Hear my Story, Know my Rights: Children honoured at the Children’s Rights Award – Special Edition 2019

What do children’s rights mean from a child’s perspective

© DCI-IS / Flyer of the Children's Rights Award - Special Anniversary Edition 2019

They do not know who Frida Kahlo, Salvador Dalí, Beyoncé or Quentin Tarantino are, yet they share talent. They come from fragile and conflict-affected settings, countries hit by natural disasters, austerity measures, violence and crises. The youngest was 12 years old and the oldest 17. Inspired by the right to express their views and to be heard, in a contest organised by Defence for Children International (DCI) honouring thousands of children that have been in contact with DCI since its foundation 40 years ago, some 400 children from all over the world took their brushes, palettes, cameras and microphones to create art and use it to speak through it on how they perceived their rights.

The contest was organised in 9 countries by respective DCI National Sections, the first national winners by category from each country were presented to the International Jury organised by the International Secretariat in Geneva.

With a Moroccan video on child-friendly justice and a painting illustrating female genital mutilation (FGM) in Mauritania, Saadia and Emah, the respective first-prize-winners for each category, came to Geneva to receive the Award and to participate to the festivities  for the celebrations of the 40th anniversary of DCI and the 30th of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

Emah, a 16-year-old girl comes from Mauritania, a country where 66% of girls have undergone female genital mutilation, while officially this harmful practice is banned by the government. “… I wanted to denounce this harmful practice through art“, said Emah.  In the fight against FGM, she represents a sometimes unpopular position. “Some people tried to stop me from painting, in my country they say that it is not very important. For me, it’s just a way of expressing myself. I hope that one day people will put an end to this practice (FGM) in Mauritania”.

“I am here on behalf of the group of children who created the video, all of them are my brothers and sisters”, said Saadia, a 12-year-old Moroccan girl, in gratitude for the collective work that made the animated video on child-friendly justice possible. “We took this opportunity to speak up for our rights: the right to participate, the right to be heard, the right not to be discriminated against, the right to education, etc”, declared Saadia almost breathlessly. The video simulated a child trial in Morocco addressing justice for children and arguing for the best interests of the child. Although Morocco has taken important steps with regards to child protection, “judges are not specialised enough to confront cases of children”, said from DCI Morocco- Association Bayti.

Saadia and Emah have travelled to Geneva in November 2019 to participate in the activities of the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child at the UN, and the 40th of DCI, as part of the 1st prize of the Children’s Rights Award. The contest Hear my Story, Know my Rights – Special Edition 2019 was organised by DCI to commemorate its 40 years of changing children’s lives. It provided a platform for children to express their opinions, views and hopes regarding their rights, encouraging their participation into two categories. Category A for any form of electronic creation and category B for crafts, including the creation of comics, posters, photos and drawings.

1st winner in category A                                   1st winner in category B

© DCI-IS/ Children’s Rights Award – Special Anniversary Edition 2019

© DCI-IS/ Children’s Rights Award – Special Anniversary Edition 2019

International Ceremony in Geneva 

On Friday, 15th November, at the Swiss Press Club in Geneva, in a room illuminated by children’s artworks for the first time exhibited in an international context, the International Ceremony of the Children’s Rights Award was held to announce the winners.

An International Jury composed by Ms Anne Grandjean, Human Rights Specialist (UNICEF), Mr Nigel Cantwell, Founder of DCI and Member of the DCI Advisory Committee, Ms Christine Cornwell, Member of the DCI Advisory Committee, Prof. Philip Jaffé, Member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, and Mr Alex Kamarotos, Executive Director of DCI-International Secretariat, was requested to select a first, second and third award-winner from each category.

Out of the 386 artistic submissions received at the national level, the international Jury had to evaluate 14 national winning artistic creations of high quality and symbolic value competing at international level. The artworks came from a wide range of countries spread over four continents where DCI is present: Costa Rica, Greece, Mauritania, Morocco, Sierra Leone, Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine, including also children from other nationalities, like Rahmat, a 16 year-old-boy from Afghanistan, refugee in Greece.

The Jury defined several criteria for the selection such as originality, creativity, artistic value, relevance to the themes included in the contest (DCI’s thematic priorities and/or cross-cutting issues: Justice for children, Violence against children, Children on the move, Children and armed conflict, gender, child participation and deprivation of liberty).The international Jury, by consensus, decided to select more than three international winners per category granting a Special Distinction for Category A and 2 special distinctions for Category B.

The winners of the Children’s Rights Award, “Hear my Story, Know my Rights” – Special Edition 2019 are:


Category A:

  • 1St Winner: Morocco (Africa), Saadia, 12-year-old girl (on behalf of the group of children of DCI-Marocco/ Bayti), with the animated video “For child-friendly justice”, shows a child trial addressing justice for children and the best interest of the child.
  • 2nd Winner: Palestine (MENA), Omar, 15-year-old boy, with the photo “My childhood in prison! It is my right to live free and safe”, illustrates Tel Rumedia’s checkpoint representing the danger and fear surrounding children’s lives in Palestine.
  • 3rd Winner: Yemen (Africa), Yasmeen, 16-year-old girl, with the shot film “Without Guilt”, in which a girl is accused of burglary and stigmatized by society after her release.
  • Special Distinction of the Jury: Iraq, Ahmad, 14-year-boy from Mossul, with his song “Dreams of a child forced to displace”.


Category B:

  • 1St Winner: Mauritania (Africa), Emah, 16-year-old girl, with the painting “Female Genital Mutilation”, expresses the violence of this traditional practice in Mauritania.
  • 2nd Winner: Yemen (MENA), Mohammad Majid, 14-year-old boy, with the drawing “No violence against children”, illustrates a symbolic handcuffed hand on how children are exposed to all kinds of violence.
  • 3rd Winner: Palestine (MENA), Ahed, 17-year-old girl, with the drawing “The child and Freedom!”, addresses gender and deprivation of liberty.
  • Special Distinction of the Jury: Afghanistan (DCI-Greece), Rahmat, 16-year-old boy, Anthology of poems dedicated to all refugee children around the world.
  • Special Distinction of the Jury: Iraq, Karar, 12-year-old boy, for his drawing on Child labour.

For all the videos of the Children’s Rights Award, please visit here our YouTube channel

The 14 artworks, along with other high quality and artistic value pieces were part of an exhibition at the Swiss Press Club, later transferred to the United Nations “Palais des Nations” for the celebrations of the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC30) and the 40th of DCI from 18 to 20 November. DCI hosted a stand with the exhibition of the Award along with  information about the children and the context around the message they conveyed through their artistic creations. Several visitors and DCI partners expressed interest in renewing  this the Award on a regular basis as well as  allowing the exhibition to travel.

DCI extends its gratitude to all girls, boys and adolescents involved in this competition, and acknowledges their leadership as young human rights defenders, as well as their dedication and remarkable artistic work. Their messages are so powerful and meaningful, inspiring hope for the future promotion of the rights of the child.  Thank you!

© Orbisswiss, Mr Edouard Musy / DCI Children's Rights Award - Special Anniversary Edition 2019, DCI President Mr Abdul Manaff Kemokai presenting Saadia with the 1st Prize in Category A
© DCI-IS/ Children's Rights Award - Special Anniversary Edition 2019. The UN SRSG on Violence against Children, Dr Najat Maalla M'jid, awarding the 1st Prize in both Categories A to Saadia (left) and B to Emah (right)