect their skin from the sun. And because it looks good! Pan Thint sar rubs a bit of tana­ka wood against a round grindstone. The powder which is created is then mixed with water to make a cream. Which style do you like? 38

The jungle ambulance There are neither roads nor cars in the jungle. That’s why the villagers carried Pan Thint Sar in a hammock when she lost her leg to a landmine. This is how all people who are too ill to walk are carried through the jungle.

from the trunk. Pan Thint Sar lies in the hammock and they carry her all the way back to Thailand. She sees the sky and treetops floating past above her. Can’t be saved Doctor Cynthia receives Pan Thint Sar at the Mae Tao Clinic. She cuts off the broken, burnt skin on her foot. But the corrosive contents of the landmine have damaged her whole leg. Cynthia ties a strap tightly around Pan Thint Sar’s thigh and says,

“You must go to the Thai hospital, where they can operate on you. I’ll come with you.” But her leg can’t be saved. When Pan Thint Sar wakes up she sees that she only has a little bit of her thigh left. She can’t stop crying all day. “I’ll never be a normal child again. Mum, why did you bring me back to Burma?” she shouts. Cynthia sits with her all night. “I understand that you are sad. But don’t say that to

your mother – it’s not her fault,” says Cynthia. Pan Thint Sar is in the Thai hospital for two months. But one morning, her mother carries her out to a taxi bus and says, “To the Mae Tao Clinic”. When they get there, it is Cynthia who changes her bandage. One day, Pan Thint Sar’s mum says she is going to Thailand to work.


ry her to the village by a different route. No-one dares to walk on the path. They stay in the village for one night. Pan Thint Sar’s foot is badly damaged and won’t stop bleeding. One of the monks in the village gives her new blood – a blood transfusion. He knows what to do because he has done a healthcare training course at Dr Cynthia’s Mae Tao Clinic. The next day, the villagers chop down a bamboo tree and hang a green hammock


When Pa Oo eats the last mouthful of her ice cream, she sees four hearts on the ice cream stick. That means that she has won another ice cream!

Good night!

Pan Thint Sar and her best friend Pa Oo, 13, take the short walk to their younger brothers’ school to buy chewing gum in their lunch break.

“But you have to stay. You can get an education here.” Pan Thint Sar becomes sad, scared and angry. She is still angry when her mother boards the bus to Bangkok. That was the last time she saw her mother. Clever in school Pan Thint Sar sleeps in a dormitory with 23 other girls. Every day she takes the school bus to school, where her two brothers stay in a dormitory for boys. Pan Thint Sar is ten when she goes to school for the first time. She is shy, and it is confusing to learn to read, write and count. But Pan Thint Sar does homework for one hour every morning and two hours every

Pan Thint Sar’s favourite chewing gum.

evening. Soon she catches up with her schoolmates. After the first year, the teachers put up a list with the names of all the pupils. Pan Thint Sar wants to see where she is on the list. “What? Did I only get one point? But I’ve fought so hard,” she says to her best friend Pa Oo. “No, silly,” says Pa Oo, “you’re number one. You’re the best in the class!”

department have lost a leg or a foot. When the artificial leg is finished, Pan Thint Sar has to learn to walk with it. It is painful and difficult, but soon she can leave her crutches at home when she goes to school. Pan Thint Sar has been able to skip several grades. Now she’s in seventh grade at Cynthia’s newly-built high school. She has her third prosthetic leg and

Gets her artificial leg One year later, Pan Thint Sar gets her first artificial leg. She tries it out at the Mae Tao Clinic. The technicians who make a plaster cast of her stump are very clever. Almost all the people who work in the prosthetics

Every Saturday, Pan Thint Sar brings our her weaving stool. She loves weaving the way it’s done in her home village in Karen State in Burma. Pan Thint Sar has woven a Burmese schoolbag and a shawl.


“Nar Ler Gay,” says Pan Thint Sar in Karen language. She lives with 23 other girls in the dormitory above Dr Cynthia’s nursery.

hopes to be able to get one made of light plastic one day. She always takes her wooden leg off as soon as she gets home. “I still miss my mum, but I’m glad that I live here. Here I can go to school and I don’t have to work. My dream is to go to university and become a doctor like Dr Cynthia! 

Forced to be child soldiers Burma’s government claims that they no longer allow children to become soldiers in Burma. But the human rights organisation Human Rights Watch says that between 35 and 45 percent of Burma’s army is made up of soldiers under the age of 18. This means that up to 70,000 children have been forced into becoming soldiers. Human Rights Watch says that the resistance groups also use around 7,000 child soldiers.

NOMINATED • Pages 41–65

INDERJIT KHURANA When Giri Rana was seven he ran away from his job as a domestic slave. His own father had sold him to get money for drugs and alcohol. That night, Giri slept at the train station, alone and hungry. Today, thanks to Inderjit Khurana, he has a totally different life.


iri soon discovered that lots of children lived and worked at the station. Some begged for money, others collected rubbish or polished shoes. Some of the children had run

away, just like Giri. Others lived with their families in the slum next to the railway tracks. Giri got to know the children and they showed him how to survive at the station.

Inderjit tells the children at the platform school an old story from Orissa.

When Giri was seven he was a domestic slave. The platform school was his way out to a better life. Now he’s 15 and a top student, and has won lots of awards.

Greetings! The most common way of saying hello and goodbye in India is to put your palms together, raise them in front of your face, bend your head slightly and say “namaskaar” or “namaste”. Of course, people of different ethnic groups and religions do it differently. For example, Muslims raise their right hand to their forehead and say “adaab” or “salaam aleikum”, to which you reply, “walekum salaam”. Suni, 14.




Bhubaneswar Mumbai

indian ocean


sri lanka

indian ocean41



Inderjit Khurana is being nominated for the WCPRC 2007 for her long struggle for the poorest and most vulnerable children’s right to education. She opened her first railway platform school 21 years ago. Today her organisation, Ruchika, runs 12 platform schools, 6 nurseries, 75 slum schools, 20 nursery schools, preventative HIV and AIDS projects, 2 “schools on wheels”, vocational training and clean water and sanitation projects in the slums. Inderjit and Ruchika also offer healthcare and run an ambulance service for emergencies. In addition, Ruchika has two helplines for children and women and gives scholarships to gifted poor children. Inderjit believes that if the child cannot come to the school, the school has to come to the child. She and Ruchika seek to give a basic education, building up children’s selfesteem and opening the door for them to have a life free from poverty, child labour and violence.

Rama sweeps the train. She goes to the platform school when she has time.

It was a hard life, but Giri liked being able to come and go as he pleased. But at night he felt lonely and afraid. The children at the station were often beaten, robbed or, worst of all, raped. Many drank alcohol or sniffed petrol in the evenings, to help them get to sleep. Giri and his friends seldom stayed long in one place. They travelled by train and worked all over India. One day, when Giri was 9, he got off the train in a town called Bhubaneswar. In the middle of the platform, he saw a strange outdoor classroom. The children sat on the ground and wrote on their writing slates. All morning long they sang together with their teachers,

danced and recited the alphabet so loud that it echoed around the station. Giri had always dreamt of going to school, but he felt suspicious. Was it a trick to capture children and lock them up? But when the

teachers started giving out food, he couldn’t resist. First platform school Today, Giri is 15 years old and is a top scholarship student at a state school. He lives in a children’s home run by Inderjit Khurana and her organisation, Ruchika. Inderjit also founded the platform school that changed Giri’s life. It all began over 20 years ago. Inderjit had her own private school for rich children in Bhubaneswar. Sometimes she saw poor children stop outside the school gates. They were dirty and dressed in rags and looked longingly at the pupils in their crisp and clean school uniforms playing in the schoolyard. They themselves had neither As the train pulls in, the child workers prepare to jump off and run to the platform school.


the money nor the time to go to school. When Inderjit used to take the train from the central station, she met many working children of school age. “Why aren’t you in school?” Inderjit once asked a little boy who was sweeping the floor in her train carriage. “My father is dead and my mother can’t manage without my help,” the boy explained. Inderjit knew that many people tried to help poor children in India. But that help didn’t reach the poorest children at the station. They have to follow the train schedules to survive. In rush hour, and when the large express trains come in, the stations fill up with people. And that’s when there’s money to be earned.

“All children have a right to education,” thought Inderjit, “but how can these children get to go to school?” She could only think of one solution: “If the children can’t come to the school, we have to bring the school to them. I have to open a school at the station!” “They are dirty” When Inderjit told her family, colleagues and friends

about her idea, they were horrified. “Don’t go to the train station, it’s dangerous and dirty,” they said. “Street children fight and steal! They could infect you with dangerous diseases!” But Inderjit had made up her mind. One morning, she packed two sacks full of picture books, toys and chalk, and headed off. Only one of the teachers from her school dared to go with her.

Inderjit unpacked her things on the platform and waited nervously. A little boy looked at her with a mixture of curiosity and suspicion. “Do you want to learn to read?” Inderjit called out. After a while he plucked up the courage to come up to her, and the lesson began. Threatened by gangsters For a long time, that little boy was Inderjit’s only pupil. Every day, many of the train passengers would ask Inderjit what on earth she was doing. Some were kind, but others were suspicious and angry. Some thought she was a missionary who wanted to convert the children to Christianity. When Inderjit said that she just wanted to give the children an educa-

Inderjit jokes with Ranjan, 12. He has begged and worked at the train station since he was four.

tion, hardly anyone believed her. They were still very suspicious. Police and railway staff tried to drive her away, and she was threatened by gangsters and drug dealers. Sometimes angry parents would come and shout at her because she was stopping their children from working. “Your children have a right to go to school,” Inderjit would say to them, “and if they learn to read and write, it’s good for the whole family.” Although Inderjit was exhausted and often afraid, she didn’t give up. She sang,

Inderjit talks to Rama, 12, who lives in the slum near the train station.


Inderjit dances with the children at the platform school.

told stories and played games with letters and numbers. The news about the platform school spread. After a couple of months, there were over 100 children at Inderjit’s platform school! 4500 children reached Since then, Inderjit’s organisation, Ruchika, has grown from strength to strength. Now it reaches 4500 children every year, through schools and projects at train stations and in the slums. Ruchika runs everything

from nurseries to vocational training and HIV/AIDS programmes. “At the beginning it was really hard,” remembers Inderjit. “Now we have more support from local politicians and from the railway company. I’ve learned a lot too over the years, for exam-

All the staff and children at Ruchika, outside the organisation’s new building.


ple, that if the children are malnourished and sickly, we have to give them food and medicine. Otherwise they have no energy to study.” Inderjit wants to give a basic education to as many children as possible. It’s not just a matter of being able to read – it’s also about know-

ing the rights of the child. “I want the children to have self-respect and realise they have value. We must reach them before they are too badly affected. Once that happens there is no going back.” 



studies on the platform

The shrill sound of the train whistle makes Bijay cover his ears. When the train rolls out of the station, he runs towards the platform school and the first lesson of the day.


ijay is a shoe shine boy at the main train station in Bhubaneswar. All day long he chases after passengers with dusty, dirty shoes. All the shoe shine boys at the station have agreed that they won’t take less than $0.10 per polish. Bijay has to earn as much as possible in a short time. Otherwise his mother will force him to stop school. Writes on the concrete When Bijay arrives at the platform school, many of the children are already there. The teachers show pictures that they have drawn themselves. The chil-

dren guess the words and practice spelling. Bijay practises forming letters on his writing slate. “That looks great, Bijay,” his teacher congratulates him. This classroom has neither desks nor a blackboard. The children sit on the ground. Sometimes they and the teachers write straight onto the concrete platform with their chalks. Bijay, who has been attending the school for several years, enjoys it and has managed to learn a lot in the short lessons. He likes it best when the class gets to sing, dance and play. The school day ends with a simple meal. For some of the

children, that is the only food they eat all day. After school, Bijay manages to fit in a couple more customers before running home and helping his grandma with lunch. He lives in a slum area right next to the station. Nearly all the men who live here work with leather. They make shoes, mend and polish leather. Bijay’s father did that too, before he drank himself to death. Liked his dad Bijay was out playing when his father died. When he got home, the whole family was sitting around the dead father, crying and wailing.

