Monday, October 08, 2007

The Burden of Children

Today is considered Children’s Day in Iran and some other countries. I really wish that all the children of Iran and the rest of the world could at least celebrate a day of pure happiness. It would have been so joyful to see that for once, even if it lasts only for one day, all the children of the world were to live beyond the disputes caused by adults, who are making this world an intolerable world for human beings. Till when do the children of the world have to pay for the hatred that has conquered many of adults’ minds, hearts and bodies? Till when do children have to pay for countries’ poor economic situations? Till when do they have to die with HIV and other diseases? Till when do they have to face bloodshed and brutality of this world before even they get to experience a handful of some of the smallest joys of this life?

I wish I did not have to be this pessimistic. I know that there are amazing individuals in this world— in Iran and elsewhere—who dedicate their precious lives to improving children’s lives. But, the truth is that millions of children remain helpless and neglected. It is just painful to sleep at night knowing that there is an overwhelming number of children in this world who do not even know how it is to have a home and to live in peace. Many children in the world have been forced to leave school, to become breadwinners, to fight in wars, to serve their land as soldiers and to serve as sex slaves. These are only a few snapshots of underprivileged children’s stories. They have too many stories to tell. Only if the busy adults of this world would pause for a second to listen to children’s stories…. Are we, as adults, even able to envision what it means to be a child whose childhood is taken away from her/him in an instant?

I was just reading a rather comprehensive report published by UNICEF called, “The State of The World’s Children 2007: Women and Children, The Double Divided of Gender Equality”*. This year, UNICEF’s report focuses on the intertwined nature of gender equality and children’s condition. The report states, “Gender equality will not only empower women to overcome poverty, but will also assist their children, families, communities and countries as well. When seen in this light, gender equality is not only morally right—it is pivotal to human progress” (p1). This report explains the nature of the three essential arenas that shape the lives of women. These three arenas that must be enhanced are: the household, the workplace and the political sphere. The trouble is that in many countries that do not respect women’s rights, children are also to face inequalities.

For example, a women’s empowerment in the structure of the household— domestically and financially— increases the likelihood of children attending school (especially girls) and of growing up as emotionally and physically healthier kids. In many developing countries girls are more likely than boys to miss out on a secondary education. According to the report published by UNICEF, only 35% of females and 40% of males get to have secondary education in Eastern and Southern Africa. In West Africa only 25% of females and 35% of males get to have secondary education. Although these percentages are much higher for the regions of the Middle East and North Africa, there is still much room for improvement. In the Middle East and North Africa, 65% of females and 70% of males get to have secondary education. These percentages do not indicate that these individuals necessarily get their secondary education at a proper age, which means that even less children benefit from receiving secondary school education.

The aforementioned data was only a small portion of children’s situation. It could get even more depressing, once you take a look at data that demonstrates children’s health situation and the rate of children’s deaths caused by HIV and other diseases.

Although I think the indescribable condition of many children in this world remains the human race’s shame, let us not get too disheartened by these realities. Let us remain optimistic and promise ourselves to try and make a difference, however small, in at least one child’s life during our lifetime. Let us not forget the children of this hectic planet. We are all responsible for these children! Happy Children’s Day!



Given the realities of today’s Iraq, I cannot help but think about those who are left behind with much despair and misery after each explosion. Seriously, how do they deal with all of this? Is their any peaceful routine left in their daily lives? Have painful injuries and death become habits in their lives? Do they still like God? Do they have time to even mourn their loved ones’ death? Are they worried now that winter is arriving again? How did they deal with the heat of the summer days? How do they feel when they wake up in the morning? Are there serious similarities between the realities of their lives and their worst nightmares? I want to think that the people of Iraq still remain hopeful, as hope seems to be their only calming belonging in this world.

A few days ago I found an anthology called, “ Iraqi Poetry Today”. This collection contains Iraqi modern poetry in translation and is edited by Saadi Simawe. I am going to share with you one of these poems here. The poems in this collection are mostly from years before the current war. Some of these poems are really touching and bear much of the story of Iraq that is very closely tied with war, a brutal reality with which the Iraqi people have coexist throughout the past few decades. The following poem is written during the Iran-Iraq War. Let us all pray for Iraqi people to at last wake up to peaceful days.

An Iraqi Evening

by Yousif al-Sa’igh

Clips from the battlefield

in an Iraqi evening:

a peaceable home

two boys

preparing their homework

a little girl

absentmindedly drawing on scrap paper

funny pictures.

-breaking news coming shortly.

The entire house becomes ears

ten Iraqi eyes glued to the screen in frightened silence.

Smells mingle:

the smell of war

and the smell of just baked bread.

The mother raises her eyes to a photo on the wall


-May God protect you

and she begins preparing supper


and in her mind

clips float past of the battlefield

carefully selected for hope.

Translated by Saadi A Simawe, Ralph Savarese and Chuck Miller

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