The rights of refugee children
Reuniting many children with their families through his radio show
Tanzania, Nyarugusu refugee camp
When he was seven, Baruani fled the democratic Republic of Congo to escape the war and the violence of soldiers. He lost his mother and younger brother on the way. He eventually arrived at Nyarugusu refugee camp in Tanzania, where he lived most of his life.
Adults must listen to children
"The life of a child in a refugee camp is hard and difficult," explains Baruani. "There are shortages everywhere. But the worst thing is growing up without a future." At the age of nine, Baruani was amazed to learn about the existence of children's rights. "I was really surprised. The fact that children have rights and that adults have to listen to them. For the first time ever, I dared to speak out about my bad situation. That changed my life."
Inspired by what he had learned, Baruani became an active member of the camp's children's parliament: "By defending my rights I’m working on my future. And I tell all the children here that they must do the same. It’s the only way to get away from here. Empowermentis more important than food. Making your voice heard is a true necessity."
Baruani literally makes his voice heard, and those of other children too. He started a radio show, 'Sisi Kwa Sisi' (Children for Children), in which he and 20 child reporters address the problems, challenges and frustrations faced by children in refugee camps. Baruani listens to the children's stories, and tells them about their rights. He teaches them to speak from their hearts and not to be afraid. It is been a huge success.
Every Sunday, thousands of children and adults tune in, not just the camp, but far beyond. Thanks to appeals broadcast in the program, many children have been reunited with the families they had lost.
"If you don’t risk anything, you risk even more!"
"You have to learn that. That’s why I participate in programs like the Child Voice Out Program. We help children practice so that they feel able to speak in public. That’s good for their self-confidence and gives them hope. What’s more, education is the key to the future."
Supported by the KidsRights Care and Study fund, Baruani recently received his high school diploma. He is now in registered for university, where he wants to study journalism or social work.
KidsRights empowers Baruani to be a strong changemaker for displaced children. Every year, Baruani gives nearly 800 child refugees the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to stand up for themselves. They learn about their rights and about the importance of education and tolerance, they play sports, and discover their talents. But most of all, they learn that they matter; that they can change the world
KidsRights has given Baruani what he needs to make a difference through the International Children’s Peace Prize Project Fund, financing initiatives to improve the lives of children at Nyarugusu camp. A library and a computer center have been built, giving children the chance to study, read and find information online. Teachers and community members have been trained in areas such as counseling and HIV, to help children process horrific range of traumas they have faced, and still face.
Sports competitions are organized, under Baruani's guidance, for children inside and outside the camp, bringing the communities closer together and reducing stigma. Young refugees learn about their rights on Baruani's radio show and in the children's parliament, giving them the confidence to speak out. And through our funding for educational initiatives, school enrolment has gone up.
None of this would have happend without Baruani, a brave young boy who lost everything, and still devoted himself to helping others. We are proud to be a part of his story, and look forward to achieving even more with him in the years to come.
"Divided we will fail, united we can build. I believe in you."
Baruani is a founding member of The KidsRights Youngsters; a unique youth-led advocacy and awareness-raising platform for International Children’s Peace Prize winners, that aims to realize children’s rights as outlined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. As leading young changemakers, they act locally, speak out to world leaders, influence policy, and engage children and young people worldwide. What these inspiring youngsters have achieved on their own is amazing. But that is just the beginning. With our support, their ambition to change the world can be limitless.
In 2015, Baruani was invited from over 11.000 applicants to speak about the challenges faced by refugee children at the Global Forum on Youth, Peace and Security in Amman, Jordan. The resulting Amman Youth Declaration called on high-level desicion-makers to adopt a new international framework on Youth Peace and Security. And it worked: in the same year, Resolution 2250 was adopted - the first resolution ever to focus entirely on youth in the context of armed conflict.
KidsRights believes that children and young people should be meaningfully involved in international decision-making processes which affect them. As a member of The KidsRights Youngsters, Baruani was asked to contribute to the development of the Interntional Criminal Court's Policy on Children. This policy enables the Court to more effectively investigate and prosecute war crimes against children, a subject close to the hearts of many children in Nyarugusu camp.