Small children should be seen but not heard…

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With Aicha

This is a saying that goes way back in history, I think it exists everywhere in the world. I heard it when I was a little girl and it was an efficient way of silencing kids when they tried to tell their opinion.
Kids don’t always know what is best for them, but do adults know that instead? Are adults always making the best decisions concerning children, their own or others? The decisions seem to depend on the relation we have to the children, and that is natural, but what about decisions that actually concern all children?
Unicef is short for United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund.
This is culled from their website:
“A little more than 25 years ago, the world made a promise to children; that we would do anything in our power to protect and promote their rights to survive and thrive, to learn and grow, to make their voices heard and to reach their full potential.”

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Have we managed to hold that promise, have we reached that goal? The answer is yes in some matters and no to a lot of others. The rate of child mortality has lowered in some parts of the world but in moments of bitterness you could wonder why this is something to celebrate when so many kids die in other parts of the world.

Of course we can’t compare the value of one life to another, every life counts, but it seems for me that the value depends on where you live. If you happen to live on the ”right” side of the border your life is valued higher, look at Saudi Arabia and their neighbour Yemen. Both Muslim countries, both supposed to share the same values we have been taught by the Holy Qur’an. So why are the lives of the children on the Saudi part of the border valued higher? Why are the Saudis bombing Yemen and starving the people there to death ? Do we have different scriptures depending on where we live, even if we call ourselves Muslims?
What is so great with the Holy Qur’an is that it has never changed, the message is still the same and the message is clear.

From a website called Muslimvillage.com:
“The value of life is captured in the following verse of the Glorious Qur’an: “…whoever kills a person not in retaliation for a person killed, nor (as a punishment) for spreading disorder on the earth, is as if he has killed the whole of humankind, and whoever saves the life of a person is as if he has saved the life of the whole of humankind… (5:32)
As Muslims, we value human life irrespective of geography, race and gender. We do not distinguish between the poor and the wealthy, women from men, the less able from the able-bodied, as a life is a life, hence sacred and precious. Therefore, a loss of life in any corner of the world is a cause of grief and sorrow for every true Muslim.”

A loss of life in every corner of the world is a cause of grief and sorrow for every true Muslim! Are the people in Yemen less human beings than others? Don’t the children there feel pain? Don’t the Yemenite parents cry when they have lost their children because of starvation? The Saudis and the Yemenis all pray to the same God. Is this the world we feel is okay for some people because they are not our people?

No one can help everyone, but everyone can help someone. Mother Teresa, who lived among the poorest people in India used to say that and she was right. Mother Teresa was a nun, she lived in Calcutta, India, and she was the founder of Missionaries of Charity. For 45 years she took care of the poor, the sick, the dying and the orphans. Her foundation grew over the years, it began in India and spread to 610 places in 123 countries. The foundation has nursing homes, soup kitchens, orphanages, schools, homes for people with HIV/AIDS, leprosy and TBC.

It began with one person, a poor nun who had to struggle to make the Roman Catholic Church to accept her work. From one poor woman to a worldwide foundation. ”No-one can help everyone, but everyone can help someone.”
Mother Teresa and the other nuns who joined her took care of those no one cared about. They didn’t back down for even the worst cases. All the nuns did their work quietly and tirelessly, they were not always popular among the people as well as at their own church. Mother Teresa had heard a voice within, when she still was young. This voice told her to spread the light of God even in to the darkest places. This voice was stronger than anything Mother Teresa would ever hear, she knew that God had spoken to her so that was the only voice she had to follow.

What a strong faith!
Do you remember the little girl I told you about before, the one I met outside a restaurant late in the evening? She looked so tired when she tried to sell me some bananas. When you see a child like that, what can you do? Ignoring the child, just because you are so used to see kids like that doesn’t help her. Getting angry, telling her to leave or even threaten to beat her doesn’t help her either. The way you can help her depends on your own situation but surely you can do something. If you are a person in a political position you can influence your colleagues so the society will become better on taking care of its children.
According to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, every child has the right to exist no matter religion, disabilities or where you are born.
The government must help your family to create an environment where you can grow and reach your potential.

Your family has the responsibility to help you learn to exercise your rights and to ensure that you are protected.
Ok, some thoughts about this so far: the convention actually says that every child has the right to be alive. Say these words quietly to yourself for a while and let them sink in to your mind. Every child has the right to be alive. When you look into the eyes of a newborn baby, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Do you feel that the world has been blessed with yet another gift, or do you feel that this child is going to become a burden so it’s better to kill it immediately ? I can see how you jumped when you read that, but sometimes we need to be shaken to realise the truth. With the shock comes the insight. If you read my article where I told about India and that they use a method called ”sex-abortion” you understand what I mean.
When the pregnant woman has the ultrasound X-ray to see the gender of the child she can choose to have an abortion if the foetus is a girl. This is one of the things I mean by saying that the child is going to become a burden so it’s better to kill it immediately.

Once I saw photos of a foetus, a miscarriage. It was born in the 18th week of the pregnancy. It was a little boy, you could see his small hands and feet, it was not just a lump of human flesh, it was a baby. In China there has been a policy, since 1979, that every family should have only one child. If they got more they got punished by the government. This policy came as a consequence of too many children born in China and the authorities were afraid that the society couldn’t take care of them all. During that time the Chinese people were part of a huge collective where decisions were made not by the individual but by the authorities. What happens with the extra child that might be born anyway? The ”best” solution is to have an abortion if the child is a … yes, you guessed correctly – a girl ! If the child is born it can be left somewhere for the nature to take care of it.

In the city of Nanjing in eastern China, the authorities built a shelter where parents can place their unwanted babies, instead of leaving them to die in a park or somewhere on the street.
The shelter is a small building with a baby-bed, an incubator and a thermometer. The building is air-conditioned. When a baby is placed there anonymously, an alarm goes off in the nearby Nanjing Welfare Home and staff from there go to take care of the baby. The shelters are called ”baby-boxes” by the public and they are a very humane alternative in a society that has a strict control over the population.

Poverty and a strict social control is the key to a lot of misery. Even if every child should be counted as a gift there are circumstances around the child and its parents that can make it impossible to see the child as a gift. My grandmother had eight children, the family was poor and there was no way for them to lift themselves up from poverty. My grandfather worked as a tailor and was poorly paid. As soon as the children began to be useful they had to begin working. First they worked at home on the small farm and after the age of 14 they had to find a job somewhere. This was common in the old days, and unfortunately it is still common in many parts of the world. Child labour is forbidden in most countries of the world, but the law is not followed. What about The Gambia?
The minimum age for employment in The Gambia is 16 years. Young people between the ages of 16 and 18 are only permitted to do light work.

Children from the age of 12 can work as apprentices. All employees are given employee labour cards that include their age. These cards must be registered with the labour commissioner who is authorised to enforce child labour laws. According to a research published by the US Department of State, inspections rarely occur. The Gambia is a very small country, it should be easy to enforce the laws. There seems to be nonchalance, and ”I don’t care” attitude to the problem. We care only about what is best for our own kids and don’t mind the others. This is not an attitude that goes hand-in-hand with our Muslim faith! We must care, otherwise we can’t call ourselves good Muslims.

”…..a loss of a life in any corner of the world is a cause of grief and sorrow for every true Muslim.”
A life can be lost, not only through death, but also by a lost hope for the future. Our society should work as a safety net around our children. They must feel protected and cared for – not neglected. Our children should be both seen and heard, they are wiser than we believe them to be.

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