Bijay, 12 Likes: Cricket. Singing and playing. Doesn’t like: Alcohol and drugs. Working. Dreams of: A roof for our house. Going to school fulltime. Happy: When I get something to eat, like biscuits. Scared: Of becoming homeless. Wants to be: A doctor. Looks up to: My mum. My teachers.


What is the platform school? At Bijay’s platform school, which is open every morning, the teachers often use pictures, songs, puppet shows and games. Inderjit Khurana, who started the first platform school 21 years ago, believes that it should be fun to learn. The aim is to give the children a basic education and better self-esteem. Those who want to continue their studies are helped to find a place at a state school when they have learned enough basic skills.

The teacher helps Bijay write Oriya letters on his writing slate.

Bijay started to cry too. Bijay’s father was an alcoholic. That is very common among the men who live in the slum. Some of the women drink too. As they are very poor, they buy the cheapest kind of alcohol. It’s really a medicine and you’re only meant to take a few drops per day. But Bijay’s father and his friends used to knock back a whole bottle at a time. He bought the alcohol from gangsters in the slum. Bijay became angry and sad when he saw them doing business on the street corner. They didn’t care that the alcohol actually killed people. But he couldn’t stop them from selling to his dad. When his father was drunk he used to shout at and hit Bijay, his mum and his brothers. He also gambled the family’s money away and he couldn’t work. Bijay often ran away from home and slept at the station to avoid being beaten. Still, he loved his father very much. Work, said grandma The day after his father’s death, Bijay’s grandma said 46

he had to start working. “Your father is gone and you are the oldest son. You have to provide for the family now.” Many of Bijay’s friends were already working, but his mother had let him go to school instead. But now his mum bought a brush, a cloth and shoe polish. Bijay’s best friend, Suresh, showed him what to do. “Smear the shoe polish into the shoes and rub them with the cloth. Then brush them, as hard and fast as you can

Learn to speak Oriya! India has at least 800 languages and over 2000 dialects. One of the languages is Oriya, which is spoken in Orissa. What’s your name? Name What is your favourite colour? How are you? I am fine I love you

to make them shiny.” Bijay says that the first day working at the station was the worst day of his life. It was hard to find customers and almost impossible to make the shoes shiny. He was slow, and the customers became angry and impatient. They had trains to catch, after all. Bijay cried himself to sleep that night.

Tuma nama kana? Nama Kyon ranga tumaku bhala laage? Tume kipari acha? Mu bhal achhi. Mu tumoku bhalpae.

Up before sunrise After a couple of months as a shoe shiner, Bijay can work faster. And against the will of his mum and grandma, he still goes to the platform school every day. “Your education is losing us money – you should work more instead,” they say. However, Bijay refuses to stop, because school is so important to him. He gets up at four o’clock every morning, the first in the family to get up. He lights an oil lamp and makes dough for chapatis, the family’s breakfast bread. Mum makes rice and curry. After breakfast, he runs to the station, jumps on a train and looks

Most people in Bijay’s neighbourhood work with shoes and leather.

Bijay with his family: mum Bhavani, grandma Budhi, great-grandma Laxmi, and brothers Bijay, Paparau and Arnand.

for customers along the crowded carriages. The train is packed with people on their way to work. Most pretend not to see Bijay. Others are kind, and a couple agree to have their shoes polished. After a few stops, Bijay and his friends jump off and walk back along the railway tracks. At seven o’clock in the evening he heads for home, exhausted. His back and head are sore and his hands stink of shoe polish. He gives everything he earns –

between $0.25 and $0.65 per day – to his mum. She works as a domestic help for two different families, but earns less than her son and is often ill. Bijay’s younger brothers are also almost always ill, from the dirty drinking water and bad food. “Sometimes I worry about my younger brothers,” says Bijay. “Will they have to work as hard as I do? I want them to be able to go to school too.” 

Bijay walks back to Bhubaneswar with his friends along the train lines. He has a group of friends at the station and they are always together. Bijay’s best friend is called Suresh. Bijay can talk to him about everything.

Longing for a roof When Bijay was younger his family lived right next to the train tracks in a shack made of bamboo poles and plastic sheeting. But when Orissa was struck by a terrible storm – a super-cyclone – the shack and everything they owned was washed away by the floods. Just like hundreds of thousands of other poor people, Bijay and his family were forced to live on the street. “We had no food, no water, no home,” says Bijay’s mum. An aid organisation wanted to build a house for the family. But the money was only enough for foundations and walls. Now, the family are forced to move from place to place while they save up for a roof. “It will cost at least $215 to build the roof,” says Bijay. “We are saving as much as we can, but between mum and I we only earn $20 a month.”


We are train workers All over India, hundreds of thousands of children work on trains and at railway stations. There are lots of people moving around and opportunities to make money. For these children, the platform schools are their only hope of an education.

Beggar Bira Reddy, 14 Job: Beggar. Earns: $0.65-$1 per day. Comes from: Bolanpur. Likes: School.


“On my fifth birthday, I fell into the fire that my mum was cooking over. My nylon shirt caught fire. I was badly burned and had to stay in hospital for six years. My parents thought I should just stay there for ever, since we were so poor and I got free food there. Dad is an alcoholic, and he always used to beat me. That’s why I ran away from home. Now I have lived alone at the train station for three years, and I earn a living by begging. People feel sorry for me when they see my burns. Sometimes I help out at a café and get some food in return. I go to Ruchika’s open platform school. My teacher has said that she’s going to help me find a more stable job. I hope she does.”


Bottle collector Mitun, 12 Job: Bottle collector. Earns: $1-$2 per day. Comes from: A village near Puri. Likes: Dancing like his idol, Salman Khan.

“I collect empty plastic bottles. Usually I travel with a group of friends and we help each other. I’ve travelled all over India, to Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai… everywhere. The trains are my workplace. When the trains come in to the station I have to work. Sometimes I only stay on the train for a bit, sometimes for several hundred kilometres. In between I go to school on the platform. I grew up in a small village. My dad is a day labourer in the fields and my mum gathers wood and sells it. I had to work in the fields too when I was little, but I didn’t like it. I ran away and made it to the train station. The only thing I’m scared of is the police. They beat us, so we run away whenever we see them. I save as much money as I can. So far I have saved $10. When I’m older, around 17, I’ll go back home and give the money to my father.”


Rag picker Nirmala, 12 Job: Rag picker. Earns: $1-$1.20 per day. Comes from: Bhubaneswar Likes: School.

“I live with my family in the slum near the station. My brothers and sisters and I collect rubbish from 9am to 4pm every day. We usually walk along the railway line to Khurda station, 30 kilometres away, and back again. Sometimes we jump on the trains. There’s always new rubbish along the train tracks that people have thrown out of the train window. We pick up plastic, rags, iron, glass and metal. When we have filled our sacks, we sort the rubbish, because different things are worth different amounts. A plastic bottle is worth almost twice as much as a piece of iron. Around five o’clock we sell the rubbish to an old man in the slum. When I’m older I’m going to sell dried fish. That’s what our family does. That’s why I try to go to the platform school as often as I can. I want to have some education, so that I can write letters and do numbers. That’s important when you’re doing business. Also, if for example an accident happens, I want to be able to write down the names and addresses of everyone involved.”

Baby sitter Shayama, 10 Job: Baby sitter. Earns: Nothing. Comes from: : Bhubaneswar. Likes: Maths.

“I take care of my younger brothers and sisters every day, so that my mum can work. Otherwise we won’t get any money and we’ll starve to death. Mum cleans and does laundry for several rich families. She leaves early and comes home late. She has to work very hard, because my father is dead. I go to the platform school every day. Maths is my favourite subject. My younger siblings come too of course, but they’re still too young to study! There are lots of us at the platform school who have to look after our brothers and sisters. The teachers help us with the children sometimes, so that we have time to study. We get food at school. I make lunch and dinner for the family at home. At school I learned always to wash my hands before cooking And to be careful with hot saucepans and fire. I know children in the slums who have spilt boiling water and burnt themselves terribly while making food. Some of them died.”

Sweeper Muna, 12

Job: Sweeper. Earns: $1-$2 per day. Comes from: Bhubaneswar. Likes: Nothing special.

“I work as a sweeper on the trains, along with my best friend. He’s older than me, and he knows how to act at the station and on the trains. He has taught me a lot about how to survive. We jump on the big trains and sweep the floors wherever they are dusty and dirty. Then we ask the passengers for money. The nice ones give us some money. There are real cleaners who are employed by the train company, but they never need to work. We children do it for them! I sometimes go to the platform school, but it’s hard to find the time. I have run away from home and have to look after myself. So I have to work hard.”


A day at the railway sta The train station is rarely quiet and peaceful. But when 12-year-old Ranjan wakes at dawn, the rush-hour hasn’t yet begun.


06.00 Morning rush hour



05.30 Toothbrush sticks

The children at the station brush their teeth with sticks from the neem tree. Ranjan and his friends buy sticks for about one cent at the station.

07.00 Sibling love

Lots of children come to the station from the slums next to the railway line. Many bring their younger brothers and sisters. They can’t stay at home when their parents are at work, so they go with their big brother or sister to work or school.


The station starts to fill up with people on their way to work. Raja, 8, is ready to start begging from the passengers. “I wear my dirtiest, most torn clothes. That way I earn more. In one day I can make about $0.60. I give the money to my mum. Foreigners give the most, but I try to beg from everyone. Some shout at me and say bad words. Then I walk away. There are lots of children begging and sometimes we fight. But we always become friends again.”

Mahmina, 12, fixes her little sister’s hair on the platform.

Raja is not the only one starting work in the morning rush hour. Suresh, 11, shines the shoes of an early-bird policeman.


08.00 The platform school begins.

The crowds of people at the station thin out – most people have arrived at work now. So the working children can also take a break and go to the first lesson of the day at the platform school. 50

Shayama dances with a friend at the platform school. “I’ve learned to dance by watching films!”




09.30 Tiger fight

The children have made funny and scary masks from papier maché. Here, a tiger is fighting a powerful God. The other children cheer them on. Hiding behind the masks are Kanha and Jagan, both 8.


10.00 Puppet show

The teachers at the platform school often use puppet shows to make the lessons more fun. Ranjan and a classmate hold up a piece of cloth to create the stage.

11.15 Time for food

If the children don’t get to eat they have no energy for learning. That’s why the teachers give them chhathua, a dish made from flattened rice, peanuts, sugar and milk powder that’s a bit like rice pudding. For some of the children, that’s the only food they eat all day.

The school medicine box has everything from painkillers to bandages and de-worming tablets. If a child gets injured or is seriously ill, the teachers call the Ruchika doctors.

Of course, everyone washes up their own plate at the sink in the station.


11.45 11.45 Saturday bath Every Saturday it’s time for the weekly bath. The teachers help to scrub, rinse and dry the children.



The teachers give the children vitamin drops.

12.00 Thanks, that’s it for the day!

When the lesson is over, the whole school gets packed up. Everybody helps to carry the school sign and all the materials to a small shed next to the train tracks.

12.05 Games 12.05 time

After school, lots of children have to run home and help their mothers make lunch. Others are able to stay at the station and play, as long as no big passenger trains come. Ranjan says he has over 300 friends at the station. “My best friend is called Parama. We play together and help each other. Once I had an upset stomach and he took me to hospital. When he broke his leg I took him to the doctor and paid the medical bill with Ranjan and Rama the last of my money.” climb trees.

16.00 Rush hour again

In the afternoon, people start to make their way home from work. The trains fill up with people and the children start work again. A crowded train has come into the station. Mithun prepares to jump on board with his broom.

17.30 Bottle jackpot

Mithun and his friends have run 17.30 through the carriages and found empty bottles that they can sell. The temperature outside is over 40 degrees celcius and it’s hot and sticky in the carriages. A lot of passengers bring water to drink.


21.00 Good night 19.30. Finally quiet

The last packed train has left the station. The platforms are quiet and empty for once. Most of the children have run off home to eat dinner with their families. Ranjan, Rama and Bijay have earned enough today to be able to buy their favourite dish at one of the station’s food stands: chicken and rice. 52


The children who sleep at or near the station almost always sleep together. It feels safer that way. When it’s dark, both boys and girls run the risk of being beaten and raped, by both older children and adults. Ruchika staff walk around the stations in the evening to help children who are on their own get home to their families or to the children’s home.



