Source | LinkedIn : By Priyanka Chopra
Aleppo child deaths, children starving in Yemen, refugee and migrant children from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan stranded in Greece and the Balkans. Many of these thousands are being housed in shelters that are ill-equipped for winter, even as temperatures fall below freezing. The facts and numbers both, are staggering to say the least. Not news that is easy to live with. And the accompanying images, those are even more difficult to digest.
So how does one react to these incidents after reading about them day-after-day? Feeling sad and horrified is a given, but these children are our global responsibility, our future. Not doing something is definitely not an option. Neither is getting cynical an option. “Once you choose hope, anything is possible,” said Christopher Reeves, the Superman forever. Hope is exactly what I was filled with when I recall my evening at UN, where we had all gathered to celebrate the 70th anniversary of UNICEF and where I was officially named an International Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF.
I have worked with UNICEF for over a decade now and 6 of those years in the official capacity of a Goodwill Ambassador for India. Now, UNICEF has made my responsibility global. I do not stand there alone. In fact, I join a very special group of fellow International Goodwill Ambassadors (IGA) like David Beckham, Serena Williams, Lionel Messi, Orlando Bloom, Jackie Chan, Angelique Kidjo, Shakira, Ishmael Beah, Femi Kuti, amongst many others.
Being part of this group of IGA is one of the reasons that fills me with hope. Equally important is the depth of experience that UNICEF brings with its 70 years of tireless working to improve the lives of children and their families across the world (190 countries today). Let me take this a step further… I see us like IGA Jedis, taking UNICEF’s cause further. We are and will always be their catalysts of change.
UNICEF says: ‘Defending children’s rights throughout their lives requires a global presence, aiming to produce results and understand their effects’. I echo the thought. Which is why being part of this global effort makes me very proud and grateful for the opportunity to make a difference.
At the 70th anniversary celebration, as I watched Orlando Bloom conduct an onstage discussion with child refugee Mustafa Al Said, who fled conflict in his native Syria to live in Germany and Ishmael Beah speak about his experience as a child soldier in Sierra Leone and now his work advocating against the recruitment of children into armed groups, there was that same surge of hope… that we can make a tangible difference, no matter what the circumstance.
When Juan Carlos, a 27-year-old lawyer from El Salvador, recalled how UNICEF helped him after he lost his limbs when he stepped on a buried landmine at the age of five, he echoed the same hope. He now advocates for the rights of children with disabilities, working to help break down the barriers and inequities they often face. The anniversary celebration powerfully demonstrated the impact of UNICEF’s work over seven decades to protect the rights of the world’s most vulnerable children.
Can we change the headlines of tomorrow? Maybe not in a day or a year or even a few years, because we know the battle is long and day-to-day but we must continue to work towards building a world where children’s rights are respected and protected. There is no option to that.