Three speakers shared their experiences advocating for and protecting underprivileged children around the world at the Yale United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) second annual Conference on Children’s Rights on Saturday.
The conference covered a wide range of children’s issues, and sought to hone in on the abuse of children’s rights. This year’s conference drew a greater audience than last year’s, for which Yale UNICEF board members brought experts from various fields to Yale as part of a single event, organizers said.
UNICEF is a member group of the United Nations International Children’s Fund Campus Initiative, which aims to raise awareness about children’s issues such as poverty, development, safety, rights, health and education.
The first guest speaker, Stephanie Goins, spoke about ending the human trafficking of children. As the executive programs director of Love146, a nonprofit human rights organization that advocates for the end of child trafficking and exploitation, Goins’s work involves directing survivor care, prevention education and empowerment initiatives.
Goins was followed by Monzer Yazji, a Syrian doctor who works in refugee camps on the Syrian border. Yazji is also a founding member of the Union of Syrian Medical Relief Organizations, which delivers the largest amounts of medical assistance within Syria.
Focusing on the children he encountered within the refugee camps, Yazji called attention to the fact that though the children can be treated in a refugee camp’s clinic, after their treatment, they have no where else to go.
Melody Wang ’16, who attended Yazji’s talk, said the lecture allowed her to look beyond her life as a college student.
“A lot of times we’re focused on this [problem set] or I’m too stressed or too busy to notice the events that don’t touch our everyday lives,” Wang said. “This is a way to bring us into the conflict.”
Nell Meosky ’14, one of Yale UNICEF’s senior advisors, said one of her favorite parts of the conference was when Yazji thanked students in attendance for taking the time to think about children’s rights. Yazji said that it was important to open up this dialogue at an institution like Yale, which has the resources to make lasting change, a remark that Meosky said humbled her.
The third speaker, Ehsan Hoque, is the founder and executive director of Distressed Children and Infants International, a nonprofit organization seeking to provide basic needs, education and health care to underserved children worldwide.
Hoque spoke specifically about guaranteeing that underprivileged children have access to proper eyesight screenings, according to conference director Azzah Hyder ’16. Hoque himself was born with a rare eye condition that required seven surgeries before the age of two to prevent blindness.
Hyder said she was particularly inspired by the fact that Hoque had a personal connection to his work.
Meosky added that organizers chose a conference format because they were seeking a “high-energy type of event” that would create more of a dialogue than isolated events.
Last year’s conference hosted five speaker events, partly to fundraise for UNICEF’s “Tap Project,” a fresh water initiative.