Posted by: Ana Monroy | January 10, 2011

Realising Girls’ Rights through a Fun Day

Nairobi, 7/8 December 2010, Elisa Calpona.                                                                                                                                                     As part of the 16 Days of Activism campaign, UNHCR and its partner GTZ organized a two day activity called “Fun Day for Children”. The event was held in East Leigh and Kawangwase, in two big, child friendly open spaces, within schools. Gender-based violence reflects a mentality of inequality between boys and girls. For example, boys feel allowed to hit a girl if she makes mistakes: “I do frequently hit my younger sister”, as a 18 years old Sudanese refugee boy stated. The goal of the Fun Day for Children was to address the culture of abuse and denial that affects girls worldwide and particularly in urban refugee settings.

More than 400 Somali and Ethiopian refugee children attended the first day of activities in East Leigh, while the second day was attended by around 200 refugee children from Congo, Rwanda and Burundi and Sudan. Children from 2 to 19 years old participated in educational games and activities. The youngest were entertained with facial paintings and bounding castles, while the oldest were engaged in thematic discussion groups to share testimonials of domestic violence; to define sexual exploitation and abuse in their daily lives; to identify scenarios where violence takes place; and finally to react to abuse and ask for help to caregivers or local authorities.

Boys and girls appeared to have very different perceptions of violence: while boys tended to justify their aggressive behaviour and often fell into stereotypes of masculinity, girls were often unaware that they were a victim of violence, due to their aptitude to feel inferior and guilty. Discussions revealed a deep need to create a protective environment for girls where boys take responsibility for girls’ safety and empowerment.

Through ice breakers, energizers, and clapping, around 600 children from different backgrounds united: they played together, singing words of peace, for a common goal: a world of harmony and respect for girls.

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