Young girls to represent Samoa at U.N. conference on children's rights

Savai'i and Upolu will be represented at a United Nations forum in Indonesia next month at the first ever regional discussions to focus on the rights of children to clean and secure housing. 

Aniva Clarke from Tiapapata and Jane Tui from Utuloa, Asau have been invited to contribute to a global statement on the children's rights to a healthy environment under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (C.R.C). 

The girls will be attending the Global Initiative on Advancing Children’s Right to a Healthy Environment, which was launched in early 2019 by the international body's Office of Human Rights and the Environment.

The United Nations (U.N.) argues that, when climate change and pollution is considered, the welfare of children needs to be prioritised.

“Marginalised groups of children, including indigenous children, girls, and poor children, often bear a disproportionate burden of environmental impacts, implicating and often violating the principle of non-discrimination,” U.N. policy says. 

Miss Clarke and Miss Tui, who are in Year Nine and Year Eight respectively, have committed themselves to the fight against climate change.

During her time at Vaiala Beach School Miss Clarke started an environmental club called Eco Toa hoping to help the fight against climate change. 

Now in Year Nine she is working to take Eco Toa to other schools. 

Her mother, lawyer Fiona Ey, said she is happy to see young people invited to international discussions.

“I think it’s really important that when there are consultations on children’s rights that you actually have children and young people there to talk about their views on those matters, who are speaking for themselves and their peers,” she said. 

“Climate change is Aniva’s main passion, and plastic pollution and waste we are seeing washing up on our shores is of particular concern.

“We live on such beautiful islands and when we see them being devastated by human activity, by not properly dealing with waste it’s deeply concerning.” 

In Savai'i, Miss Tui has been undertaking environmental projects and participating in environmental activities in her school, Asau Primary School. This will be her first trip out of Samoa.

She has been involved in the Peace Corp Girls Leading Our World club for the last two years, which this year has been focusing on the impacts of climate change.

The members have been cleaning their villages of rubbish, planting trees and sharing education posters on the environment. 

Miss Tui and Miss Clarke were nominated to attend the consultation when Judge Vui Clarence Nelson, who is on the committee of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, asked for candidates.

Ms. Ey said having both islands represented will bring a better perspective of Samoan children’s views on their rights when it comes to their environment. 

A lot of work will be done before the pair reach the consultation in Indonesia. They will be interviewing their own peers and communities, as well as speaking with Samoan leaders to ensure they are taking a united message to the negotiating table.

They will take a video of their communities opinions to the consultation.

When they get to Bogor, a city in Java, Indonesia, they will met with other children and youth from Asia and the Pacific, and meet with experts on children’s rights and the environment.

It will also be a unique experience of the international development world and its machinery.

By the time it is over, the consultation should have written a set of recommendations towards building standards for children’s rights and the environment, and a set of regional actions or commitments that partners can take up.

They will also be developing region-specific laws, policies and practices for lawmakers to explore.

“The kind of environmental issues we are facing at the moment are unprecedented, particularly around climate change,” Ms. Ey said.

“It’s their futures that are being affected but the decision makers that are deciding responses or lack of responses are not accountable to those young people because they don’t vote, and they don’t have a voice.

“Having these opportunities for young people to be heard and be able to do it at a forum like a United Nations workshop where it can be taken from the global level to decision makers is a really important event."

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