Ghouri likes yoga Ghouri, 11, lives at the station with her father during the school holidays. The rest of the time she lives at a children’s home and goes to school there, but in the holidays she goes to the platform school. She’s good at yoga and loves showing the other children her art. “My dad only has one leg. He lost the other one in a train accident. He can’t work and is always saying that he wants to die, so I give him food and stuff.” When Ghouri was four, she and her sisters were abandoned by their father. “Dad put me and my two younger sisters on a train and disappeared when the train left. In the end we got off at a station. A foreigner found us and took us to a hospital. We lived there for a couple of months, till our mum found us. We got to come home for a while, until she got re-married. Suddenly she didn’t want us any more. We lived with our dad for a while, but that didn’t work out. He drank a lot and beat us every day and wouldn’t let us go to school. In the end we moved to a children’s home. Ghouri misses her mother a lot. “I love my parents, but neither of them wants me. Mum comes to visit sometimes, but I don’t think she’s told my new brothers and sisters that I exist. That makes me really sad. When I have children, I’ll never abandon them.”

Platform magician Kusman, 9, goes to the platform school at the station in Khurda. His father is a magician. “He taught me how to do magic tricks with coins and with this snake!” Kusman’s favourite trick is making a coin disappear, but he doesn’t want to become a magician like his dad. “I’m going to be a car mechanic and open my own workshop.”

Prize-winning dancer Mahmina, 11, lives in the slum beside the train station. She used to go to the platform school, but now with Ruchika’s help she has started to go to a state school. “I had learned enough, and I also got a scholarship so I don’t have to work,” says Mahmina, who loves dancing. “I do drama and dance at my school. I’ve performed and won prizes. When I grow up I want to be a dance teacher.”


All over India by train Although Balaram Chowdhuri is only 10, he has travelled all over India by train, alone. He ran away from home because his mother beat him. By the age of six he was a seasoned traveller.



have lots of bad memories from cities that I don’t like. Mumbai, however, is my favourite city,” says Balaram. “I lived there for a few weeks, at a good children’s home near the station. One day a famous Indian fi lm star, Sunni Deol, came to visit. He gave us clothes and we got to shake his hand.” Many abandoned children travel around India by train and work, just as Balaram did. “I often travelled with a group of friends,” he says. “We took care of each other and helped newcomers. I swept train carriages for money. Sometimes we slept on the night train, under the seats, sometimes at the sta-

tions. In some cities there were aid organisations that could give us a bed for the night, like in Mumbai.” When Balaram ran away, he lived in a slum area in Puri. His mum drank and she used to beat Balaram and his brother and sisters. “My father is dead. My big brother lives on the street and my two sisters live with a relative. When Balaram lived on trains all over India, he too started to drink and try different drugs. “I used to sniff, drink beer, and smoke marijuana and tobacco. It made me feel better for a while, especially when I was lonely and sad. But afterwards I always felt ill. Then you have to take

more drugs. It becomes a vicious circle.” At the station in Bhubaneswar, Balaram started to attend Inderjit’s platform school. Now he lives at a Ruchika children’s home and goes to school. “I’m happy, have loads of friends, and I like school and life at the children’s home. Sometimes I’m still tempted by drugs but I don’t want to go back to that life.” 

Balaram has travelled by train to all of India’s big cities, like Mumbai, New Delhi, Chennai and Hyderabad.

India’s longest station name Try saying:

Venkatanarasimharajuvariapeta. INDIAN TRAIN FACTS

Rolling palace India has everything from standard trains to luxury trains with restaurants, libraries, bars and servants. Rich people can travel on the Palace on Wheels, or the Fairy Queen, the world’s oldest steam engine, which still puffs its way along the tracks. 54

India’s national railway transports five billion passengers per year. The train company has: 8,702 passenger trains, 11,000 engines, 7,150 stations in 27 states, 108,514 kilometres of railway and 1.6 million employees. That’s what it takes to be the world’s largest employer!

Today, the puppet show is about how you should always wash your hands when you’ve been to the toilet and before you cook and eat food. If you don’t you might end up like the puppet child, who vomits, has diarrhoea and has to go to hospital. The children laugh, but they also understand that it’s important. They know that people can die from stomach problems.

School on wheels “The school is coming! The school is coming!” The children working on the street shout to each other when they see their teacher struggling uphill on his bicycle. He’s bringing the school on wheels.


he school on wheels is Inderjit’s invention for bringing school to children who live and work on the street. It is, quite simply, a giant wooden box fi xed to a bicycle. On the sides there are blackboards and inside the box is everything they need for school work. Sankar, 10, arrives just as the teacher is parking next to a fence. He and the other children help the teacher lift books, writing slates and chalks out of the box. Sankar comes from a village far away from the city of Bhubaneswar, but right now he lives on the street with his parents. They work as basket weavers and his

father also plays drums in a wedding band. Sometimes Sankar goes with him to weddings. Sankar started attending the school on wheels two years ago. That was the fi rst time he’d had the opportunity to learn to read and write. The family is always on the move, travelling back and forth between the village and the city. That makes it difficult to go to a regular school and that’s exactly why this school on wheels came about. At fi rst, Inderjit wanted to build real schools, but the children in this area were too scattered. Many would have too far to walk to get to school, and you can’t build a school for only five or ten

Sankar, 10 years old.

children. A school on wheels was the perfect solution. Sankar has learnt to write the whole alphabet and all the numbers. His favourite subjects are maths and science. He likes learning new things. Another plus at this school is that the teacher provides lunch. 

Rolling school The school on wheels is Inderjit and Ruchika’s latest experiment for reaching children who wouldn’t otherwise be able to go to school. During the day, two teachers cycle around and hold lessons for one to two hours in six different places. “We regret not having put the school on a motorbike now, because it’s very heavy to pedal,” says Inderjit. “Next I want to open a mobile toy library, where the street children can borrow toys and children’s books. All we need now is a bus to keep the toy library in!”

The children learn both the Oriya alphabet and the Western alphabet.



Puppet show about washing


Swopna ran away from slavery One day a woman drops in to the restaurant where five-year-old Swopna and her older brother are working. The woman has nice clothes and looks rich. She says that Swopna and the brother can move in with her and asks to see their father.


he woman asks Swopna’s father why he makes his children wear themselves out working at the restaurant. “This isn’t a good place for children,” she says. Let me take care of them. They can help with the housework. The woman sounds nice, and it seems like she really cares about the children. Swopna and her brother live with their father and small village; their mother died long ago. The woman pays Swopna’s father to let

her take the children to the city. The money is an advance payment of the children’s salary. Swopna feels scared but hopeful. Beaten every day The woman lives with her husband in a big house in Bhubaneswar, the capital of Orissa. They both work in offices, and want Swopna to have dinner ready for them when they come home. One day, Swopna is playing in the street outside the house when the woman comes home from work. She is furious that Swopna is

playing instead of working. The woman drags Swopna into the house, beats her and shouts at her. “Lazy, ungrateful girl. If I see you bunking off work again I’ll beat you to death!” From that day on, the woman kicks and beats Swopna every day. The man doesn’t hit her, but he doesn’t try to stop his wife. Sometimes the woman hits Swopna’s brother too, but he protests and runs away. Swopna doesn’t dare do that. She just curls up in a ball and cries. Swopna tries to do all her chores perfectly

but it makes no difference. The woman always fi nds something to complain about. What hurts most is when the woman hits her with a heavy wooden stick. Swopna works from five in the morning until one at night, seven days a week. She cooks, cleans and does the laundry. She hardly ever sees her brother, because he works in the garden and the garage. When the woman and her husband come home from work, they want Swopna to give them a massage. They complain that they have to work so hard at their offices

Carrom is Swopna’s favourite game.

Many household slaves In India many poor children, usually girls, live with and work for other families. They often work very long days and are unable to go to school. Most start working when they are between 8 and 12 years old. Many are beaten or sexually abused. Sometimes the children’s parents get money when they hand over their children to an employer. It’s regarded as an advance payment of their salary, and means that the children become debt slaves in the household. 56

Swopna, 12 Likes: School. Playing carrom and other games. Favourite film star: Shah Rukh Khan Doesn’t like: People that hit children. Wants to be: A police offi cer, to help children who work as slaves.

When evening comes, Swopna and the other girls lay their mattresses on the floor and sleep close together.

and that they have sore backs and shoulders. Swopna is so tired that when she goes to bed she doesn’t even have the energy to cry. Her whole body hurts, and she often dreams of running away. Swopna escapes Swopna is 11, and she has now been working for the angry woman for over six years. The father has not been in touch since the day the children left the village. Swopna thinks he must have

married again and had more children. One evening, the woman starts to beat Swopna with the wooden stick. She beats her even harder than usual. Swopna’s head starts to bleed. She is terrified that the woman will kill her this time. But suddenly the woman stops hitting her. She throws down the key to the gate and tells Swopna to lock up for the night. Swopna staggers out into the garden. She leaves the key in the lock and keeps

walking, out into the street. She doesn’t know where to go, but in the end she goes into a neighbour’s garden. It’s quiet and dark – everyone is asleep. Swopna lies down on the veranda and falls asleep. When the neighbour fi nds Swopna outside her door the next morning, she gets a fright. “What are you doing here? What happened?” she asks. Swopna can’t talk, she can only cry. The neighbour gives her some food and

Helpline for children Swopna got help via Ruchika’s child helpline, which is open every day. It’s called Childline, and is funded by the Indian authorities. Stickers and cards with Childline’s phone number are handed out to both children and adults. Since the helpline was set up in 2000, Ruchika has received almost 50,000 phone calls about children who need help urgently. Inderjit knows that in order to help children, you often have to help the mothers first. That’s why Ruchika has a special helpline for women too.

after a while, Swopna explains that she has run away. “She tried to kill me,” says Swopna, and shows the woman her wounds. She is afraid the neighbour won’t believe her and will force her to go back to the house. But instead, the woman phones the Childline, a helpline for children run by Ruchika. Soon, two men who work for Ruchika arrive on motorbikes to get Swopna. They explain that she is going to live at Ruchika’s children’s home. But fi rst they have to go to the police station to report the woman. At fi rst, the police aren’t interested. But the men from Ruchika are stubborn and show Swopna’s bruises and sores. “What’s more, she’s a child labourer,” they say to 57

Henna hands During the swing festival, people have their hands and feet painted with henna. A boy who used to live at the children’s home is now a professional henna painter. He comes to the children’s home to make the girls pretty for the festival.

Swopna gets her hand painted with henna.

People use lime or coconut oil to make the henna last longer. When dry, the henna paste is scraped off.

Ruchika house, and show her around. About 15 girls the police. It’s against the law to make children work. In the end, a police officer agrees to listen and write down Swopna’s story. In safety When Swopna wakes up the next morning, she doesn’t know where she is at first. Two older girls remind her that she is safe at the Lovely red feet!


of different ages share two rooms and a little veranda. The girls are here for different reasons. Some are the children of women who work as prostitutes, who have asked Ruchika to take care of their daughters. Others have run away from home, been abandoned by their parents, or been res-

cued from slave labour, just like Swopna. The Ruchika boys’ home is on the other side of the building. And at the front there is a lawn where all the children can play games and do sports. The building is also home to the Ruchika office, where Inderjit Khurana works. The girls in the home call her “mama”, because she is like a mother to everyone here. Swopna tells Inderjit what happened. “You can stay here if you like, and go to school,” says Inderjit. People from Ruchika discuss Swopna’s case with the police and the woman who beat Swopna. At first the woman says it’s all lies. But eventually she apologises and pays some money towards Swopna’s education. Ruchika thinks that taking the matter to court is

hopeless. It could take many years for the case to be heard. Swopna is happy because she can go to school; however she’s still not completely satisfied. “I think that the people who kept me as a slave should be put in prison for life.” Swopna plans to become a police officer – a good and fair police officer who protects children. “I plan to make sure that no children have to work and suffer like I did.” 


Swopna celebrates swing festival In June, as the monsoon rains get closer, the girls in Orissa celebrate the swing festival. This is the first time Swopna has been able to play on the swings. “ The children from the children’s home build swings.

