Press Release by UNICEF
“Diversity and inclusion!” is chanted by hundreds of children and young people as they step onto football fields across the country. To mark World Children’s Day on November 20 – UNICEF’s largest advocacy event of the year – children including fearless girls, children with disabilities and children who refuse to give up on their dreams will take part in a memorable football tournament, supported by football stars Amy Lasu and Awer Mabil.
Amy Lasu, South Sudan’s women’s National football team captain, shared a special video message for the children taking part in the football tournament.
“I am here today to send a shout-out to the kids in South Sudan. I believe kids play an important role in society and I think it’s important for them to feel valued and appreciated,” said Amy. “I am here to send a word of encouragement to the blind kids, to the kids who have never stepped onto the pitch, to the kids who have dreams of becoming great footballers in future but have never got the chance.”
Professional soccer player Awer Mabil was born to South Sudanese parents in a Kenyan refugee camp and represents Australia in the FIFA World Cup. Mr Mabil also shared a video message of encouragement for South Sudanese children.
“I want to wish you a wonderful day and have a lot of fun on this special day, World Children’s Day. Look after each other and enjoy,” said Awer.
Organised in partnership with the National Ministry of Gender, Child and Social and Welfare and the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Recreation and the Kulang Foundation, the football tournament includes special guests comprising high-level government officials, leaders in the private sector, and the South Sudanese Football Association. Football tournaments and matches are being held across the country in Juba, Bor, Bentiu, Malakal, Rumbek, Yambio and Wau.
UNICEF’s Representative, Hamida Lasseko, says that love of football is shared by people of all walks of life, ethnic groups, genders and ages across South Sudan, and adults have a responsibility to ensure that all children, including girls and those living with disabilities, are encouraged to engage in recreational activities.
“In South Sudan, children play football everywhere; from football fields in Juba, to remote villages, to IDP camps across the country,” says Ms Lasseko. “We must continue to advocate for all children to have the right to take part in activities and ensure they can raise their voices on issues that matter to them.”
World Children’s Day – celebrated annually on November 20th – aims to raise awareness for the millions of children that are denied their right to adequate health care, nutrition, education and protection, and to elevate and consider young people’s voices as critical to any discussions and decisions about their future.
In South Sudan, almost 9 million people have been affected by the climate crisis. Catastrophic flooding has resulted in 70% of children being unable to attend school, and compromised their right to play and take part in recreational activities. Over half of all girls in South Sudan are married before the age of 18, and as amplified by the climate crisis, conflict and poverty, this number continues to increase.
World Children’s Day commemorates the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1989. The CRC was ratified by the Government of South Sudan in 2015.