Children’s rights are incredibly important to the protection and proper care of every young person.
In Lesotho, the Basotho children have standard rights and responsibilities set in place by the government for their protection, health, and overall well-being. However, just because you have something doesn’t mean that you automatically know about it.
The rights of children are constantly violated all over the world. Awareness of what you have is one step closer to protecting yourself against those who want to take advantage of you. That’s why informing children of their basic rights is not only a duty under Lesotho law, but also a duty for those caring for children.
What Are Rights?
At BDS, our children and House Mothers were recently informed of their rights and responsibilities during one of our weekly meetings. We started the meeting by discussing the questions “what are rights?” and “do you know you have them?” Some of the older children responded by saying that it’s something you are allowed to have, but most answers consisted of the children stating that rights are…well, rights.
We moved on to review a list of their basic rights: the right to know their rights; the right to food, clothing, health, medical care, education, and shelter; the right to be treated equally; the right to protection from harmful cultural traditions, etc. They learned how their rights might be violated, and what to do if that ever happens. There were two points that really caught the attention of the children and the House Mothers: (1) the right to identity, and (2) the responsibility to serve the community. Our review of these two rights in particular turned our 20 minute training into an hour-long discussion.
The Right to Identity
This right includes a right to documentation, registration, nationality, and a name. I asked the children what an identity was. They started to say that an identity was “you”, and this led to the conclusion that an identity is a “someone”. I then posed the question that if you are not a “someone” then what are you? Our oldest boy answered, “a thing”. At that point, all of the children decided that they did not want to be a “thing” but rather a “someone”.
We discussed what it means to take ownership of who you are, and to have pride in your identity. I asked them about their nationality. In unison they answered, “We are Basotho!” They seemed to like the idea of having identification and knowing about who you are. We talked about the importance of having documents and the benefits you gain from having proof of identification. They were all thrilled to know that they have birth certificates.
The best moment during the discussion of this topic was when we were talking about how countries give the people born in them identity. This led to us talking about how God even gives us identity, and a name. They all agreed that this was true, and I was proud that they knew they have an identity in Christ. After much discussion and many questions answered, they were all ready to get their passport so they can cross borders!
The Responsibility to Serve the Community
While learning about the rights they have, the children also learned that with rights comes responsibility. When they were asked what the responsibility to serve the community means, all of the children were able to come up with an answer. At once, the little ones started yelling that this responsibility means to help others. It’s amazing that at such a young age they already have a heart to help others in their community.
I asked them how they could help other people. Their answers ranged from being a nice person and helping the elderly to obeying the laws of the Lesotho. The children understood how important it is to serve others, to help those in need, and how making poor decisions, like breaking the law, can negatively impact their community. The House Mothers began to teach the children the many different ways they could take ownership of this responsibility.
After the lesson we went around the room and everyone stated one right that they have. Each House Mother and child was able to recall a different right or responsibility. This is just one example of many conversations and lessons that must take place in order to have well-informed care givers and children. Not only does this type of information get children thinking about who they are and the rights they have, but it also teaches them that all people deserve rights and all people have responsibilities, no matter where you come from or what your situation is.
–Rebecca Lanham, Lesotho Program Director