Look! Our hands are finished.


t’s fun to celebrate with all my friends at the children’s home,” she says. “We helped to put up the swings in the garden, and we decorated the ropes with flowers. We swing as high as we can, and we dance and sing. The boys too! And we get our faces painted, and henna our hands and feet.” The idea of the swing festival is for girls to play and have fun, at least for a few days a year. The rest of the time, it’s often the girls who work the hardest, both at home and in the fields.

During the festival, all the girls are supposed to get new clothes and at least three days’ holiday. But during Swopna’s six years of slave labour she never had time off, nor did she have a new dress to play in. The dresses for children at the children’s home are not brand new. They are second-hand clothes, sent to Ruchika by rich people after their own children have grown out of them. “But they feel new for us,” says Swopna. 

More swings! 59

Rama, 12 Likes: Playing. Drawing. Doesn’t like: When I can’t afford to eat. Sad: When my mum drinks too much. Loves: My mother. Looks up to: “Mama” (Inderjit Khurana). Dreams of: Being able to travel abroad. Wants to be: A teacher.

Work clothes Why is the swing festival celebrated? The Orissa swing festival, also called the Raja, is all about life and fertility, and it’s a way of welcoming the powerful monsoon rains and the farming season. For three days Mother Earth doesn’t have to work. That’s why girls and young women can also take a rest from working in the fields. Big swings are set up everywhere for the girls to play on. Acoording to tradition,

during the festival, girls aren’t allowed to walk barefoot, dig the ground, cut crops or cook. But most people don’t bother with these old customs any more, especially in the cities. Here the swing festival has become more focused on partying and exchanging presents. After the festival, all the swings are taken down. When the rainy season starts, there’s no time for playing – only for hard work.

Banana leaf plate The finest Raja food is served on a big banana leaf. Another festival speciality is Poda pitha, which means “burnt cake”. It is made from ingredients like rice powder and coconut. When friends and relatives visit each other during the festival, they often bring burnt cakes as a gift.


“These are my work clothes. When you’re begging, you need to wear your dirtiest, most torn clothes. Then people give more. Now I have stopped begging, and I collect plastic bottles instead. That earns me a bit more money, and seems better. Everyone used to ask me, ‘why are you begging?’ and one day I found lots of bottles I could sell. Then I decided to change job.”

It’s very important for Indian girls and women to have bracelets. “Otherwise you feel kind of naked,” says Rama. People who can afford it have lots of bracelets, but Rama could only afford two. “It was hard to choose, but in the end I decided these ones were the prettiest.”

Rama’s wardrobe Rama, 12, doesn’t wear her best clothes to run to the station in the morning. The children on the platform get dirty and dusty easily, so there’s no point in dressing up.

Rama goes to the platform school, but she often finds it hard to concentrate.

Too short “I got this from Ruchika at the swing festival. Lots of people have said it’s really nice, but I think it’s too short. It shows my legs, and I don’t like that. My dream dress would be blue, with beads embroidered onto it.”

and pans for old clothes. “That’s what our family does,” explains Rama. “Mum used to fi x the clothes and sell them again.” “I never buy clothes for myself, but sometimes I save up some money and buy a second-hand sari for my mum. When my dad was alive, he used to take her out and buy her clothes. But now she’s so ill she can’t even go out shopping.” Sometimes the teachers and Inderjit Khurana try to persuade Rama to move to the children’s home. They think her life at the station is too hard. But Rama doesn’t want to leave her mum by herself. “My dream is to study, get a real job and to be able to buy a better house for my family. But it’s hard to plan for the future. First I always have to think about where the money for the next meal will come from.” 



ama lives with her mum and two younger sisters in a little shack near the railway line. “My father is dead, and my mother has lung disease. She is very weak,” says Rama. “That’s why I’m the one who works the most. We also get a little bit of money and food rations from Ruchika every month.” Rama has three older sisters, but they have moved out. That’s why she has to do the housework and look after her younger sisters. “I’m always worried because we live so close to the station. What if one of my sisters falls in front of a train? I take them with me to the platform school every day. I want them to have a better life than I have.” Rama started begging when she was five. Before her mother fell ill, she used to go from door to door swapping metal utensils like pots

Rama always walks barefoot, like many other children at the station. “I used to have a pair of sandals, but I gave them to my mum.”


Sanjukta refuses to quit school

When Sanjukta was elected “president” of the school’s child parliament, she didn’t tell anyone at home. After all, her mum wants her to quit school and start working.



anjukta’s parents work on different building sites. They dig, carry bricks and mix cement, seven days a week. Sanjukta’s mum has been nagging her for three years, saying she should go with them. “Quit school and start earning money for the family,” shouts her mum. Sanjukta refuses, and sometimes her mum gets so angry she hits her. It seems unfair. “But my brothers get to go to school!” “It’s different for boys,” says Sanjukta’s mum. She can neither read nor write. Sanjukta’s teacher has tried to reason with her. “Don’t you want your daughter to learn more and have better opportunities in life than you’ve had?”

However, her mother is stubborn. She thinks that education is wasted on girls. Sanjukta’s father can read and write a little and has nothing against her going to school. But he doesn’t get involved in the discussion. Wakes up at four o’clock Since Sanjukta is the only girl in the family, she has to look after the home while her parents work. She cleans, does the laundry, fetches water, cooks and takes care of her younger brothers. None of her four brothers help out. “It’s a girl’s job,” they say, and their parents agree. Sanjukta gets up at four in the morning and goes to fetch water. Ruchika has built pumps in the slums so

Sanjukta, 12 Likes: School. Wants to be: A teacher. Looks up to: My teacher and “Mama” (Inderjit Khurana). Music: Religious songs. School songs. Books: Myths and fairy tales from Orissa. Favourite God: Lord Jagannath.

that the children don’t get ill from dirty water. On her way, Sanjukta runs into girls and women coming from all directions with their buckets and jugs. When Sanjukta gets back she lights a fi re so that her mother can make breakfast.

Sanjukta has a picture of the Hindu God Lord Jagannath – Orissa’s most important deity – around her neck.

…do the dishes…

Before Sanjukta can start her homework, she has to…

Sanjukta walking home with her little brother.


…sweep inside and in the yard…

The child parliament put on their white clothes and hats when it’s time to meet.

Then she sweeps the floor and the yard as her father and brothers start to get up. School president Sanjukta hurries her little brothers along. She always tries to get to school before

the teachers and check that the classroom is tidy and that chalks and books are in place. It might have been her keen sense of order and responsibility that made her schoolmates choose Sanjukta as their leader.

...and wash clothes…

Many of Ruchika’s slum schools have a child parliament. When Sanjukta stood for election to be “school president”, her friends ran an election campaign with posters and meetings. After she won the elec-

tion, Sanjukta gave a speech of thanks. “I’m going to do my best to help all of you and make sure things get done!” Being school president also means that Sanjukta can participate in meetings

Finally, homework time!


with Ruchika’s large child parliament. The child presidents of all the slum schools meet there to discuss issues around education and the rights of the child. All the children are invited to listen and ask questions at the meetings that are held four times each year. Sanjukta is the leader of the opposition. “I ask questions and challenge their decisions,” she tells her classmates. “If an important issue is forgotten it’s my job to remind the ministers!” Wants to be a teacher The teachers in the slum schools use games, songs, dance and puppet theatre to make learning fun for the children. Sanjukta loves school. Her dream is to get a

scholarship and be able to study at university. “If I get a good education I can become a teacher and get a good salary. Then my mum might understand how important education is.” 

If Sanjukta was a minister in Orissa she would: • Fix the sewage system. • Build enough toilets and water pumps for everyone. • Make sure children get to go to school and don’t have to work. • Put fans in the classrooms, because it gets unbearably hot in the summer.

New world I

nderjit also runs schools for children from richer families and several children from Ruchika’s children’s home attend these schools too. The Indian economy is growing fast, and close to 300 million of India’s population of one billion now belong to the middle class. 64

The young people at Inderjit’s high school visit the slum schools and get to know children and young people there. “Some people’s parents don’t let them go,” says Ananya Nayak. They are scared of the slum and think it’s dangerous, and that you’ll

Child-friendly toilets! There are rarely any toilets in the slums. People have to relieve themselves wherever they can, and this spreads disease. It is more difficult and less accepted for girls to go to the toilet outdoors. That’s one reason many girls won’t go to school. Now Ruchika has built child-friendly toilets next to its slum schools. The walls are decorated with beautiful pictures and funny rhymes.

Their very own school Sanjukta goes to one of the many slum schools run by Inderjit Khurana and Ruchika. They work with the people living in the slum to build the schools, in areas where children have no access to education. As Inderjit sees it, because the residents help build and pay for the school building themselves, it really is their own school.

get ill if you go there. But my parents thought it was good. I did a project where I met girls who are forced to work.

They taught me a lot, and the project opened up a whole new world to me.


gets a straight leg

When Suman Ganta was little he was called Cchota. It means “wrong in the legs”. Suman was born with a bent leg and foot and could only walk on his toes, with the help of a bamboo cane.


y mother is dead and my father forced me to quit school when I was ten,” says Suman. “He sent me out to work on a building site so that he could get money for alcohol. I only got paid half as much as the others, since I couldn’t walk as fast. I missed school, but if I didn’t go to the building site my dad would beat me. Suman dreamed of running away from home, but he had never left his home village. “There’s a children’s home where they can help you go to school,” a man said to him one day. Suman went with the man to Bhubaneswar and got a place at Ruchika’s children’s

home. He also got a new name there – Suman, which means “flower” or “person with good heart”. “Now I go to school and have lots of friends at the children’s home. But the best thing of all is that I’ve had an operation on my leg.

Soon I should be able to run and do sports like other children.” 

In the slums and the countryside in India, there are many children with disabilities who never receive the help they need. Many children also develop disabilities or problems with their sight and hearing because their parents can’t afford vaccinations or medicines to fight infections. Inderjit and Ruchika run a special programme to help children with disabilities. They also tell parents how to take care of sick children so that they are not permanently damaged. Some children are born with defects which can be operated on. The local hospital and doctors help Ruchika by giving free medical treatment to help these children.

Sometimes Inderjit’s old pupils come to visit. One of them is Jashoda, 17, who brings her flute and plays for the children at the children’s home. “


grew up in the slum and went to Inderjit’s school. One day, a famous flautist was passing by and heard us singing. He offered to give music lessons to three of the school’s pupils. I was one of the ones chosen.” Jashoda still lives in

the slum with her family. She is the only one in her neighbourhood who has had the chance to go to Orissa’s music college. She was very happy when she found out she had passed the difficult entry test and been accepted. “Without Mama Inderjit I would never have been where I am today. I look up to her and to my own mum, who is the best mum in the whole world. She has encouraged me and my three

sisters to go to school, even though my brothers don’t think we need to. They say, “get married and have children instead”. But we don’t care what they say! Jashoda’s dream is to become a teacher at the music school. “When I have made it in life, I also want to help children in the slums.” 



Sweet melody from the slum



Bang! Betty Makoni awoke with a start. It was the middle of the night in the poor neighbourhood of Chitungwiza outside Zimbabwe’s capital city, Harare. She heard it again: Bang! And again: Bang! The children began to cry. Just a few metres from Betty’s bed, masked men were breaking through the front door with an axe. Fighting for girls’ rights can be dangerous!


nce the door had been broken down, four men in balaclavas with axes and machete knives burst in to the little house. One of the men pointed at Betty and shouted, “We’re going to kill you! You’re the woman that causes nothing but trouble for us!” Betty and her children were terrified. They shouted for help. When one of the men reached out for her oneyear-old son, Betty panicked. “I thought they were going to kill him or kidnap him. But we were lucky. My husband was meant to be away, and the men must have known that. But when they saw that he was home they ran away.” This happened four years


WHY IS BETTY MAKONI BEING NOMINATED? Betty Makoni is being nominated for the 2007 WCPRC for her long struggle for girls in Zimbabwe to be freed from abuse and to have the same opportunities in life as boys. Through the Girl Child Network (GCN) Betty has built three safe villages (also called empowerment villages) for very vulnerable girls and started 500 girls’ clubs with 30,000 members, mostly in rural areas and in poor townships. Betty saves girls from child labour, forced marriage, abuse, trafficking and sexual assault. She gives girls food, clothes, medical care, a home, the chance to go to school, and safety. Above all, she gives girls courage and strength to demand respect for their rights. Tens of thousands of girls have found their way to a better life because of Betty’s work. She and GCN speak out on behalf of girls in Zimbabwe by constantly encouraging the government and different organisa-

tions to take care of the country’s girls. But not everyone likes Betty’s work. She lives dangerously and she is constantly being threatened because of her work. zambia


Victoria Falls

Harare Chitungwiza




botswana 66 south africa


Boys’ and girls’ names “The names we use in Zimbabwe say a lot about how we see boys and girls,” says Betty.


