“It is my right to raise my voice. Do not underestimate me.”

Saadah Hamood Ahmed Alhuamaidi is a 16 year-old teenage girl from Yemen. In a country at war since 2015, Saadah has been defending and demanding the rights of the children who are bearing the brunt of the human rights consequences.

A recent UN report estimates that a child dies due to the repercussions of war in Yemen every 11 minutes and 54 seconds.

Saadah herself is visually impaired. She is a member of the Hope Foundation, which focuses on the rehabilitation of visually impaired girls. She is also a member of the Yemeni Children's Parliament*, where she represents visually impaired children.

On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, we celebrate children like Saadah who are dedicating their spare time to fight for the rights of the people who will lead our future: children.

Saadah Hamood Ahmed Alhuamaidi, a visually impaired teenager from Yemen

How are you involved with the Children's Parliament?

As the representative of blind children, I raise awareness in my community about the challenges that blind people face. I also provide psychosocial support to blind children, as they suffer discrimination in the community. I want to support my group of children as much as I can to make them strong.

Why did you choose to join?

I have suffered a lot, so I wanted to raise my voice. As the saying goes, "what goes from deep in the heart can reach others' hearts." I always wondered if anyone would listen to me, or feel my suffering.

One of my dreams was to reach a valuable and unforgettable achievement in my life.

So when the opportunity came to join the Children's Parliament, I decided to do it, so I can raise the voices of children.

What are the main issues you are fighting for right now?

The main issue is education. If there is no education, there will be no health because of the limited awareness about hygiene. The second issue is health. If a child is not healthy, he will not be able to learn or develop. The third issue is protection. A child has the right to live in a peaceful and secure environment. If there is no protection for children, they are deprived of many rights.

My message to all parents is this: you have to encourage your child to go to school. You have to give your children the chance to learn. Education will encourage your children to overcome many of life's challenges.

The war in Yemen has caused immense tragedy. What do you do to make your daily life as 'normal' as possible?

I try to engage in activities that will benefit children and my country as a whole. For example, I like reading and I'm also a storywriter, so I can express my concerns and suffering in the stories that I'm writing – it helps alleviate my own suffering.

In regards to alleviating the suffering of children around me, I always try to be optimistic in everything. I stay positive and I try to spread positive thoughts to the children.

Are you able to go to school? Can you describe the conditions?

I can go to school, thanks to God. Most children in Yemen cannot. For the ones who can, there are many challenges.

Education has deteriorated. Educational staff is not attending school and most of the available educational staff is not qualified enough. Materials to help students learn are also not available.

Many children cannot go to school as their families cannot afford it due to the economic deterioration of the country. And with the war, many children are afraid to leave the house.

How can a generation be developed amidst this?

Why do you think it is important that children's voices are heard?

Children are suffering in this current situation, and they need to express their feelings. But when adults try to express children's suffering they might ignore many things. Or they might not consider some of the children's rights as important, even though they are a priority according to the child.

No-one can talk about the feelings and the exact suffering and pain of the other. As the saying goes, "no one can express how hot the fire is except the people who touch the fire."

Children deliver facts without any exaggerations. Also, one of the child's rights is participation. By raising their voice, children can defend their rights by themselves. And when the child becomes an adult, they can defend their rights.

If children are able to raise their voice, the result is that we raise a self-dependent generation.

What would you like to say to the adults who are making decisions about Yemen's future?

To have a productive future generation, the children of Yemen need all your efforts to advocate for our rights.

To my community, my government, please consider me as a child that needs your support. Please don't underestimate my capacities. I live in a community that is filled with pain. My school was damaged, my dreams have gone.

I'm sad about what's happening in my country. I don't actually enjoy my food and my sleep because I'm in fear. Is there anyone who will listen to my words and who will feel my pain?

Don't tell us that we do not understand life. We understand and recognise everything. Don't disappoint us. Allow us to help to develop our country to ensure a good future.

Stop the war, the war has damaged us, the war suspended our dreams, we are in pain.

Education is the base of our future, how can we grow without health and peace? It is our right to be protected and secured. It is our right to live a life without fear and worries. I have the right to participate. I have the right to non-discrimination.

It is my right to raise my voice. Do not underestimate me.

*The Children's Parliament sits every three months for five-day sessions – discussing topics such as the environment, health, human rights and education - and then issues its recommendations to the Yemeni government.

15 November 2019

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