Thematic Program: Children's Rights

by Andrea Holley


For those who want to address human rights issues for children in their communities and globally, the following films are suggested:

Books Not Bars (2001, 21:44 min.)
Youth organize against incarceration of the young and advocate for educational resources.

Every Mother's Son (2003, 60 min., closed captioned)
The mothers of Anthony Baez, Amadou Diallo and Gideon Busch, all killed by the New York Police Department, organize to pursue justice.

Going to School (2001, 64 min., closed captioned)
Parents seek education rights for disabled children in Los Angeles: integration, special education and support services are explored.

Bombies (2001, 57 min., closed captioned)
Efforts to remove 90 million cluster bombs illegally dropped by the U.S. in Laos during the Vietnam War.

Promises (2001, 106 min., closed captioned)
Israeli and Palestinian children meet under occupation.

Children's Rights Discussion Program

Interconnecting webs of human rights issues are evident in the films in the collection dealing with children's rights. Children are especially vulnerable to certain kinds of human rights abuses and when these rights are not respected, others are quickly impacted.

Books Not Bars - A sign for the “Books Not Bars” campaign
Books Not Bars explores the link between the prison-industrial complex and the lack of funding for education in the United States. An inverse relationship exists between education and arrests, thus linking economic and civil rights. Most children who end up in jail have dropped out, do not regularly attend, or have been kicked out of school. A causal relationship between their lack of participation in the school system and their tendency to engage in "criminal activity" is evident.

The financial underpinnings of the situation are striking. By investing more in education in general and more in education in jails as a form of rehabilitation, the U.S. could reduce the level of incarceration and recidivism drastically. The question remains: in whose interest is it to stop funding prisons and start funding education?

Every Mother's Son - Doris Busch Boskey (L), Kadiatou Diallo and Iris Baez (R), featured in Every Mother's Son, by Tami Gold and Kelly Anderson
Every Mother's Son looks at human rights violations of a different, and albeit taller, order: the killing of young men of color by the people entrusted to protect us. Police brutality and the killing of young men of color by police are symptomatic of something beyond matters of funding: it stems from racial profiling and discrimination. Parents and families are joining together to fight back and pursue justice.

We are outraged when state violence or disappearances occur abroad. Yet when murders and violence by state forces occur in the U.S. every day we tend to view it differently. One fundamental reason that human rights law exists is to protect citizens from the abuse of state power. When a state kills its own citizens, it is our right and our duty to fight back and call upon international law to condemn those actions.

Going to School - Richard Martinez first included student to graduates seventh grade at his chool
The right to education, particularly for children with disabilities, is the subject of Going to School. Article 23 of the Convention for the Rights of Children (CRC) specifically addresses the rights of children with disabilities. It establishes that the accommodation of the special needs of children with disabilities is based on rights, not charity. If a society has the means to adapt to the needs of a child with a disability such that she or he can obtain a proper education, access health care and express her or himself independently, the state has an obligation to do so.

Bombies - Laotian boy with cluster bomb
In the film Bombies, we see how easily children can become disabled due to their vulnerable status with regard to arms. In situations of conflict, children are always at risk of bodily harm and years after a conflict ends they are still in danger. Many educational programs about the dangers of mines and other weaponry are tailored for children. As civilians, numerous provisions of international humanitarian law (IHL) protect them.

Promises - Yarko and Faraj. Photo: Meagan Shapiro

A specific set of provisions in IHL, from the Fourth Geneva Convention, pertains to occupation. In Promises, the Palestinian children we meet are members of a population under occupation. They are also refugees and assured certain rights as a result of their refugee status. What we find, however, is that their rights to education, health care, freedom of expression, freedom of movement and a multitude of other rights guaranteed in the CRC are compromised.



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