Tawanda Garikai Talent GIRLS’ NAMES:


Netsai Muchaneta Tampuzai Silence

Girls bring problems You will become weary We become poor Silence

Betty (on the left) the year she started working.

ago, and it’s just one of the many times Betty’s life has been in danger because of her struggle for girls’ rights. But she doesn’t give up. “I know myself how it feels to have your rights violated. There’s nothing worse, not even death. That’s why I keep going!”

Sold vegetables Betty’s own story starts in the poor neighbourhood of Chitungwiza. She lived there with her parents and younger siblings. But they were not a happy family. “My childhood was terrible. My father beat my mother almost every night. Mum couldn’t manage, so I had to start helping out at home at a young age.

The family is growing and is happy We are well Talent

When I was only five years old I used to clean and cook and carry my younger siblings on my back at the same time. Mum and Dad used to beat us children too. I never felt safe when I was young.” Just like many other girls in her neighbourhood, Betty had to start working. From the age of five she walked around selling vegetables and candles every evening. “While the girls were working we could see the boys our age playing. I thought it was incredibly unfair!” The terrible man One evening when Betty was six years old, something

awful happened. After several hours selling their goods, she and some friends arrived at their last customer. It was a man who owned a little shop. “There were ten of us, all girls. Once we were all in the shop the man suddenly locked the door. He took out a knife and said that he would kill anyone who screamed or tried to resist. Then he turned off the light. Everything went pitch black. We were scared to death but we didn’t dare call for help. He raped us, one after another. In the end we managed to get away. Everyone ran home, and we never talked to each other about what had happened.” “When I got home there was no-one to talk to. Dad wasn’t home and Mum was asleep. I could see that they had been fighting again. I

Betty and the girls from the girls’ club march for girls’ rights.


Betty has been threatened many times, even with death, because she fights for girls’ rights.

cried silently so that I didn’t wake anyone. I felt dirty and totally abandoned. When I finally did fall asleep I had horrific dreams.” Fighting for girls Despite everything that had happened, Betty continued to work every evening. When she started school she used some of the money she had earned to pay her school fees. It wasn’t always enough, and Betty was often sent home from school because she couldn’t pay. “I was always tired but I carried on because I knew that life could be better, if only I could manage to finish school.” The years went by and the nightmares continued. She often thought about how wrong it was that a grown man had hurt her so much. She also thought about how wrong it was that her mum was always getting beaten. Betty decided that one day 68

she would fight for a better life for girls and women in Zimbabwe. The girls’ club When Betty was 24 she started work as a teacher. She saw how hard things were for the girls. As soon as a family had difficulty paying the children’s school fees, it was always the girls who had to quit school while their brothers carried on. Soon the girls in Betty’s class started to talk to her about their problems. They told her about the male teachers who took advantage of them and about how hard it was for them to dare to speak up when the boys were around. “Then I suggested that we girls should meet up and talk about things that are important to us. I suggested that we could have a club where girls take care of each other and help each other if something bad happens to

one of them. A club where they would grow strong and dare to demand the same rights in life as the boys. They thought it was a great idea. There were ten of us who started meeting up a couple of times a week, either at school or at my house.” “Slowly but surely, girls who had been subjected to rape and abuse started to come forward and tell us about it. We supported the girls and helped them to pluck up the courage to report the crime to the police. The men responsible ended up behind bars, and suddenly several of the male teachers quit their jobs at the school. They must have been too scared to stay on!” The Girl Child Network The news of Betty’s girls’ club spread through the school like wildfire. Soon over a hundred girls had joined. And it wasn’t long

before girls’ clubs started up at other schools, first in Chitungwiza and then all over Zimbabwe. “In 1999 I decided to start the Girl Child Network (GCN) so that all the girls’ clubs could support each other.” “That same year I did a 200 km walk with 500 girls, out in the rural areas. We walked from village to village telling people about girls’ rights and about what we do at our girls’ clubs. At night we slept on the floor in the village schools. We were on the road for seventeen days and after that there were loads of girls who wanted to start their own clubs. Today there are 500 girls’ clubs with 30,000 members all over Zimbabwe!” The clubs report to the Girl Child Network if anyone has been raped, had to quit school, or been forced to get married or start working. If

anyone needs help to pay for school fees, clothes, shoes or food, all the other girls in the group try to help them out. If they can’t manage it, they contact Betty. 5000 girls are able to go to school and eat their fill thanks to the Girl Child Network. The safe villages Betty soon realised that many of the girls who were saved from abuse, child labour, forced marriage and rape needed a safe place to live. Often the girls couldn’t return to their families.

Since Betty made sure that many of those who committed crimes ended up in prison, she was afraid that they would come back to take revenge on the girls later. So in 2001, the first ‘safe village’ was created. Since then two more villages have been built in other parts of Zimbabwe. “There are 60 girls who have suffered some kind of abuse who live in the safe villages. We want to offer the girls safety and a chance to grow up as strong, independent women.”

Since Betty started the first girls’ club in 1998, her struggle has opened the door to a better life for tens of thousands of girls. Betty never hesitates to point the finger at people

Soon the first girls’ club grew from ten members to a hundred. And since Betty and 500 girls walked 200km, from village to village, many new clubs have been founded.

We’re angry! The Girl Child Network reports that 6000 girls are raped in Zimbabwe every year. However Betty believes the figure could be as high as 30,000, since a great many girls who are raped don’t dare to tell anyone about it. Many are afraid of being rejected and abandoned if they tell anyone, since some people believe that anyone who has been raped is ’dirty’. “The girls in the Girl Child Network hold about 20 major marches every year. They march to show that they are angry about girls being raped in this country. And they demand that politicians and everyone else that lives in Zimbabwe does something about it! ” says Betty.


who treat girls badly, even if they are powerful politicians. She has made plenty of enemies and has had lots of threatening phone calls in the middle of the night. Cars follow her around and the police carry out raids on her office. Betty has to have people around her to protect her at all times. Her children can’t even walk to school on their own as she is afraid something could happen to them. “But I’m not going to let myself get scared. My dream is for Zimbabwe to be a country where boys and girls have the same opportunities in life. But every day I get about ten phone calls from girls who have been raped. It’s also harder for girls to go to school. They get married off or forced to work instead. There’s a war being fought against girls here. And as long as what happened to me when I was little continues to happen to girls, I’ll keep fighting for them!” 

The Girl Child Network doesn’t let anyone down! “At the beginning the idea was that all the girls’ club members would pay 50,000 Zimbabwean dollars (50 US cents) every year. That’s not really much money, and we needed it. But it was still too much for many of the poorest girls in the rural areas. Since it’s those girls who are most at risk

of being taken advantage of, they need the girls’ club more than anyone else. So that we didn’t let them down, we decided to stop charging a fee. Instead, every club tries to earn a bit of money to help those in need. Some grow and sell vegetables, others make baskets and sell them,” explains Betty.

Betty Makoni

Girls treated badly all over the world “Girls are discriminated against all over the world for two reasons: because they are children and because they are girls. This means that girls may be the most vulnerable group in society,” says Betty Makoni.


lthough all countries, including Zimbabwe, have laws banning discrimination against girls, they are still treated badly. Many girls are forced into early marriage, genital mutilation, rape and the worst kinds of child labour, like prostitution. 70

Of the 121 million children in the world who don’t go to school, 65 million are girls. In Africa south of the Sahara Desert, where Zimbabwe is, there are at least 24 million girls who don’t go to school. Of the 150 million children who quit school before the

fifth grade, 100 million are girls. Girls (and boys) who don’t learn to read and write can be tricked and taken advantage of more easily. Of the 875 million adults in the world who can’t read or write, almost 600 million are women. All over the world, women are usually not as well-paid as men, even when they do exactly the same job. Although women carry out two-thirds of the world’s work they only earn a tenth of

the world’s income. Men have more power, both in politics and in the economy, since it’s more common that managers and leaders are men. The fact that girls are treated worse than boys goes against the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It states that everyone is born equal and should have the same opportunities in life, regardless of whether you are a boy or a girl.


The girls’ holy mountain

In eastern Zimbabwe there is a mountain called Chitsotso. It is the girls’ holy mountain. This is the story of the princesses who live in Betty’s safe village at the foot of the mountain…


here was once a chief called Gunguwo. He lived in the 17th century in the country that is now called Tanzania. One day, Gunguwo went off on a long journey with his sister Masere and his people. The chief and his sister fought against other chiefdoms along the way. They won many battles. Finally, they arrived at a beautiful place where they decided to stay, and they called it Makoni. This was at the foot of a mountain, in the country that we now call Zimbabwe. Chief Gunguwo was deeply impressed by his sister’s great wisdom and strength in the battles they had fought along the way. He realised that he would never have made it to this new,

beautiful place without her help. So he decided to give her the title of Muzvare, which means princess. He said, “This is my sister and we fought side by side. She is my equal.” As proof that he meant what he said he gave his sister a large piece of land. On this land lay the mountain which would later come to be called Chitsotso. It was very unusual for women to own land and have power, but all the men in Makoni had great respect for the princess. Since they respected the princess, they also treated the other women in the area well.

out to gather firewood, they often climbed the mountain of the first princess and sat there to talk. That’s why the mountain came to be known as Chitsotso, which means “wood”. It was the princesses’ own mountain, and no man was allowed to be there without their permission. There they could talk about everything that was important to them. The mountain was also holy. The people of Makoni

believed the princesses had power over the rain. And it was on the mountain that the princesses carried out their rain ceremony every year. They killed a cow and prayed to the spirits of earlier princesses for rain. If both the living and the dead princesses were satisfied with their people, they allowed the rain to come. If they were not satisfied, the rain didn’t come. Since the people were farmers, they

Betty with the girls from the safe village at the girls’ holy mountain.

The mountain of princesses Chief Gunguwo’s four sons became chiefs after him. When their daughters went 71

on t

Tariro, 13

Good at: Maths and English. Wants to be: A teacher.

Princess Betty Makoni is up on Chitsotso with some of the girls who live in the safe village at the foot of the mountain. She asks them about their dreams.

Pamela, 14

with her daughter Samantha, 6 months Good at: Cooking and taking care of children. Wants to be: A flight attendant.


ever forget that this is your holy mountain, nobody can take it away from you. If you feel afraid or unwell, you should come up here. Do you sometimes feel small, like you’re not worth anything? Like you are not as good as others?” The girls nod. They often feel small and sometimes worthless.

“Then you really should come up here. Look around! When you’re up here you’re higher than all others. You are as important as anyone else, and you can be whatever you want to be! Why don’t you tell me what you’re good at, and what you’d like to do in the future? What are your dreams?”

Nomsa, 16

Good at: Netball and singing. Wants to be: A soldier.

depended heavily on the rain. To make sure that the rain would come, the people treated the princesses and all the women in the chiefdom well. Princess Betty One day, almost 400 years after chief Gunguwo gave the mountain to his sister Masere, the chief of Makoni read about a woman in Chitungwiza township in the newspaper. She fought 72

for girls who had a hard life. That woman was called Betty Makoni. The chief realised then that Betty was a princess, and descendant of chief Gunguwo’s youngest son. One day, Betty travelled to the Makoni chiefdom. “I told them about my plans to create a safe village for girls who have a really hard life. Then the chief said, ‘We have been waiting for you. You are the princess

who is going to make sure that the power of girls and women lives on here in Makoni! We want you to build your safe place for girls here, on the princesses’ ground beside Chitsotso. It has always been a holy place for girls, and we give you this mountain so that you can take care of girls who need help.’ “I built the first safe village below the mountain, and today there are twenty girls

living there. It used to be that only girls like me, daughters of chiefs, were princesses in Makoni. But since the girls in the safe village guard Chitsotso when I’m not there, they are also seen as princesses. And for me, all the girls in the village really are princesses who should be treated well. All the girls in the world should be treated like princesses!” says Betty Makoni. 

