Thank you for that warm introduction.
Ten years ago I had a vision, a dream to reach out to the world's most vulnerable children. To give them a real childhood. I had seen them during my travels, I had met them in the favelas, I had read the shocking statistics on the sexual abuse of millions of children around the world. So I knew that there was a need, an urgent need, but I had not yet formulated a plan on what could be done.
But together with those who became my co-founders, we were able to make my vision a reality and today I am proud to say that we together have built a solid structure working intensively to identify the most competent organizations with which to collaborate as well as the best practices to combat abuse and violence of children. And I also take pride in what Childhood has achieved in the past ten years. I know that we have made a difference for children around the world. Our efforts, projects and results will be explored during this symposium.
Our project partners are what we call “fire souls" – people who burn with passion and commitment – people who have a strong belief in how to help and how to change the lives of street children, of children in institutions and of young mothers and sexually abused children. In all these different areas we identified committed partners who are compassionate and who with Childhood's support and collaboration make a difference as they reach out to the most vulnerable children. Childhood is proud to provide that support.
We often see the problems, the children who suffer, or statistics on children who have been exploited. At Childhood we see this as well. But we also try to see the positive aspects – that we are able to help and that there, in the past ten years, have been positive changes in attitudes about children´s rights. Let me give you some examples:
The sexual abuse of children or trafficking of children are crimes that today are well defined and governments cooperate in identifying the perpetrators as well as supporting initiatives to prevent child abuse. Two days ago, on Monday, I attended an EU Anti Trafficking Day in Brussels hosted by the Swedish Minister of Justice Beatrice Ask. The main topics of the conference were to establish International Partnerships to prevent trafficking and to protect and assist victims of trafficking.
- The reporting of these crimes has increased in media and now we see people arrested and sentenced. Today we talk openly about these horrendous, hidden crimes against children.
- The Convention on the Rights of the Child is now high on the global agenda and there are few countries which have not ratified the convention.
However, we must continue talking, because raising the awareness of the rights of the child is the most important challenge we face. For the child to be seen, we adults need to see them, and we need to hear them. Let us therefore commemorate the upcoming anniversary of the Convention of the Rights of the Child on November 20 by ensuring that everyone we work with is aware of the Convention and its contents.
This can be done in many ways. In Childhood we have chosen to highlight some of the articles of the Convention through very tangible, hands-on projects. We want to be close to the children and through our work show concrete examples and best practices. Many of our projects are run by small organizations that through their passion and dedication create models and methods – but which need support in illustrating and possibly replicating.
Most of all, our work is about prevention. We need to ensure that the child is not at risk, that a child is not used as a product in the trafficking market and that the child always has access to trusted adults. In short we need to ensure that children have the right to a childhood in which they are allowed to grow in a natural way both physically and emotionally.
We must also recognize the critical role of the private sector in our work. It has only been possible to achieve my vision to launch Childhood because of the commitment of private companies and family foundations. Without their compassion, their ability to see the need and their willingness to help fund our work, my vision could not have become a reality. It is also the collaboration between the private sector and our “fire souls" – that has enabled Childhood to reach out to the most vulnerable children of our world.
It is my hope that this symposium will show you what a difference this collaboration has produced and that this will inspire you to continue and expand your support for our work. I am most grateful to all of you who have come here today.