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assetou madeleine auditore
The Children of the World
A Gift

All mothers and fathers have the right to love and care for their children, and would do well to love the children of others too! This was not possible for my mum and dad in Africa. And not because they did not love me and my brother, Kalif, but because they lived in a world which did not let them be healthy, did not let them live and stay with us. Indeed, they loved us so much that they entrusted us to our new parents so that we could live in safety, love each other and continue loving them. We children want a world where not one more mother has to cry because she cannot feed her children or protect them from people who want to exploit them, a world where children can laugh, sing, and play without suffering famine, violence, exploitation, solitude, war.

In the world today there are more than 600 million poor children, the children of the Third World. But poor children can be found in the rich people’s world too.

The children of the Third World are easily exploited and treated badly. They are often forced to work, to go to war, to leave their mothers. In some cases mothers are even forced to sell their children, to get money and maybe be able to provide food to their other children. Such a disaster occurs because of the poverty and exploitation of the people in countries such as Africa, South America, and Asia.

The United Nations was born in 1945 with the aim of ensuring peace, freedom, justice, and respect for human rights. In 1959, the United Nations approved a Declaration of the Rights of Children. Rules were written that had to be followed by the parents of the child and by all other adults. For example: the child has a right to food, to a home, to play and to health care. If in a situation of physical, mental, or social inferiority, the child must receive psychological treatment and education and all the special care required.

Even in developed countries like Italy, there are poor people and poor children who are already working by the age of ten, and sometimes younger. Italy is the country in Europe with the highest number of children who leave school to go to work.

Some poor children don’t get affection, attention, and understanding from their parents, either because they don’t have parents or because these children were sold, like the hero of a true story that I am about to tell you. This really happened. There was a twelve-year-old boy by the name of Iqbal who lived in India as a slave in a factory of carpets with many other children. He started working at four years old and stopped when he was ten. Iqbal met a union worker who denounced the exploitation of minors, of children in slavery. Iqbal and the union worker became great friends. Iqbal reported the system of exploitation of minors to the whole world. But because of this, our dear friend Iqbal did not live long. He died early, too early, he was assassinated.

Iqbal threatened the interests of the industrialists who were losing profits because of him. He was shot from a car while he was playing on a bike with his friends. It was on Easter Sunday in 1995. And that was the end of Iqbal’s life, the end of a hero who became a martyr.

In today’s world, which is the world of globalization, as my mummy says, children are becoming poorer and poorer and exploitation is growing. Even in Italy, and in Bari too, where I live, I see children in my neighbourhood who do not go to school, but spend their day on the streets. Some of them work and some of them just hang around. Isn’t there a law, at least in Italy, that says that children must learn to read and write? Aren’t there laws that protect children from criminals who also spend their time on the streets? Where is their space to play with other children, that is not on the streets?

If all of us help children and their parents, we wouldn’t have people begging. You and I, have we ever asked why children come up to wash our cars when we are on the road? And this is Italy, a rich and first world country, as adults say! Have you ever asked yourself why these children are forced into “jobs” of that kind or why they beg? I can answer all this because there is only one explanation: because some people have lots of money and they spend it only on themselves, for their clothes, for too much food, for cars like limousines or Ferraris. And why are all these things we don’t need on the market? I can answer this question too: so that the rich people can buy them, because they think these things are important, and not the children, people, who are in difficulty. The truth is that these things are not worth anything at all, because, as my friend Gen says, they have no value beyond market exchange value!

What can we do for the children? First of all, we must be aware of the problem, know that many children live in poverty, that they are exploited, that they don’t go to school, and that they live in danger. We must know the dangers and the violence that threaten them. Many poor children live like slaves, nobody loves them, they don’t have food, they don’t have a mother, not even a place to sleep. We have to talk about this with our schoolmates, in our families, in our cities, with all the children of the rich countries. We must report these injustices. Internet and the email can help us do that, too. When we recognize the problem, it means that we can make plans and do something to help our friends, close or far away, but always close to our hearts.

There is enough food for everyone on the earth, but children die of famine. Have you ever asked why? I know. Because there are a lot of selfish people who don’t think about the children, who don’t care if they are healthy or not, whether they have food or not, whether they go to school or not, whether they are happy or not, whether they can play instead of gathering garbage or living in the sewers. Many people think of money, of making money grow, only for themselves. Many people want power and think only of accumulating material things, of getting richer, and I bet they are not even very happy!

Children can help other children on the planet Earth, for example, by not buying products on the market that are made with child labour. These products are very many.

Luckily, there are some people who care for others and help people, including children, who know how to spend their money for others, showing the way to a better world.

All children want to be loved, protected, and welcomed into the world with joy. All children are a gift.

Bari, 31/5/2004

Translated from Italian by Amelia Rossi-Landi

Assetou Madeleine Auditore (or simply Madou) was born in Yaou, Ivory Coast on 14 December 1993 from parents who had migrated there from Burkina Faso. She now lives and studies in Bari, Italy, where she is currently doing her first year middle school. She takes piano, sax and singing lessons at the Conservatorium NiccolÚ Piccinni in Bari. She enjoys playing sports, dancing, and good food!

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