“I’m good at singing and I’d like to be a teacher,” says Charity. “Sing for us!” says Betty. Charity shyly sings a song and everyone claps. Then she beams with pride. “I like running, and I want to be a lawyer when i grow up,” says Rumbidzai. “Alright then, show us how fast you are!” says Betty. Rumbidzai kicks off her shoes and runs as fast as she

can. Everyone cheers! Finally, all the girls have said what they are good at. Betty smiles. “Never forget this. You are all good at something, and you’re great just the way you are! I promise we’ll do everything we can to make sure each one of you achieves your dreams!” 

Tendai, 15

Good at: Playing football and singing. Wants to be: An air marshal.

Rumbidzai, 17 Good at: Running and swimming. Wants to be: A lawyer.

Charity, 12

Good at: Singing. Wants to be: A teacher.

A child dies every 15 minutes “We still have a rain ceremony on 19 September every year. And when one of the girls in our safe villages dies, they always take a special jar from the rain ceremony to the grave with them. So far, five of our girls have passed

away. Some of them had AIDS. Many of the girls in Zimbabwe who get raped get HIV/ AIDS,” says Betty. Zimbabwe is one of the worst-affected countries in the world in terms of HIV/AIDS. A quarter of the popula-

tion – 2 million people – is HIV positive. 120,000 of these are children under the age of 15. A child dies of AIDS every 15 minutes, and 1.3 million children are orphans. Jar from the rain ceremony.



n the mountain

Memory, 13

with her son Tinashe, 3 months Good at: Sewing and giving first aid. Wants to be: The leader of a safe village for girls, like Betty!

“ Betty saved my life!” “I’ll never forget when I saw Tsitsi for the first time. She was lying on my sofa and looked so small and scared. She was eight years old, and had been beaten so badly that she had deep wounds on her back. I thought she was going to die,” says Betty.


ears ran down Tsitsi’s cheeks as Betty bathed her wounds. After a while, Betty started to tell Tsitsi about how she had been abused at home when she was a little girl. Tsitsi lay silently on the sofa, but after a few hours she dared to tell Betty what had happened... Mother died Tsitsi had lived with her mother in a little house in Chitungwiza. Her father didn’t live with them but he 74

used to visit them often. Sometimes he also gave them money. She liked her father, but she loved her mother. The two of them were best friends. When Tsitsi was in first grade, her mother fell ill. “I cooked food and helped my mum as much as I could, but one day she just died. That same evening, Dad came and took me back to his house. I missed Mum so incredibly much. At the same time, I was glad I had a father who could take care of me.” For the first little while,

Tsitsi’s father was kind. “He didn’t really comfort me, but he gave me food and helped me so that I could keep going to school. We didn’t talk that much, but I felt safe. I thought that life would probably be okay after all.” After a couple of months Tsitsi’s father became ill, and everything changed. He didn’t have a permanent job and started to have problems paying rent for the house. It even became hard to buy food and the other

things they needed. He blamed Tsitsi for all the bad things that happened. Started to beat her “Dad got angry about nothing. If I played with my friends for too long he went crazy. And even when I hadn’t done anything wrong he still shouted at me. He even started to make things up. He claimed that I had wet the bed, even if I hadn’t. He would beat me as a punishment. He used his belt or a stick, and hit me on the



… the girls in the safe village sweep the yard…

...and wash the dishes.

back, the chest… everywhere. I was in agony but I didn’t dare call for help. He said it would get worse if I did.” “Dad beat me almost every evening. I hoped that he would stop if I was extra good. I helped with everything – cleaned, did the shopping, and cooked the food. When he was sick I took care of him. But he beat me anyway.” One evening things got even worse than usual. “I had just gone to bed

when he told me to come and lie down on his bed. At first I didn’t understand what he meant. Then I realised that he wanted to do bad things to me. When I refused, he hit me with an electrical cable. At the same time, he held up a knife and said that he would kill me if I screamed. I couldn’t defend myself, and in the end he did it. My own father.” Tsitsi hurried to school early the next morning before her father woke up, but she didn’t dare to tell

anyone what had happened. “I knew that I had to go home to Dad again, since I didn’t have anywhere else to go. I hoped it would never happen again.” On the way home from school, Tsitsi searched for coins on the street. “I thought that if I could give Dad some medicine he’d be nice to me. By the time I got home I had enough money to buy a couple of pills. But it didn’t help. That night

“Every afternoon after school we sit around the fire and wait for the food to cook. We tell stories and sing. I love sitting here with the other girls,” says Tsitsi. You can join in the fun around the fire in Tsitsi’s village, at


he did it again. And the next night, and the next...” Finally Tsitsi told her teacher, who called Betty Makoni straight away. That very afternoon, Girl Child Network came and collected Tsitsi from school.

Finally saved “Betty saved my life and I love her! She took me to hospital and took care of me. But for the first while I was often sad and I had nightmares. At first I lived in a ‘safe house’ in Chitungwiza

Tsitsi, 11

for six months, but then I moved here to one of Betty’s safe villages. There are 20 of us girls living in the village, and we do everything together like a family. We play, clean, wash the dishes, sleep, go to school... every-

Remembers her mum

Lives: In one of Betty’s safe villages for girls. Loves: Going to school. Hates: Adults who treat children badly. Worst thing that’s happened: When my own father abused me. Best thing that’s happened: When I pass exams at school. Looks up to: Betty Makoni! Wants to be: A leader of a safe village for girls, or a pilot. Dream: That adults will stop taking advantage of children.

“My mum was a seamstress and she taught me to sew. I think of her every time I sew. I miss her so much. I don’t miss dad at all. Betty helped me to pluck up the courage to report him to the police. He ended up in jail, but since he was so ill it wasn’t long before he died.”

Play the bottle game! 2


3 Newspaper ball “It only took a few minutes to make this ball. I pressed newspaper into a bag. We use the ball when we play the bottle game,” says Tsitsi.



thing! All of us have had a hard time and we understand each other.” “I love playing with the others. It helps me forget everything that happened with my dad. It’s the same in school. I concentrate on learning new things there instead of thinking about the past. When I miss my mum and feel sad, I go and talk to one of the three village mothers. It feels great to know that there’s always someone here who cares about me. The village mothers take care of us, cook our food and wake us in the morning so that we’re not late for school. Before we go they make sure that our uniforms are right and that


we’ve got our books. But most of all, they give us love. I feel happy and safe here.” “I’m at my happiest when Betty comes to visit. She is like a mother to me. Without Betty, I would probably have ended up on the street and had to scavenge for food in bins. That is a terrible way to live, and lots of the girls who live on the street are taken advantage of by grown-ups. If she hadn’t saved me I think I would have died on the street. When I grow up I want to lead one of Betty’s safe villages for girls!” 

he Bottle game is played on a gravel or sand pitch. An empty plastic bottle is placed in the middle of the pitch. Two teams, with as many members as you like, play against each other. The first team is divided into two groups who stand fifteen metres apart with the bottle in the middle. They are called the ‘outer team’ and they throw the ball back and forth to each other. Between them stand the ‘inner team’. They have to try not to get hit when someone in the outer team suddenly throws the ball at them. Anyone who gets hit is out. When everyone in the inner team is out, the outer team has won and the teams swap places. The inner team can rescue members of their team who are out. When the outer team throw the ball, someone from the inner team has to catch it in their hands, without being hit anywhere else. The person who catches the ball throws it as far away as they can. While the outer team run to fetch the ball, the inner team fill the plastic bottle with sand and then pour the sand straight out again. If the inner team manage to do all of this before the outer team have brought the ball back, then they rescue everyone who is out, and they are allowed to continue the game!

60 girls in three villages “I love Tsitsi. We are so close. She reminds me so much of myself when I was small. Every time I see her it gives me energy to work even harder for girls’ rights. There are 60 girls living in our three safe villages, and all of them have experienced something similar to Tsitsi. In the villages they get protection and support so that they can grow up to be strong. We try to help the girls move in with family members or relatives, but if that’s not possible they stay in the village until they can manage on their own,” says Betty.

Loves high rises “My favourite place is our capital city, Harare. I like the high rise buildings and there is electricity there. The streets are lit up and the people who live there can watch TV. We don’t have electricity yet in the village, but Betty said that we’ll have it soon. Then we’ll be able to watch TV too,” says Tsitsi. “When we get electricity we’ll make sure that the villages around us get the good of it too. We’re going to build a mill where the farmers can grind their maize. That will save them from travelling a long way to do it. The money we earn from the mill will mean that we can continue to pay for food, school fees and



fights for girls’ rights


“Having your rights respected means getting to be who you want to be, without anyone pushing you down,” says Lisa. And Lisa knows who she wants to be. “I want to be like Betty Makoni. She’s my hero! I too want to be someone who helps girls to stand up for their rights.”


t’s lunchtime at Lisa’s school in the mountains of eastern Zimbabwe. The girls from the girls’ club begin to gather on the football pitch, as they do every Monday and Wednesday. Within a few minutes, over a hundred girls are sitting in small groups talking. After a while, Lisa gets up. She stretches one arm up towards the sky and shouts: “Girl child!” The others get up and reply: 78

“Sky is the limit!” They shout so loud that the boys playing football a little further away stop playing and sit at the side of the pitch, surprised. “Girl Child!” shouts Lisa again. “Sky is the limit!” everyone replies, even louder this time. When they have sat down, Lisa welcomes everyone to the meeting. She starts with a good piece of news: “You know we’ve been The sky really is the limit for these girls!

selling books and pens for the last little while, and I just want to tell you that we have now gathered enough money to pay school fees for twelve of our friends. Now they can keep going to school a while longer! Isn’t that great?”

The twelve girls stand up, and it seems like the other girls’ applause is never going to end. Manage on their own When the clapping has died down, Lisa continues by asking if anyone has a prob-

Lisa, 12

It’s Lisa’s job to fetch water.

lem, or if they know anyone else who needs help. One of the girls stands up: “A girl called Grace has stopped coming to school and I don’t know why. We must make sure that nothing bad has happened to her. Maybe we can write a letter to her mum?” They talk for a little while about what they should do and decide that the best

thing is probably to send a letter. “A girl called Evelyn has had to go to the city to work as a maid. I think we should give her some money so that she can come back to the village and start school again,” says another girl. “I don’t have any shoes,” says a little girl shyly, and sits quickly back down. Someone suggests that

CD for girls’ rights! Lisa and twelve other girls in her girls’ club got to travel to the capital city, Harare, to record one of the songs on a CD for girls’ rights. The CD is called Wake Up Girls, because girls need to wake up and know their rights. The song that Lisa sings on is called Rega Kuchema (Stop Crying). “My dream is to become a doctor, but I could also imagine becoming a pop star. It was so cool to be in the studio,” says Lisa. Listen to Lisa’s song at

they should ask Betty for more money so that they can solve the problems. But then Lisa gets up again: “No, we can’t just ask for help the whole time. We have to fi nd our own ways of making money. We need to work harder selling pens, books and vegetables so that we can help even more people!” Everyone nods and agrees.

Lives: In Makoni village, beside the girls’ holy mountain, Chitsotso. Loves: My mum. Hates: When I´m ill and can’t go to school. Worst thing that’s happened: That dad hit mum. Best thing that’s happened: When I was chosen to be one of the leaders of all the girls’ clubs in Zimbabwe. Looks up to: My hero Betty Makoni! Wants to be: A doctor. Dream: That all girls all over the world will become strong and know their rights.

Mum was beaten When Lisa gets home from school, her mum, Fortunate, has already cooked dinner – maize and beans. Afterwards Lisa washes the dishes before going out to water the vegetable patch. “I try to help mum as much as I can. I love her. And she’s alone,” says Lisa, looking down at the ground. A few years have passed since the terrible things that happened to her mum, but she still fi nds it hard thinking about it. Lisa still has nightmares and often wakes up in the middle of the night. “I was only four when it started. My dad drank and he used to beat my mum almost every night. Sometimes mum was 79

Dolls just for girls?

