On Thursday, 22 December 2015, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights (Al Mezan) in cooperation with the Ministry of Education (MoE), and United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) organized a ceremony to honor the winners of a children human rights art award for 2016. Paintings by children all over the Gaza Strip from UNRWA and government schools competed for the award.
The winners were honored with awards in a celebration attended by about 430 people. Among the attendants were Mr. Issam Younis, Al Mezan’s director; Mrs. Shirin Ash-Shobaki, training and mass communication unit coordinator at Al Mezan; Mohammed Siyam, General Director of Education Program at MoE; Mr. David Hutton, Deputy Director of Operations of UNRWA in Gaza; a group of head teachers and supervisors from UNRWA programs; human rights teachers; the contest winners and their parents; and representatives of civil based organizations.
Mrs. Ash-Shobaki opened the ceremony by welcoming the participants and the main speakers. She provided a summary of the contest, which was held for the eighth consecutive year, and thanked those who had contributed for their efforts. Mrs. Ash-Shobaki noted that more than 3,943 paintings were submitted by schoolchildren, which addressed human rights, including the right of children to protection from violence in armed conflict. She added that the number of winners this year was 36; three from each of Gaza schools' 12 grades. The prizes comprised a collection of scientific encyclopedias, short stories and honors certificates for every winner in addition to different cash prizes for each winner: $200, $150 and $100 for every first, second and third place winner, respectively.
Mr. Issam Younis thanked the participants, UNRWA, and MoE for their continuous cooperation. He then discussed the importance of this celebration for children to learn about human rights and express themselves, and to highlight the role of art in recording violations of human rights as well as positive trends. Mr. Younis stressed the importance of the message conveyed by the participating children whose artwork expresses the tragic reality of children’s lives under continuous Israeli violations and siege of the Gaza Strip. Some of the children could not access to appropriate education, medical treatment, and housing.
He also noted that the paintings reflected hope and unequivocal love to life portraying a message that says: it’s our right to live as the rest of the children of the world. He concluded by congratulating the winners and asserting that the promotion of human rights culture is a common goal of all the participating bodies.
Dr. Mohammed Siyam, General Director of Education Program at MoE, thanked Al Mezan for implementing activities such as this contest, which promote human rights among students and raise student awareness of human rights issues. He expressed his happiness to be part of the ceremony to honor the children. He emphasized that this joint activity is approved as part of the annual plan of the MoE.
Dr. Siyam noted that the failure of international community to uphold its obligations is posing a real danger and threatens in prolonging the suffering of children under escalating IOF violations. He hoped to see, in future competitions, paintings that reflect a different reality that respects human rights for children. In conclusion, he thanked educational and human rights organizations for their role in promoting human rights culture.
Mr. David Hutton, Deputy Director of Operations of UNRWA in Gaza, thanked Al Mezan for implementing these activities. He asserted that each painting by children conveys a message to the world. The children’s paintings reflect their dreams which are related to their rights that should be enjoyed by every human being.
Mr. David Hutton stressed that UNRWA is committed to teaching and promoting human rights inside its educational institutions. In conclusion, Mr. Hutton stated that he is honored to be in the Gaza Strip and be a part of activities that reflect the steadfastness of Palestinians in face of harsh reality, and hoped to contribute in easing the suffering of the children.
After the speech, Al-Annka group performed a dance from Palestinian folklore and the Shoumaan Brothers performed music.
During the ceremony, honors certificates and prizes were handed out to the 36 winners of the contest. 12 school students were awarded first place prizes, another 12 students were awarded second place prizes and 12 students received third place prizes. Another two students with disability for their participation in the contest.
Mrs. Ash-Shobaki announced the opening of a gallery displaying the 36 winning paintings from the contest and more than 60 other commended works. Mrs. Ash-Shobaki concluded the ceremony by congratulating the winners of the contest.