On December 9th, First Lady of Maldives, Fazna Ahmed, highlighted that the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has played an important role in raising healthy, educated, and empowered young adults around the world, including in the Maldives.
She made the statement in a video message she presented at the "Reimagining Opportunities for Children in South Asia" event in Kathmandu, Nepal, as part of the agency's 75th anniversary celebrations.
The UNICEF Regional Office in South Asia hosted the high-level event, which featured video messages from governments around the region, with the First Lady giving her message as the Maldives' UNICEF Champion for the Rights of Children and Young People.
In the Maldives, UNICEF has been working for 43 years. The Maldives have come a long way since then, according to the First Lady. "Almost all of our youngsters are enrolled in primary school these days. In 2019, the mortality rate has dropped to 7.6 per 1,000 babies" she continued.
The First Lady emphasized the legislative work done so far; ratification of the Child Rights Act and the Juvenile Justice Act in 2019, as ‘significant milestones’ in the government's commitment to defending children's rights.
These rules, she added, required a safe platform for children to express and participate in choices that affect them, and prohibited the death sentence for minors, as well as child labor and marriage. She also mentioned that the Education Act of 2020 acknowledged the necessity of inclusive education.
While UNICEF's assistance was critical in getting the Maldives to where they are now, the First Lady emphasized that more has to be done. "Covid-19 is depriving millions of children around the world of their rights to health care and education," she said. "We must address these concerns immediately and comprehensively, ensuring that every child has proper healthcare, immunizations, and educational opportunities."
“It goes without saying too that it is our children and our grandchildren that will truly live the consequences of action or inaction,” she added. “We must ensure that their voices are heard and represented in our response to climate action and other issues that directly affect them.” The First Lady wrapped up her speech by congratulating UNICEF on its 75th anniversary.