Lisa and her mum sew dolls’ clothes.

unconscious on the floor, but he just carried on hitting her. When I cried and shouted at him to stop, he went crazy. He chased me and my brother away from the house. Then we weren’t allowed in again. Even if it was cold, even in the middle of winter, we had to lie and sleep on the veranda outside the house. We lay really close together to try to keep warm, but it was impossible to sleep. We were so cold that we shivered, and we could hear mum screaming

The Girl Child Network tries to help the very poorest girls, especially in the rural areas. There are 120 girls in Lisa’s club. When Betty Makoni comes to one of their meetings she asks what their biggest problems are and what the girls most need help with. Their reply was:


in the house. The worst thing was that I couldn’t do anything to help her.” The girls’ club Things were awful for three years. But one day, Lisa’s mum decided she wasn’t going to let herself be beaten any more. “I both love and admire mum for being so strong that she dared to get up and say ‘that’s enough’. That he never got to hit her again,

and that he had to go and leave the family in peace.” The same year that Lisa’s dad moved out, she joined the Girl Child Network’s girls’ club at school. She was only seven at the time. “I wanted to do something so that no girl ever has to experience the terri-

“The best thing I own is my doll Jennifer. I got her from my mum when I was six. Often on Sundays after church my mum and I sew new dresses for Jennifer. I love my doll, but I think it should be okay for girls to play with cars. And for boys to play with dolls. But parents here really don’t think that’s okay. I think that girls are given dolls because people want to prepare us for becoming mothers and taking care of children. Boys get their toys so that they can practice for doing difficult technical jobs. I don’t understand that at all. It’s so crazy! Girls can do technical things too. It is my dream for girls all over the world to be able to train for those jobs that are almost always done by boys at the moment. I think we should become doctors, pilots, engineers and even presidents!”

How are the girls? 42 have no shoes 41 have no school uniform 32 have no underwear 46 have no school books 22 are going to be sent home from school because they haven’t paid their fees 11 have lost both parents 33 have lost their father

8 have lost their mother 11 have a seriously ill mother 1 has a seriously ill father 1 has a seriously ill father and mother 62 are ill themselves

“It’s so sad that all of you who fight so hard to be able to go to school come to this meeting both barefoot and hungry. I’m so proud of you, that you still manage to meet and fight for your rights,” says Betty.

Cars just for boys? The wheels of the wire car kick up dust as 12-year-old Award proudly steers his car. “I make these cars myself. It takes three days to make a car. First I collect the steel wire that we use when we build houses. Then I start to bend it. The wheels are made from old plastic bottle tops. To make the back wheels wider I join four lids together by carefully melting the seams over the fire. When the steering mechanism is finished, the car is ready to drive. I’m really careful with the car – it’s my only toy.”

ble things my mum went through. I knew that the GCN fought for girls’ rights, so the girls’ club was perfect for me. The club is a place where we girls can talk about the things that are important to us. We take care of each other and help each other to be strong. In the girls’ club we’re safe. Outside the clubs, girls aren’t at all safe in Zimbabwe. We are raped, abused and have to do all

the house work while the boys play and have fun. If a family doesn’t have much money it’s always the boys that get to go to school. The girls have to start working or are married off to some older man. The man pays lobola (a dowry) to the girl’s family, and the parents then use that money for the boys’ school fees. It’s so terribly unfair! I get so angry when I think about it!”

Loves Zimbabwe “Boys and girls are worth the same, and both want to have a good future. We girls have to explain this to our parents and everyone else.

Lisa’s club helps girls “Sometimes we get money from Betty. Then we buy school books and pens and we sell them. But we also sell vegetables from our own vegetable patches. We usually work on our vegetable patches at breaktimes. While helping others, we also learn about how to grow vegetables. That means that we’ll be able to manage better when we’re finished school, even if we don’t get jobs. We sell the

vegetables and books to our parents and teachers. We use the money to buy school books and pens for the girls who can’t afford them. Sometimes we even pay people’s school fees. With the money we make by sell-

ing things, our club helps twelve girls pay school fees and buys school books and pens for 30 girls.” The girls’ club members sell the vegetables that they grow.

But it’s still unusual here for girls to dare to say what they think openly. Luckily enough, we’ve got help. Betty Makoni helps us to dare to be confident and

What can Lisa’s club do with the money? On a good day, Lisa and the other girls can earn as much as 5,000 Zimbawean dollars ($20 US) Here’s what they can do with the money: Pay school fees for one term for 5 girls... … or buy 27 exercise books’ or 94 pencils or 31 pens!


Writing poetry “We write lots of poems in the girls’ clubs,” says Lisa. If something bad happens to one of us, it’s a good way of explaining what happened. Every new member of the girls’ clubs gets a diary too. We write in our diaries about everything that happens in our lives, both good and bad things. We write about our dreams, but if we or our friends have been victims of violence or abuse we write about that too.

Lisa does her homework.

Lisa saved me! Every day when Lisa was on her way to school, she saw how Christine was beaten in her home. She felt that she had to do something, and one afternoon the girls’ club knocked on Christine’s door… demand our rights. She’s my hero!” “Despite all the problems we have, I love Zimbabwe. It’s incredibly beautiful here and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. I plan to stay here and fight for a better life for the girls here. And I actually believe things will get better in the future, even if it takes a long time. I help to arrange meetings and marches where we tell peo-

ple about girls’ rights, but I think we need to work even harder. All girls must also dare to start talking about these problems with their male friends. Because if the boys know how hard things are for us, I believe that they’ll change. They’ll become good men who take care of their daughters and wives in the future!” 

Safe village goats “Many of the girls in my club live in Betty’s safe village, which is really nearby. The girls there don’t just learn to grow vegetables – they also take care of goats and chickens. They get food from the goats and learn how to take care of them, all in one go,” says Lisa.

Beautiful baskets Lisa’s club grows vegetables and sells books. The girls in other clubs weave baskets, which they sell.


“Lisa and five other girls stood at the door. I had been beaten every day since I was ten years old. I didn’t know why my mum did it and it made me ill. When Lisa asked Mum why she beat me, she didn’t answer. When Mum didn’t reply, Lisa threatened to phone the police. She said that they would put her in prison. Mum got angry, but I think more than anything she was scared, because she agreed to stop. Since then she has never hit me again. Now we’re friends and I love my mum. I think it was incredibly brave of Lisa to dare to come to our house and tell Mum to stop. If Lisa hadn’t saved me I would still be getting beaten. Lisa and I hang out

together a lot at school. We tell each other everything because we trust each other.” Christine, 12

Esther’s future stolen


oth my parents died when I was two. My sister and I stayed on in Mum and Dad’s house and our uncles took care of us. My brothers moved to Harare to work. I used to go to church with my uncles every Sunday. It’s the tradition in their church to marry off young girls to older men in the congregation. Since I had been a member of the church since I was little, I thought it was normal, and the only right thing to do. Nonetheless, I thought that it was something that only happened to other people. But one Sunday last year, the old men at church said it was my turn. I panicked and tried to run

away, but the adults trapped me. I screamed and cried but no-one cared. They threw me in a car and drove away. After a while we arrived at a house. They said that my husband lived there and dropped me off. I didn’t dare to do anything other than stay. He slept with me and I was afraid I would get pregnant. How could I, an elevenyear-old, take care of a child? I was worried and cried. I thought about running away all the time, but the house was out in the bush.” Saved by Betty “After a few days, the man went away to work. One morning I was woken by a

woman shouting outside the house. It was Betty. I was so incredibly glad! She told me that my brothers in Harare had been absolutely furious when they heard that I had been married off. They talked to a journalist who wrote about it in the paper. Betty had read the paper and decided to save me. She had been searching all night. Betty took me to one of her safe villages. I went to school and I was really happy. Betty made sure that the man who I had been married to ended up in jail. Now I live with my brothers and I go to a new school. Nobody at school knows that I used to be married. I don’t want to talk about it because I’m scared that no-

one will want to be with me if they know. Scared that they’ll tease me. Now I’m doing well and I’m so deeply grateful that Betty saved me. If she hadn’t helped me I’m sure my life would have been awful. I wouldn’t have been able to continue at school, and what kind of job can you get if you haven’t got an education? No girl should be put through that! I can imagine getting married when I’m about 28. But fi rst I’m going to fi nish school and start working to help girls. Just like Betty!” 



Esther was eleven years old when the elders in the church she belonged to forced her to marry an old man. “They stole her future,” says Betty Makoni. “Forced marriage is a very serious violation of the rights of the child. It robs young girls of their dignity.”

Get married or get t When Jacqueline went to school that Friday, she thought it was going to be just another normal day. But after assembly in the morning, the headmaster came into the sixth grade classroom…


he headmaster began to call out names. Those whose names were called had to stand up. Jacqueline realised straight away it was the pupils who couldn’t afford to pay school fees whose names were being called out. She stared down at her desk, but the headmaster still saw her. “Jacqueline!” Jacqueline stood up cautiously. She felt stupid. The headmaster turned to the children, who stared at the floor, embarrassed.

“If you want a ticket to this classroom, you have to pay your school fees. Understand? Go home and get some money! Don’t ever try to set foot in this school again if you haven’t paid your school fees! Now go!” No-one can pay “I felt so small when she kicked us out. As though I wasn’t worth anything. I cried because I really loved school,” says Jacqueline.

Jacqueline’s family had always had problems paying school fees. But when she was in fifth grade her father died, and then it became impossible. “My relatives helped me for a while, but they don’t have much money either and they have to pay their own children’s fees. Mum’s new husband pays for my brothers and his own children.” When Jacqueline came home and said that she had been thrown out of school, her mother and grandma were sad. “I don’t have a job or any money, so I don’t know what to do. Maybe you should get married or start working as a maid so that you can survive,” said her mum. Jacqueline’s whole body seized up. Had she heard her mother right? “It hurt so much when Mum said I should get married or get a job. I almost couldn’t breathe. I was still a child after all! I wanted to go to school and have a good life!”

It’s Jacqueline’s job to fetch water.


No future “It was impossible to get to sleep that night. I just lay there crying, thinking about what Mum had said. Starting work as a maid sounded like the least bad option. Maybe I’d soon be able to earn enough money to start school again. But deep down I didn’t believe I’d ever be able to go to school again. My future had been destroyed.” The next morning, Jacqueline felt so sick that she couldn’t do anything. The days passed. After two weeks, a woman trader came to the village. She said that she needed a maid for her house in town. “At fi rst I refused. But my grandma said it would only be until I had saved up enough to pay my school fees. In the end I agreed. I was afraid that my family would marry me off if I refused. I cried as I packed my skirt and blouse in my bag.” Dead tired “When we arrived I saw that the house was big and

grand. The woman said that I was to dust, mop and dry the floors. I had only ever swept earthen floors before and I told the woman that I was scared I wouldn’t manage it. Then she got angry and said that I should have thought of that before she bought my bus ticket. If I didn’t want to work for her, I’d have to repay the money for the ticket.” Jacqueline got up at five every morning and made breakfast for the woman’s children. Then she took the two youngest boys to nursery. When she got back she cleaned the whole house. “I fi nally fi nished cleaning at one o’clock and only then could I eat my breakfast porridge. Then I washed all the dishes. Later, when the family had eaten dinner, I washed up again.” Jacqueline bathed the children before they went to bed, and then dealt with the family’s dirty laundry. When she had fi nished washing and hanging the clothes, she ironed the laun-

Jacqueline prepares the dinner with her brothers and cousins.

Jacqueline likes sweeping up at home, but it was terrible working for the woman in the city.

Jacqueline, 14 Lives: In the village of Gamba. Loves: Going to school. Hates: When boys take advantage of girls. Worst thing that’s happened: When I had to quit school and start working. Best thing that’s happened: When the GCN saved me and brought me back to school. Looks up to: Betty Makoni, of course! Wants to be: Like Betty and help girls who have a hard life. Dream: To study at university.



t to work!

dry from the day before. Jacqueline was exhausted, but before she went to sleep on the floor of her little boxroom she had to wipe all the shelves in the kitchen cupboards. “I never went to bed before eleven o’clock, and often it was one o’clock before I got to bed. Although I was dead tired I couldn’t sleep. My head was full of sad thoughts. I often thought about how I made breakfast for the woman’s daughter, who was the same

age as me. It seemed so unfair. After all, I should have been going to school too, just like her.” Abused One afternoon, after Jacqueline had been working there for a month, the boys came home from nursery. They wanted Jacqueline to carry them on her back. “But I was in the middle of mopping the floor, and I couldn’t carry them at the same time. Then they started to hit me with a stick.

