Circling the world with a worldwide candle lighting

Since 1997, the second Sunday in December has been the day of the Worldwide Candle Lighting – an event to commemorate the memory of all the children who have died in the past year. The event was initiated by The Compassionate Friends (TCF), a US-based organisation providing support to families and individuals who have lost a child. The candle lighting event was started as a small internet observance, but has since grown to an international initiative, said to be the largest mass candle lighting in the world.

This year marks the 15th candle lighting, and people around the world are encouraged to take part by lighting candles at 7pm, local time.

Lighting a candle to the memory of children who have passed away.(© All Rights Reserved)
Lighting a candle to the memory of children who have passed away.
(© All Rights Reserved)

Imagine all the lights in the world being turned off, and then each person across the globe lighting a candle at the moment the clock strikes 7pm in their location, keeping the candle lit for an hour until 8pm. If you were to see this from space, it should be like a giant flame moving across the world from east to west, as time marches on.

OK, it probably won’t quite look that way – for one thing, the progression of  lights won’t be smooth, but rather happen in discrete steps because time zones are defined in discrete steps (as folks in one time zone light their candles, those in the previous timezone would be extinguishing theirs). Clouds may also obscure parts of the view, but what the heck, it’s just a theoretical image anyway, so we may as well assume clear skies across the globe for this one night. Still, just imagine the world being lit up by a spreading wave of candlelight – it does sound grand, doesn’t it? And quite fitting as an act of remembrance for the millions of children who have lost their lives through the year – through war, famine, disease, accidents or whatever specific reason their lives were cut short.

So go ahead, light a candle, and be part of a virtual 24 hour memorial of light, circling the globe in memory of the children.

Teaching a generation to wash their hands

Each year on 15 October, people worldwide celebrate Global Handwashing Day. It sounds almost too simple to be true, but properly washing your hands with soap and water is the most affordable and effective way of preventing a range of health problems including diarrhea and respiratory infections – problems which currently are the cause of death of millions of children, particularly in the developing countries of the world.

This is one of those astonishingly simple and obvious things to promote – if we can foster a generation of youngsters for whom handwashing is an integral part of their lives, it could “save more lives than any single existing vaccine of medical intervention, cutting deaths from diarrhea by almost half and deaths from acute respiratory infections by one-quarter.”

Wash your hands with soap and water before eating and after going to the toilet – it couldn’t simpler.
(© All Rights Reserved)

2012 is the fifth anniversary of Global Handwashing Day. In celebrating this fact, the theme for this year is “Help More Children Reach Their 5th Birthday”.

The reason why Global Handwashing Day is focussed on children is simply the fact that they represent the segment of society that is most enthusiastic and most susceptible to new ideas. If the current generation of children can be convinced of the value of washing your hands before eating and after going to the toilet, the habit can be entrenched in future generations, which could result in literally millions of lives being saved.

So if you have kids, do your bit and teach them the value of regularly washing their hands. Even if you don’t have kids, you can help by sharing the idea with friends, promoting it at local schools, etc. It may not feel like it, but it could really be the simplest and most significant intervention you can contribute to in your lifetime.

World Day Against Child Labour

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the World Day Against Child Labour, sanctioned by the International Labour Organisation’s International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (ILO-IPEC).  Each year on 12 June, governments, organisations, companies and individuals the world over need to unite to highlight the plight of child labourers.

Child labour is a massive global problem – latest estimates show that about 215 million children (127 million boys and 88 million girls) are involved in child labour, with more than half involved in its worst forms.  These children do not have the opportunity to go to school, let alone the luxury of carefree play.  The are often undernourished and not properly cared for.  More than half work in hazardous environments and are exposed to inhuman experiences – slavery and forced labour, illicit activities including drug trafficking and prostitution, as well as involvement in armed conflict.

In a nutshell, these children are denied their chance to be children, to play, to discover, to learn, to be care free. Instead they are exposed to physical, psychological or moral suffering that can cause long term damage in their lives.

Not having the opportunity to gain an education and acquire marketable skills means they are never prepared to meaningfully contribute as adults, thus denying them the opportunity to lift themselves and their families out of the cycle of poverty.

The main responsibilities associated with childhood should be to play, to discover, to learn, to be care free.
(© All Rights Reserved)

Looking on the positive side – the situation is improving and it appears a future without child labour is at last within reach..

As part of a Roadmap towards the eradication of child labour, adopted at the 2010 Global Child Labour Conference, the ILO’s member states have set the target for eliminating the Worst Forms of Child Labour by 2016. Significant progress is being made worldwide in combating child labour. The latest global trends reinforce this message of hope – child labour is declining, with the worst forms declining at the fastest rate.

There is, however, no room for complacency and sustained global effort is needed to keep the momentum going towards the elimination of child labour.

Find out what is happening in your country, join a local or online initiative, and contribute your one hour against child labour.

To quote ILO Director-General Juan Somavia:

“There is no room for complacency when 215 million children are still labouring to survive and more than half of these are exposed to the worst forms of child labour, including slavery and involvement in armed conflict. We cannot allow the eradication of child labour to slip down the development agenda — all countries should be striving to achieve this target, individually and collectively”

International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression

Today is International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression – a stark reminder and acknowledgement of the pain suffered by children throughout the world who are the victims of physical, mental and emotional abuse.

(© All Rights Reserved)

This day also celebrates the millions of individuals and organisations around the world, working to protect, preserve and promote the rights of children.

The ”Say Yes for Children” campaign, endorsed by almost 100 million people (from Nelson Mandela and Bill Gates to everyday people across the globe), identifies 10 positive actions to be taken to improve the lives of children:

1. Leave No Child Out
All forms of discrimination and exclusion against children must end.

2. Put Children First 
It is the responsibility of everyone – governments, individuals, non-governmental organisations, religious groups, the private sector and children and adolescents themselves – to ensure that children’s rights are respected.

3. Care for Every Child 
Ensure all children the best possible start in life.

4. Fight HIV/AIDS 
Protect children and adolescents and their families.

5. Stop Harming and Exploiting Children 
Violence and abuse must be stopped now. And the sexual and economic exploitation of children must end.

6. Listen to Children 
Respect the rights of children and young people to express themselves and to participate in making the decisions that affect them.

7. Educate Every Child 
Every child – all girls and boys – must be allowed to learn.

8. Protect Children from War 
No child should experience the horrors of armed conflict.

9. Protect the Earth for Children 
Safeguard the environment at global, national and local levels.

10. Fight Poverty
Invest in Children Invest in services that benefit the poorest children and their families, such as basic health care and primary education. Make the well-being of children a priority objective of debt relief programmes, development assistance and government spending.

[Quoted from the Unicef Say Yes for Children website.]