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Celebrating the dawn and twilight of life

Children’s issues take centre-stage

Children are often described as the lifeblood of a nation. They hold the future of the world in their hands and should be guided and moulded to take over the reins in the future.

The importance the world has accorded to its children is amply demonstrated by the observance of a Universal Childrens’ Day. Although the United Nations-designated Universal Children’s Day is observed on November 20, countries have been given the freedom to choose a day to organise this most special event.

Accordingly, Sri Lanka has selected October 1 as its Children’s Day. This Wednesday would see many festivities, competitions and other events being organised throughout the country by government organisations, NGOs, schools, the private sector and many other parties.

Universal Children’s Day, which is one of the oldest days of this nature, is especially significant in the 21st Century due to the prominence accorded to children’s issues in the Millennium Development Goals.

In Sri Lanka, it is a day for people to unite for children. The island has made great strides where children are concerned, but many barriers continue to exist. Children face dire poverty, many have been killed and injured in the war, many are orphaned while child abuse is rampant.

The health sector has reported gains for children as well as the general public, but more needs to be done: Many children survive infancy unlike in the past, but grow up malnourished: Though more children attend school now than in the past, all don’t receive a quality education: Although there are laws to protect children, they continue to be abused at the hands of adults. These issues should take centre-stage not just on this day, but every day of the year. A Children’s Day was first celebrated in 1953 under the sponsorship of the International Union for the Child Welfare in Geneva.

The idea for a Universal Children’s Day was mooted by Sri V.K. Krishna Menon and was adopted in 1954 by the United Nations General Assembly which also suggested that all nations should observe the event as a day of worldwide fraternity and understanding between children and activities promoting the welfare of the world’s children. It was celebrated for the first time in the same year and was held in October until 1959.The UN celebrations were shifted to November 20 to commemorate the day in 1959 when the Declaration of the Rights of the Child was initiated, as well as the day in 1989 when the Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted. Most countries celebrate this day on November 20, but many have chosen other days.


Treasures new...

Children are the greatest wealth of any nation, but they are often the worst affected by the careless and sometimes inhuman acts of adults; the people they trust most and look up to.

Even though children who are at the dawn of life should be protected and given the freedom to enjoy their childhood to the fullest, more often than not they are robbed of it.

Many children end up physically abused, mentally battered and emotionally bashed by the very people they turn to for love and protection in their innocence. It’s time to change things for them.

Here are some meaningful poems, proverbs and quotations about children and childhood written by some famous people.

Rachel Carson - If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.

Pamela Glenconner -

Bitter are the tears of a child: Sweeten them

Deep are the thoughts of a child: Quiet them

Sharp is the grief of a child: Take it from him

Soft is the heart of a child: Do not harden it

Marian Wright Ederman - If we don’t stand up for children, then we don’t stand up for much.

Graham Greene - There is always one moment in childhood where the door opens and lets the future in.

Charles Dickens - Every baby born into the world is a finer one than the last.

UN Declaration - Mankind owes to the child, the best it has to give.

Hodding Carter - There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these are roots; the other, wings.

Margaret Mead - We must have.... a place where children can have a whole group of adults they can trust.

Dorothy L. Nolte - If a child lives with approval, he learns to live with himself.

Herbert Hoover - Children are our most valuable natural resource.

Walt Streightiff - There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million.

Rex Williams - A child is not born with values. Parents teach these values and teachers remodel the same.

John Milton - Childhood shows the man as morning shows the day.

Clark Moustakas - A child who feels respected feels that his interests and his feelings are understood.

African proverb - It takes a village to raise a child.


When Children’s Day is observed in other countries

Universal Children’s Day is celebrated on different days around the world. Here are the dates on which it’s celebrated in some parts of the universe....

Australia - Fourth Wednesday of October. This year it falls on October 22. It is part of a week long celebration.

Argentina - It is celebrated on the second Sunday of August.

Brazil - Celebrated on October 12.

Canada - “National Child’s Day” is held on November 20 each year.

Cuba - Children’s Day is celebrated on the third Sunday of July.

Hong Kong - Celebrations take place on April 4 each year.

India - November 14, which marks the birth anniversary of Independent India’s first Prime Minister, Pandith Jawaharlal Nehru, in recognition of his lifelong passion and work for children.

Israel - It is observed on April 9.

Japan - Children’s Day is observed on May 5 and two important symbols of the day are carps and irises.

Malaysia - Like in our own country, it is celebrated on October 1.

Mexico - On April 30.

New Zealand - It is celebrated on the first Sunday of March every year.

North Korea - This day is marked on June 1. Before 1945 it was celebrated on May 1.