When I took the stick away from them, they started to cry. Then the older girl told the woman that I had hit the children. The woman was furious and started to beat me with a broom until my nose began to bleed. Then I ran away.” Soon Jacqueline bumped into some of the leaders of the Girl Child Network girls’ club at her school. “What were the chances of that happening? They said that they were out looking for me. Everyone in the

When Jacqueline worked in the house in the city she couldn’t sleep even though she was exhausted. She longed to come home to her family.


club had become worried when they hadn’t seen me for a while. Now they had come to take me home. They told me that GCN had already paid my school fees, and that all I needed to do was to come back to school. I was delighted!” A good life “Before going home to my village, we went to the police station together and reported the woman for abuse. She had to pay me compensation. The police

also asked if the woman had paid me for my work, but of course she hadn’t. So they made her pay my salary too.” The very next day, Jacqueline started school again. “I had dreamt of coming back for so long. Now I think I’m going to have a good life. When I grow up I want to fight for girls to be able to go to school, so that they can have a good future. Children should go to school, not work!” 

My favourite possession “My favourite possession is my maths book. The first lesson I went to after the Girl Child Network had saved me and brought me back to school was maths. That’s why I love reading this maths book! ”

7000 saved from child labour Every day Jacqueline has to clean the house and the yard, fetch water and cook food. What’s more, she goes to school and does her homework.

“Even though my life is hard, I have an opportunity that many girls in Zimbabwe can only dream of. I’ve been so lucky! Without Betty Makoni, I’d never have been

going to school now.” Betty thinks that roughly every fourth girl in Zimbabwe has to stop school because of poverty, just as Jacqueline did. “But at least we’ve been able to rescue 7000 girls from child labour, and helped them to start school again,” says Betty.

Jacqueline is delighted to be back in the classroom.

5000 girls get help “The GCN helps me pay my school fees, and I also get maize, beans and oil when the food from Grandma’s field runs out,” says Jacqueline. The Girl Child Network often visits the homes of

the girls from the girls’ clubs, to find out which of them need help the most. “Right now, 5000 poor girls are getting help from us to pay for their school fees and uniforms. But they also get food. It’s

impossible to learn things and develop if you’re hungry,” says Betty Makoni.


Jacqueline and the wild animals

Hippo in the veggie patch

The area where Jacqueline lives is called Hwange. There are both lions and elephants here. Once or twice, Jacqueline’s close calls with the wild animals could have ended badly…

“One day when I was watering the vegetable patch by the river we saw something coming towards us through the long grass. At first everyone thought it was a cow. But as it got closer, we noticed that it didn’t have any horns and that its hide looked different. We got scared and shouted for my uncle, who works on one of the game reserves here in Hwange. He saw that it was a hippopotamus, and said that we shouldn’t get close to it. Hippos can become dangerous if they get scared or irritated. He fired a shot into the air with his rifle to scare it away. But instead it charged towards us and my uncle had to shoot it. I don’t like wild animals. They’re dangerous. But I know that foreign tourists love to come here to see the animals. Most of all they want to see ‘The Big Five’.”

Baboon stole watermelon “During the summer season I work in my grandma’s field every Saturday. We grow pumpkins, watermelons and maize there. In the mountains around the field there are lots of baboons. They often come down and try to eat our crops. Once, when my aunt and I were sitting eating watermelon, a baboon came run-

ning towards us. It was screeching and swinging a large branch. We were terrified! Before we could get away, the baboon hit my aunt on the back and whacked me across the shins. I ran one way and my aunt ran the other way. From a distance, I saw how the baboon sat down quite calmly at the edge of the field and ate up my watermelon. Although that was five years ago, I always carry a stick with me so I can defend myself if I get attacked again!”


Wants a free school uniform “The Girl Child Network has promised that it’s my turn to get a uniform the next time there’s some money. That’s going to be great, because it’s hard not to have a uniform at school. Sometimes the others say: “Hey you, the one that can’t afford a

uniform, come here!” and I get embarrassed and feel so worthless. It’s a good thing that those who can afford uniforms buy their own. But those of us who can’t afford them should get free uniforms and shouldn’t have to pay fees!” says Jacqueline.

What does a uniform cost? Dress Top Shoes Socks

10,500 Z dollars 5,000 Z dollars 5,000 Z dollars 1,000 Z dollars

Pants Bag Total

2,700 Z dollars 1,000 Z dollars 25,200 Z dollars (100 US dollars)

What do school fees cost per year? Primary school: 3,600 Z dollars (15 US dollars) Secondary school: 24,000 Z dollars (100 US dollars)

The zeros disappeared In August 2006, three zeros were removed from the Zimbabwean dollar notes. Before that, a school dress cost 10.5 million Z dollars! 88

My waterfall! Jacqueline lives near Victoria Falls in western Zimbabwe. “It’s so incredibly beautiful! I feel free here! ” shouts Jacqueline as she looks out over the thundering waters. During the rainy season more than 500 million litres of water gush over the edge of the falls every minute! Victoria Falls is one of the largest waterfalls in the world. It is 1.7 km wide and 108 metres high. It’s double the height and width of Niagara Falls in North America.

The only waterfall that comes close in size is Iguazu Falls on the border of Brazil and Argentina. The Scottish explorer David Livingstone named the waterfall Victoria Falls in 1885, after Queen Victoria of Great Britain. But of course, the waterfall already had another name before he got there: Mosioa-Tunya. It means the smoke that thunders.

‘The Big Five’ Hunters have a special name for lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards and African buffalos: ‘The Big Five’. They don’t call these animals the Big Five because they are the biggest, but rather because they are the hardest to hunt. That’s why giraffes and hippos are not included. Hunters also believe that the finest hunting trophies come from the Big Five, like the ivory of elephant tusks. Many elephants have been killed by poachers who wanted to get their hands on the valuable ivory. The elephant was in grave danger of becoming extinct and in 1989 all trade in ivory was made illegal all over the world in order to save the elephant.



We don’t want to be

MONSTERS! “If girls in Zimbabwe are to have a good life, we boys need to change,” says Chakanetsa, who washes the dishes every evening and lets his little sister rest.



oys often think they can show how strong they are by treating girls badly. They become monsters who rape and beat girls. But there are lots of us boys who don’t want to be monsters! I lead an organisation called Padare here in Chitungwiza. We have boys’ clubs, just like the Girl Child Network has girls’ clubs, and we meet once a week and talk about children’s rights. We often talk about how boys and girls are seen so differently here in Zimbabwe. Boys are thought to be strong and girls weak. But that’s completely wrong! Women and girls are much stronger than

us. Girls are brought up to clean, fetch water, cook, wash up and do the laundry. They become like slaves. During that time, boys are allowed to play, rest and be served by the girls. Later, when the girls become mums, it’s almost always them who take care of the children alone. They make sure that the children get enough food, have clean clothes and get to go to school. The mothers wear themselves out because they love the children. That’s strength! But it’s also unjust.” Challenging the boys “I think that if girls in Zimbabwe are to have a

good life, we boys need to change. So that we understand that boys and girls have equal value, and that a real man dares to treat women well! At Padare, we believe that boys and girls are created equal, and that we should help each other. That’s why we challenge all our members, fathers and neighbours to help out more at home. We say, ‘let your sister, mum or wife rest today – wash up or cook dinner’! I wash the dishes every evening so that my little sister Precious, 14, can rest. She washes up in the afternoons – we share the household chores.” Cooperation with girls “The boys in Padare are friends with the girls in Girl Child Network. We meet up, boys and girls, once a month and talk about the situation for children in Zimbabwe, and about what we’d like to change. We often join the GCN on marches for girls’ rights. So even though we’re an organisation for boys, we fight together with the girls.

Betty – a star! “For me, Betty Makoni is a star! She’s a warrior who fights for girls’ rights. She has inspired me so much and made me think about how girls should be treated.”


Chakanetsa, 19 Lives: In Chitungwiza, outside Harare. Loves: Being with friends. Hates: When people don’t treat others as they’d like to be treated themselves. Worst thing that’s happened to me: When everyone forgot my birthday last year! Best thing that’s happened to me: Having a family that cares about me. Looks up to: Betty Makoni. She’s a star! Wants to be: A lawyer and fight for children’s rights. Dream: For boys and girls to have the same rights.

After all, when we fight for girls’ rights, we’re really fighting for human rights. Zimbabwe – and the whole world – will be a better place the day that boys and girls respect each other!”  The Girl Child Network works hard trying to change the way boys treat girls. They have special courses about girls’ rights for boys and men. The GCN also works together with Padare, an organisation for boys, so that young boys and girls can meet and learn to understand each other better. Betty and Girl Child Network hope that this will help bring more equality to Zimbabwe in the future.

Christian saved by

Girl Child Network … … even though he’s a boy!


hen I was 6, my dad died of AIDS, and mum died when I was 11. My twin brother Christopher and I tried to get by as best we could. But we were young and I started to become very ill. My health got worse and worse. Eventually I went to the hospital and I found out there that I also had HIV. It felt so terribly unfair. We knew that we needed help if I was to have any chance of surviving. But who could we ask?” “I knew about Betty and the Girl Child Network since we live here in Chitungwiza. Although I knew that they really only

helped girls, I decided to go and see them. If there was one person I believed could help me it was Betty.” Giving love “And I was right. The Girl Child Network took care of me straight away, even though I’m a boy! That night, I went home with blankets and food for my brother and me. Since then, GCN has helped me with everything. They pay for my school fees, uniforms, pens, books, soap and food. Now they’ve even promised to pay for my HIV medicine. But the most important thing is that they give us safety and love. Someone

from GCN comes to our home twice a week and checks that we’re okay. Betty and the other women have become like mothers for me. They comfort me when I’m worried and miss my own mum. They have saved my life!” Equal rights “As a boy, I’m extra grateful that I get help from the Girl Child Network, since it’s the girls’ own organisation. And girls really need the GCN, because life is tougher for them than for us boys. It’s also much harder for them to be able to go to school. I think that’s completely wrong! How can you stop a child from going to school? I think boys and girls have the same value and should be treated equally. That’s why the GCN is so important. They fight for girls in Zimbabwe to have a good life and the same opportunities as us boys.” 

Christian, 16

Lives: In Chitungwiza, outside Harare. Loves: Fighting for children with HIV. Hates: Adults who abuse children. Worst thing that’s happened to me: When I’m treated badly because I’m ill. Best thing that’s happened to me: When Betty started to help me. Looks up to: Betty Makoni! We are worth the same! Wants to be: A doctor. “I’m often ill, but my brother Dream: For all the HIV-positive is healthy. That makes me feel children in the world to have safe. When I’m not feeling well a good life. he helps me with everything. He cooks food and keeps me company. Although it’s difficult to do I have learned to live with the illness, and I talk about it openly. I do that so that all of us who have HIV/AIDS become more accepted. We are worth the same and have the same rights as everyone else!”


“It’s a miracle that I’m still alive. If Betty hadn’t helped me I’m sure I would have been dead today,” says Christian, 16.


L E J U RY P O U R L E P R I X D E S E N FA N T S D U M O N D E 2 0 0 7 E L J U R A D O D E L P R E M I O D E L O S N I Ñ O S D E L M U N D O 2 0 0 7 O J Ú R I D O P R Ê M I O C R I A N Ç A S D O M U N D O 2 0 0 7

the jury for the world’s children’s prize 2007


Idalmin Santana


Gabatshwane Gumede


Railander Pablo Freitas de Souza




The children of the jury that will decide who will be awarded the World’s Children’s Prize are experts on the Rights of the Child as a result of their own experiences. They have been child soldiers, slaves, streetchildren, refugees and fighters for children´s rights.


Thai Thi Nga







Thomas Opiyo UGANDA

Ofek Rafaeli ISRAEL

Isabel Mathe



AL OB N D Hassana L G IE Hameida Hafed FR



Mary Smart




Omar Bandak


Sukumaya Magar



AL OB N D Laury Cristina L E G I Hernandez Petano FR COLOMBIA


Maïmouna Diouf


They represent all the children of the world who have similar experiences.

the world’s children’s prize for the rights of the child 2007

English: The Globe no 44  

The WCP Magazine Globe no 44 in English

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you