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Children Say "Yes" to UNICEF World-wide Campaign
China celebrated its year-long participation in “Say Yes for Children” campaign, co-sponsored by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the China Children’s Publishing House, with a gathering of some 100 people at the Beijing-based Great Hall of the People including UN officials, teachers, organizers and some of the people who have benefited most -- the children. Launched in April last year, the world-wide “Say Yes for Children” campaign will end in a Special Session for Children at the United Nations General Assembly May 8-10 in New York.

One of several children delegates who spoke Friday as a prelude to the May event was Yang Jing, a 12-year-old primary school student from Fuyang city, Anhui Province, who looked thin and frail -- with tears streaming down her face -- she addressed the group that included Mehr Khan, director of East Asia & Pacific Office of UNICEF and Kerstin Leitner, coordinator of System Development Movement of the United Nations:

“I wish the whole world would say YES to children -- and children should say YES for themselves.”

Among those in the audience listening to Yang Jing was the father of a Beijing primary school student whose school schedule prevented her from attending the occasion but who had donated her pocket money to help fund a new library for Yang Jing’s Zhangmiao Primary school of the Yindong District of Fuyang city in Anhui Province.

These two students -- one from a poor district in Anhui Province and one from a well-to-do community in the nation’s capital -- were among thousands of children who joined in the “Say Yes for Children” campaign with enormous enthusiasm and passion, according to Hai Fei, president and chief editor with China Children Publishing House. Hai Fei said about 68.8 percent of children in China not only joined the campaign but played a leading role in mobilizing fellow children as well as their families and even the whole society to render their support and commitment for children. They included people like Chen Luxi, a junior school student from the Second Middle School of Yang Zhou, Jiangsu Province, who visited many rural areas, families, communities, food markets, stores and city squares to get 1,100 citizens’ commitment and support. Every student from No. 1 primary school attached to Xuanhua Iron & Steel Corporation of Hebei Province prepared one handkerchief for signatures to collect 921 handkerchiefs to weave into a long scroll with 100,157 signatures on it, which they presented Friday to Mehr Khan.

“Dear children, you have done an excellent job,” Leitner said in acknowledging the efforts of all the children in the audience at the Great Hall of the People, as well as the efforts of people from all walks of life for helping to make the “Say Yes for Children” campaign a success in China.

“China’s population represents one-fifth of the world’s total, and so far, 20 million Chinese people have participated in our program, exactly one-fifth of the total number we collected from other countries of the whole world. So China has successfully fulfilled your task,” Leitner said.

The world-wide campaign included an effort to collect signatures from people, no matter children or adults, who want to show their support for offering a better world for children. Those who made the pledge signed a form that helped define priorities in regards to ten imperative actions [Leave no child out, put children first, care for every child, fight HIV/AIDS, stop harming and exploiting children, listen to children, educate every child, protect children from war, protect the earth for children, fight poverty: invest in children] by selecting the top three concerns for their country.

In China, the three issues that garnered the most votes were: Protect the earth for children, educate every child and listen to children. About 14.07 percent of people who participated in the campaign voted for “protect the earth for children,” earning this category the first rank. Representing this concern at Friday’s gathering was Yang Xiuhui, a student from Hangzhou Blind School, who said in his presentation: “Although I will never see this world with my own eyes, I still can hear the sandstorm’s roaring, and I can feel that our home is suffering from pollution day by day, so I voted for this item with all my best wishes for our earth.”

Closely following the environment issue came education which took about 13.80 percent of the votes. The third issue, listen to the children, was represented by Chen Bingqing, a primary student from Zhejiang who shared her frustrations at being confined to her room for endless study because of her parents’ worries about her getting into college. “I wish I could be as free as the birds flying in the sky,” said Chen. Another child wrote in a letter: ”We are already grown up. What we need is not only food, bread and comfortable life. What we need most is care and attention.”

Both Kahn and Leitner in their remarks also expressed appreciation that China also had given priority to the fight against AIDS. They said they hoped that China will make more contributions to this cause for which the whole world is working for a better solution.

“With such a splendid success in this campaign,” Kahn said, “I am sure that at the upcoming Special Session on Children at UN, the Chinese delegation led by Wu Yi [state councilor] will have every reason to feel proud of China's efforts.”

(China.org.cn by Staff Reporter Feng Shu, April 27, 2002)

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