Southern children voice hopes of independence
"Usually the voices of children are not being considered in this process," said UNICEF Southern Sudan Communication for Development Coordinator Ivan Amezquita.
"Our expectation is that these voices can reach all decision-makers so they can be listened to and considered and children become actors of their own development," Mr. Amezquita added.
The meeting was an initiative between UNICEF and the Government of Southern Sudan Ministry of Youths and Sports.
The first effort of its kind, it was aimed at capturing the aspirations of children and youth as Southern Sudan prepares for independence.
"My message to the parents is that they should take care of their children because they will help them in future," said 13-year-old Emmanuel Lou. "The children are not going to stay young like this, they are going to grow up and make something in the world."
The two-decade-long civil war left many children in the region displaced, orphaned, neglected and with limited access to security, food, healthcare and education. Despite these challenges, children believed the new nation would hold opportunities enabling them to thrive and achieve their goals.
"I want to be a pilot because I want to move around the world and I want to help those people who want to move from state to state," said Emmanuel. "Also, we want to show to the world that South Sudanese can do anything."
Sumeya Ismail, 14, said she would like to be president in future.
"I want to be in charge of this country so that I can build schools, hospitals, take care of street children and help the poor," Sumeya said. "I want the rubbish we are seeing in Juba here to end in future."