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Youth voices heard at ASEAN Children Forum

Update: June, 21/2016 - 07:00
Seven-year-old Đinh Thanh Phong’s drawing that won the first prize in the ASEAN painting and writing contest. The work shows his wish for happiness and love for all ASEAN children. — VNS Photo Khánh Dương
Viet Nam News

HÀ NỘI Seven-year-old Đinh Thanh Phong felt more than excited - not only because he could make new friends from ASEAN countries, but also because he could deliver his wish for the ASEAN vision at the 4th ASEAN Children Forum (ACF) hosted by Việt Nam this year.

Phong came to the forum as the first-prize winner of the ASEAN painting and writing contest for ASEAN’s 2025 vision under the ACF framework, a chance for regional children to show their interests and dreams for ASEAN in the next nine years.

Phong’s art work features a mother stretching her arms to hold children. The big mother, as Phong called her, is the “ASEAN mother”. He wished that ASEAN would be like a mother who protects children in the region.

“In my countryside, there are a lot of disadvantaged children. I wish they would be surrounded by parents’ affection,” the grade-two student said.

Phong’s message was just one of a wide range of wishes offered by participating children at ACF, which started in Hà Nội yesterday and ends on Thursday.

During the four-day event, 40 children from nine ASEAN countries (except Brunei) have joined panel discussions about pressing children’s issues. This year, as the event host, Việt Nam has selected the theme “One ASEAN, One Vision For Children”.

The forum holds significant meaning, especially because the ASEAN Community was set up late last year with a commitment to prioritise social welfare and children’s rights.

Huỳnh Thanh Ninh, 16, one of five Vietnamese participants at the forum, was excited for his first time at an international event.

Hailing from a poor village in the central Quảng Nam Province, Ninh said that children in his hometown go to school in the morning then come home to help their parents with housework and business in the afternoon. Rarely do they have any chances to take part in social regional activities.

“Children in my hometown are very reserved in expressing their opinions,” he said. “I want to find ways to motivate them to voice their concerns and encourage their participation in local and international forums.”

That is also the purpose of the gathering, where children’s voices are raised and heard by governmental officials of ASEAN countries regarding their rights and expectations for a human-centred community where children share and enjoy common values.

Hoàng Ngô Vân Nhi, 15, from Hà Nội, treasured her participation in the event and said it is a great experience for her, a grade-nine student of Nguyễn Siêu Secondary School.

“I would share my concerns over climate change as well as potential risks that children might face in an online environment,” she said while discussing her chance to stand up and raise her voice on behalf of Vietnamese children.

She also hoped that students and officials would seek solutions to end school violence.

Violence is also a topic to be discussed during the four-day event, in addition to child trafficking, child protection online and the impact of climate change on children.

Delivering a remark to launch the event yesterday, Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs Đào Ngọc Dung said that the Party, the State and the Government as well as central and local agencies always pay special attention to child protection and education. Boosting children’s rights is a key focus along with national socio-economic targets.

The minister expected children to voice their concerns, participate in active discussions and contribute creative suggestions for a joint agreement among ASEAN Children to be submitted to ASEAN Ministers in charge of social welfare for consideration, he said. — VNS

Deputy Prime Minister Vũ Đức Đam (first from left) and Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs Đào Ngọc Dung (first from right) present prizes to winners of the ASEAN painting and writing contest at the ASEAN Children Forum in Hà Nội yesterday. — VNS Photo Khánh Dương

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