Children behind bars speak up with rap music

© "Voices from the Inside", documentary film produced by DCI Italy 2019

On November 18th, amidst the celebrations of the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and DCI’s 40 years of fighting for children’s rights, DCI hosted the event “Voices from the Inside”, screening of a documentary film produced by DCI Italy, and debate on Children Deprived of Liberty at the Swiss Press Club in Geneva. Rap music was the medium chosen by children behind bars in Italian prisons in order to raise their voices and be heard by experts, activists and child human rights defenders. This timely event came the day before the first public presentation of the UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty, the result of 5 years of efforts of DCI, civil society and multiple stakeholders and contributors.

The distinguished panel of the event was composed of Dr. Najat Maalla M’jid (Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence Against Children, SRSG-VAC), Ms. Meskerem Geset Techane (Chair of the Working Group on Discrimination Against Women and Girls), Prof. Ann Skelton (Member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child), Mr. Pippo Costella (Director of DCI Italy); and Mr. Alex Kamarotos (Executive Director of DCI). They provided considerations, visions and evaluations on the thematic of children deprived of liberty, linked with the launch of the five-year project that has finally  been realised: the UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty.

© DCI-IS/ Panel of the event composed of: Mr Pippo Costella, Dr Najat Maalla M’jid, Mr Alex Kamarotos, Prof Ann Skelton et Ms Meskerem Geset Techane

The film produced by DCI Italy provided a platform for children to express themselves freely. In line with the Global Study’s themes, the documentary includes the views of children directly affected by deprivation of liberty, expressing  the effects of detention. Composing the song and writing down their stories,  they describe in an artistic way, the vicious circle they are in.

The panel opened with the intervention of Dr. Najat Maalla M’jid who emphasised the importance of the Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty as it succeeded in highlighting and taking into account all the different forms of deprivation of liberty”. Dr. Najat Maala M’jid underlined the  crucial role of her office in the follow-up and implementation of the Study’s recommendations: “As part of my mandate, I have the role of global advocacy, and it is important to really bring together all the key stakeholders at global, regional and national level, producing a complementary synergy to positively impact the situation of children worldwide”.

Ms. Meskerem Geset Techane outlined her contribution in the Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty, regarding the gender-related issues of the Study. Specifically, the Chair of the Working Group provided a substantial information on the different forms and contexts of deprivation of liberty among women and girls. As she stated, “our contribution to the Global Study focused on the gender-related causes that push women and girls into different forms of deprivation of liberty”.

Also Prof. Ann Skelton highlighted the importance of the Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty, as it crosscuts several articles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as providing a series of detailed recommendations. She emphasised the potential role of the Study, as a tool “to push states to provide more information on a range of issues regarding children deprived of liberty”. Prof. Skelton, making the link with her mandate as a member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, also spoke about the 3rd Optional Protocol of this Convention on individual complaints and the possibility to use this legal instrument in the context of deprivation of liberty and as a tool of accountability for children deprived often of many of their human rights, together with the deprivation of their liberty.

The second part of the event involved the screening of a documentary film Voices from the Inside, a documentary produced by DCI – Italy, showing children behind bars using rap music to express and expose their struggles as young individuals deprived of liberty in juvenile detention centres of Turin and Bari (Italy). The real purpose of the documentary, as Mr. Pippo Costella stated, was to create the right space and language to meet the kids detained, in order to really try to deeply understand what they need to tell the outside world”.