Children need protection and help to enable them to grow up happily and securely. This is the basic idea expressed in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which came into force on 20 November 1989.

The Convention is an agreement between nations which have approved the written rights for children and have signed and ratified them. Ratifying them means that the countries strive to comply with these rights.

Children’s rights are enshrined in Articles. Children who have to grow up without their parents, who suffer from hunger and who live in the midst of war, are particularly in need of special protection. Children are suffering in the bloody conflicts which currently characterise world events: war in Gaza, fighting in eastern Ukraine, atrocities committed by IS terrorists in Iraq and Syria. Not to mention the children who are tortured, maltreated and exploited around the world. They all need special help.

Children are not yet as strong as adults, they have less knowledge and cannot defend themselves well enough. Children’s rights are therefore meant for all children of the world. No child should be denied these rights. All children should have the opportunity to express themselves freely and to support the causes they want in this world.

In many countries in the world, children still live in inhumane conditions, they are exposed to wars and violence, they are forced to work or are not permitted to go to school. Basic children’s rights are being violated in the worst possible ways. Dedicated and brave people are needed everywhere to advocate children’s rights.

Malala Yousafzai has done this in a remarkable way and with an indescribable courage, and she will receive the Nobel Peace Prize in November. At the age of 17, she is the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize recipient.

Malala became famous the world over when she was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman. The terrorists wanted to silence her. In early 2009, at the age of 11, Malala began blogging on the BBC website, under the pseudonym Gul Makai, about acts of violence by the local Taliban in the Swat Valley in Pakistan.

Since 2004, this terrorist organisation has gained power in the Swat Valley and in 2007 it had started to destroy schools for girls and kill Pakistani opponents. They banned girls from attending school, from listening to music, from dancing and from entering public places unveiled.

On 9 October 2012, having disregarded a definitive ban by the Taliban from attending school together with some other girls, Taliban terrorists stopped their bus as they rode home and demanded to know which girl was Malala. A Taliban gunman shot at her at point-blank range. She suffered severe head and neck injuries. It was not until February 2013 that she was able to leave the hospital in Birmingham where she was treated. On 12 July 2013, her 16th birthday, she spoke at the United Nations Youth Assembly. This was her first public speech after the assassination attempt.

She delivered the petition for the right of all children to education with 4 million signatures to the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon.

The Nobel Committee has decided that through her heroic struggle, Malala has become a leading spokesperson for girls' rights to education. Malala is chiefly fighting for the implementation and application of Article 28 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is being violated in her country. Article 28: States Parties recognise the right of the child to education and […] they shall make primary education compulsory and available free to all; encourage the development of different forms of secondary education; make higher education accessible to all on the basis of capacity by every appropriate means.”

By her brave and determined effort, Malala inspires millions of children who fight namelessly worldwide for the right to education, the right to be heard and to be protected. “My message to children from all over the world is that they should raise their voices for their rights”, said Malala. “The Prize is an encouragement to continue”, said the 17 year-old. She dedicates the Prize to all children who are voiceless and whose voices need to be heard. Despite all the threats by extremists, Malala wants to return to Pakistan. She wants to become a politician along the lines of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was killed in 2007.

There are also children living in Luxembourg whose basic rights are being “silently” violated.

There are children who, on a daily basis, live in fear of being beaten for no reason or abused verbally by either one or both their parents. They experience violence. Others live in poverty and worry whether their parents will have enough money every month, for example to buy the required gym shoes for school. It can be uncertain whether there will be enough money at the end of the month for food and some children have to go to bed on an empty stomach. Some children’s parents are addicted to alcohol or drugs. Their children long for affection. Whilst still only children or adolescents, these youngsters often have to assume responsibility for their parents. They don’t want anyone to know what is going on in their family.

Other children and adolescents are being bullied. Whether on the school bus, in the playground or during breaks, they hear disparaging comments like “you’re uncool/ idiot/ porky/ scumbag”, racist insults are the order of the day; they get hit by paper planes or other objects and are laughed at by their peers. At home or during classes they are not left alone, but insulted publicly and on social networks. False allegations are spread, such as “she’s a loony”. Teachers often do not take the situation seriously enough. “Don’t listen to them.” is not sufficient. It also requires brave peers like Malala, who raise their voices and say “Stop!”.

Children and adolescents suffer because of their parents’ separation, particularly if they cannot see one parent, and this despite the fact that every child has the right to both parents.

In many institutions, the fact is forgotten that children not only have a right to leisure, to engage in play and to participate in cultural and artistic life, but also a right to rest (Article 31). Resting places are often lacking, breaks are often disregarded. Children are obliged to participate in organised activities and have no possibility to retreat.

Some children and adolescents come from war-afflicted areas and have experienced dreadful things, seen images which will probably accompany them for the rest of their lives. They have seen relatives die in wars. They have had to flee to strange countries and cultures, leaving behind friends and relatives, not knowing where they will end up or whether they may stay. Some refugees are received here in Luxembourg. The climate, the culture and the language are strange to them. They have to relearn everything. Often initially, they are merely officially "tolerated” here. Frequently it takes years before they finally know whether they can stay here.

We wish all children the courage to stand up for their rights both throughout the world and here in Luxembourg. This is having the courage to stand up, to trust and to look for assistance.

Whatever your problem, you will most certainly find help and assistance at the “Kanner-Jugendtelefon”, tel. 116 111. Futhermore, this telephone number: 116 111 works in every European country, enabling anyone in need to find a contact who can help them. Children and adolescents can also contact the Online Help (www.kjt.lu). Both services are anonymous and confidential, and calls are free.