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UNICEF NZ marks Children’s Day 2016 with TEDx talk

UNICEF NZ marks Children’s Day 2016 with TEDx talk in Wellington

In a fitting tribute to mark Children’s Day 2016 (6 March), UNICEF New Zealand’s National Advocacy Manager, Deborah Morris-Travers, delivered a powerful presentation as part of TEDxWellington, held in the capital this weekend (5 March).

The speech centred on the idea of children’s citizenship and how more meaningful engagement with children and young people, will result in better outcomes for all of New Zealand. Today’s children are, after all, the future problem solvers, entrepreneurs, employees and parents of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Ms Morris-Travers set the scene for her speech by posing the following, “Imagine if we learned new ways to include children and ensure their voices were heard in our democracy. Our society would be vastly different if we upheld children's rights and enabled their citizenship so they were heard in our communities and Government.”

TEDxWellington is a well-recognised platform that helps shine a spotlight on issues across wide-ranging disciplines. This year’s line-up was no different with Ms Morris-Travers adding, “I was proud to take the stage this year on behalf of UNICEF NZ to talk about the work we've been doing in partnership with a wide range of people around the country to ensure New Zealand is a great place for ALL children to grow up.

“Issues related to child poverty, inequality and poor housing conditions have never been more prominent within public discourse and on political agendas. We know that these are issues Kiwis care deeply about and we also know the solutions that will help to solve these inequities. What’s been missing is the political will to turn all of this concern into action and to take meaningful steps towards ensuring no child in New Zealand goes without food or becomes ill as a result of their home or indeed that there home is a car.

“Right now, 148,000 children are missing out on the basics they need to be healthy: decent housing, nutritious food, blankets and warm clothing. That’s equivalent to filling Westpac stadium four times over; or it's the entire population of the Hutt Valley from Petone to Upper Hutt living in conditions that cause chronic illness.

“So how is it that we are first in the world to see the sun each day and yet we leave large numbers of our children in the dark and cold?

“I recently heard the story of a hungry child being given a sandwich at school. He was so grateful to receive it but instead of eating it he put it in his school bag. His teacher was surprised by this and gently asked him what he was doing. That small boy wanted to take the sandwich home to share with his mother, because it was her birthday and she was hungry too. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

“We’ve been sold a lie – that children living in poverty are there because they have bad parents. It’s time to bust that myth once and for all. The big growth in poverty during the 1990s wasn’t because parents suddenly forgot how to care for their children. Government policy has the single biggest impact on child poverty rates and data shows the vast majority of parents are firmly focused on their children’s wellbeing.”

At UNICEF NZ, we want to make sure children’s voices are being projected loud enough to be heard by those in power. Children have powerful insights into their experiences and solutions, as they see them, and we want to ensure these voices are a central focus.

In 2015 UNICEF New Zealand launched Make My Future Fair (www.fairfuture.nz) as a platform to maintain a sustained public focus on issues related to children’s rights and wellbeing.

Ms Morris-Travers added, “We saw very clearly the way child poverty and related issues took centre stage during the last general election. We intend to ensure this momentum is maintained and continues to build, holding the Government to account for the promises they have made to children across New Zealand.”

ENDS

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