The right to protection
The conflict in the east of Ukraine has been ongoing for over 6 years, affecting the life of civilian populations, including children, hindering their access to protection and safe and quality education.
13-years-old Ivan* (the name is changes for safety reasons) lives in Zolote-4 settlement close to the contact line. With time he developed resilience in unsafe environment around. The conflict does not prevent him from making the difference and changing the life of others for better.
“I vividly remember when I found out the conflict came into my life. It was on 22 of June, 2014, midday. We were harvesting apricots. I had to go to my grandmother and tell her to come to pick some apricots to make a compot (a sweet drink from fruit). I took my bicycle, and on my way, I met my friend, we were talking when shelling started. I got scared, came home and only then started crying. You know, I just finished the second year of school back then.
Now, how do I feel about the conflict? I am not scared any longer, however, when the shelling is close, here in the village already, something is happening inside of me, something I do not understand and cannot explain. In general, people here developed blunted feeling of fear. It is bad.
The conflict is ongoing. Before you could trace some patterns - shelling was mostly at night. Now you cannot predict anything, it could happen at night, in the morning, anytime. It could be quite and then a mortar explosion shakes the air. Teachers do not let children go home after lessons are over if there is shelling.”
“I try to distract myself. I like to be active. The school knows that if they need to rely on someone, it will be me. It was not always like that although. I used to have my bad times. However, gradually I was building my confidence with the help of my parents who believed in me, my teachers, and I cannot overestimate the support two Yuliias (representatives of Save the Children`s partner organization Avalist) provided to me. In November, 2019, I was invited to the All-Ukrainian National Council of Children and Youth Forum with the participation of high level officials, including the president of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyi. I was terrified of such a big audience. But with the support from Avalist and Save the Children, I made it. Mum was telling me that there was a guy responsible for the sound, around 30 years old, and he was crying when I was speaking. But I did not say anything special, I was just saying in my own words about my life, about my mum who lost her job after the conflict started, and about my father who despite of shelling, went to work every day, although the salary was not paid to him for around half a year, and about how good it was that the war started in summer, because we had vegetables in the garden. I was telling only what I experienced. When people say that it is wrong to put a child on a stage to speak about serious topics because we do not know anything about politics, I agree, I am not an expert in politics, I just live where I live, and I have the right to speak about it. I do not talk about politics, I always speak only about what I see and my experience.
Our children are super smart. They can move mountains but they have so many barriers in their heads to open up their potential. My recipe for building confidence would be to know your rights, no matter whether you are a child or an adult and be ready to step up for them. For some reasons the adults created all those useful documents, such as the Safe Schools Declaration. Thank you Save the Children for explaining me why it is important. I am certain that children`s voices can bring about global change and I am doing my best to empower others to help me create the better world for children.”
Now Ivan is an activist in his school, empowering other children. He is an active member of the School Safety Committee and cares a lot about the safety in his school. Schools Safety Committees were established by Save the Children together in collaboration with partner organizations Аvalist and Istok with funding from the #NorwegianMinistryofForeignAffairs and EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (#ECHO) along the contact line in the east of Ukraine. In the committees, children together with their parents and school teachers predominantly work on identification of risks and ways of mitigating them, to make their schools and communities safe in the situation of conflict.
The interview Save the Children: 07.02.2020