While El Dia del Niño is certainly a time for playful celebration, many have forgotten the important reason behind National Children’s Day.

Costa Rica was one of the first countries to celebrate Children’s Day. Since 1946 when President Teodoro Picado Michalski approved the initiative set forth by the National Children’s Trust (PANI), the El Dia del Niño has been a day of festivities in schools every year on September 9th.

Eight years after Costa Rica began celebrating, the United Nations made a formal recommendation that all countries do the same. Governments were left to designate a date as each nation saw fit, but the goal was universal: Children’s Day was a time to observe and promote the welfare of the children of the world. From U.N.’s point of view, special emphasis would be given on the issues highlighted in the Declaration of the Rights of the Child (1959) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989). Within a year of the UN’s proposal, 40 countries had signed-on.

What are the Rights of a Child?

[quote_center]“Nearly 25 years ago, the world made a promise to children: that we would do everything in our power to protect and promote their rights to survive and thrive, to learn and grow, to make their voices heard and to reach their full potential.”[/quote_center]

The 1959 Declaration set forth 10 principles for children’s rights worldwide:

  • Freedom from discrimination.
  • Physical, mental, moral, spiritual and social development.
  • Entitlement to name and nationality.
  • Benefits of social security (nutrition, housing, recreation and medical services).
  • Special treatment for handicapped children.
  • Love and affection from the child’s family, unless determined impossible by society and public authorities.
  • Free and compulsory education that will promote the child’s general culture.
  • Protection and relief before adults in all fathomable circumstances (for example a national or natural disaster)
  • Protection from neglect, cruelty and exploitation.
  • Protection from practices that may foster racial, religious or any other form of discrimination.

 

Costa Rica signed and ratified this Declaration in 1990.

Later in 2000, Costa Rica joined delegates from around the world at the UN’s Millennium Summit. The event focused on globalization and figuring out how world powers could ensure it became “a positive force for all, acknowledging that at present both its benefits and costs are unequally shared.” In the end, delegates approved 8 Millennium Development Goals — 6 of which directly involved children.

Children’s Rights in Costa Rica

According to Humanium, a non-profit dedicated to stopping violations of children’s rights throughout the world, Costa Rica receives about a B (8.53 out of 10) for protecting and providing for its children. That puts it at the same tier as the United States and most of Europe.

The major issues that Costa Rica still must combat are:

  • poverty
  • health
  • education
  • child labor
  • violence against children (including sexual violence)
  • child trafficking
  • and just generally better treatment for children of minorities

In Costa Rica, 23.8% of the population is between 0-14 years old. That means, 1 out of 4 people are vulnerable to the above violations of their rights.

About PANI

In order to continue improving, Costa Rica has a semi-autonomous branch of government dedicated just to children’s rights. The National Children’s Trust, or Patronato Nacional de la Infancia (PANI), is an 85-year-old joint effort made by Costa Rica’s Ministry of Economy, Industry and Commerce (MEIC) and the Presidential Office to “ensure the conservation, development, development and defense of children and adolescents, from the moral, intellectual, physical and social spheres.”

PANI was responsible for Costa Rica’s Code of Children and Adolescents that was passed in 1998. Of which, Article 1 reads:

[quote_box_center]This code will be the minimum legal framework for the comprehensive protection of the rights of minors. It establishes the fundamental principles of social or community participation both administrative and judicial processes that involve the rights and obligations of this population.[/quote_box_center]

The Code calls upon public and private sectors to hold the best interests of minors in mind. Special consideration should be given to minors status as a subject of rights and responsibilities; their age, degree of maturity, capacity for discernment and other personal conditions; the socio-economic conditions in which they operate; among others listed.

Today PANI is divided into three branches.

  • Political: generates policies and strategies
  • Operational Technical: manages, implements and monitors plans, programs and projects
  • Decentralized Technical: works with other local offices to help provide “Care and Special Protection” for Children and to “Promote and Protect [Children’s] Rights”

Their website is a great resource for individuals interested in getting involved or researching the state of childhood in Costa Rica.

How to Celebrate

Children’s Day is an excellent time to talk to the kids and teens in your life about human rights and their role as a citizen both in Costa Rica and the world. Ask them what their life would be like if they didn’t have these rights protected. Ask them if they have ideas to help make the world better for kids elsewhere. Talk to them, because kids are full of thoughts and imagination!

There are many reasons to celebrate Children’s Day, especially in Costa Rica. So pile on the cake and ice cream! Oh, and a few toys never hurt.