South Korea - Celebrations take place on May 5.

Pakistan - It is observed on November 20.

People’s Republic of China - on June 1. It is formally known as the International Children’s Day.

Poland - The International Children’s Day was introduced in 1952 and coincides with the beginning of Summer.

Singapore - Officially celebrates it on October 1.

Slovakia - It is called International Children’s Day and is observed on June 1.

Sri Lanka - Universal Children’s Day on October 1.

Sweden - Marks this day on October 2.

Thailand - The second Saturday of January each year.

USA - Celebrations of a special Children’s Day in America dates from the 1860s or even earlier.

Currently numerous churches and denominations observe the second Sunday in June as Children’s Day. In October 2000 President Bill Clinton declared that it be held on November 16.

President George W. Bush proclaimed it as June 3 in 2001 and in subsequent years, a date in early June. In 2007 too, it was held on June 3.


Respect older people and their rights

Just as children are an important segment of our world, so are the elderly. October 1 honours not just the children who are at the dawn of their lives, but also the elderly who are at the evening of their lives.

The International Day of Older Persons is also commemorated on October 1. The special day, being held this year for the 18th time, recognises and honours the elders in our society for the services they have rendered to their families, communities and society.

The objective is for governments, non-governmental organisations and society to work together to give older persons their rightful place in society without having them marginalised.

This year’s official celebrations will be held at the United Nations Headquarters on October 2 under the theme ‘Rights of Older Persons’.

The event would be organised by the New York NGO Committee on Ageing, UN Department of Public Information and UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

Since this is the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the event would also look into the development and acceptance of the Convention of the Rights of Older Persons, which would incorporate the UN Principles of Older Persons and reflecting the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing.

Of course, you would be aware of the fact that the world’s ageing population is on the rise. According to the World Health Organization, there are over 600 million people who are 60 years and older.

This figure is expected to double by the year 2025, and would hit the two billion mark by 2050. The majority of them would be from the developing world.

In Sri Lanka, the situation is no different. Ten per cent of our local population is above 60 years of age and is expected to surpass 25 per cent by 2020. Estimates are that 50 per cent of the population will be over 50 by 2050.

Some consider the elders around them as unproductive, useless and a burden to society, but this is far from the truth. They make a vast contribution to all aspects of society - to their families, communities and their environment.

They do volunteer work, transmit experience and knowledge, help families with caring responsibilities and participate in the paid labour force. It is to recognise and honour these contributions that this special day was initiated.

The United Nations General Assembly designated October 1 as the International Day of Older Persons on December 14, 1990, following up on initiatives such as the Vienna International Plan of Action on Ageing, adopted by the 1982 World Assembly on Ageing and endorsed later that year by the General Assembly.


Treasures old...

Once, they too were at the dawn of life, cradled in the warmth of love; safe, secure and shielded. Then, it was their turn to take over this role and cradle their newborns, nurse them, guide them and watch them take their adult stand in the cycle of life.

Now, they are in the twilight of their lives; with only silver crowns and wrinkled faces and hands as the trophies they’ve won in their journey through the hard terrain of life. Some carry golden memories and hearts full of joy, while many cringe in pain and cry in despair and loneliness, abandoned by their own kith and kin.

To many, being old is not the problem, but being disowned and discarded is.... The physical pains that come with old-age pales before the heartaches caused by the lack of love from those they gave life to, or cared for.

Let’s look at what some famed people had to say about old-age, on this day dedicated for the aged the world over.

Michael de Montaigue - Old age puts more wrinkles in our minds than on our faces.

Victor Hugo - When grace is joined with wrinkles, it is adorable. There is an unspeakable charm in happy old age.

Martin Buxbaum - Some people, no matter how old they get, never lose their beauty - they merely move it from their faces into their hearts.

Joseph Joubert - The evening of life brings with it its own lamp.

Henri F. Amiel - To know how to grow old is the master work of wisdom and one of the most difficult chapters in the great art of living.

Mark Twain - We can’t reach old age by another man’s road.

Charles Dickens - Father Time is not always a hard parent, and though he tarries for none of his children, often lays his hand lightly upon those who have used him well; making them old men and women in exorably enough, but leaving their hearts and spirits young and in full vigour.

With such people, the grey head is but the improvement of the old fellow’s hand in giving them his blessing, and every wrinkle but a notch in the quiet calendar of a well-spent life.

Plato - The spiritual eyesight improves as the physical eyesight declines.

The Buddha (From old age) - The glorious chariots of the kings wear out; the body also comes to old age, but the virtue of good people never ages; thus the good teach each other.

Mark Twain - Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.

- Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been.

Douglas MacArthur - You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hope, as old as your despair.

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