18 Oct 2016 IMU Medical Student Advocates for Education at the United Nations General Assembly
An advocate of children’s rights, IMUMedical Student, Taha Fathima Khan, from India, founded Child Awareness Project to increase awareness about children’s rights. In January 2016, she was appointed as a Global Youth Ambassador at A World at School, part of Theirworld, which is headed by Sarah Brown. This movement was launched in 2014 by the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown.
As part of her role, she has written to donor governments at the World Humanitarian Summit in May 2016, to increase funding for emergency education. She was also selected to represent the #SafeSchools campaign during the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), in New York, in September 2016. She was selected as one of two A World at School Global Youth Ambassadors (GYA) worldwide (and the only one from India) to attend many meetings during the UNGA in New York and to support the cause of Education in Emergencies.
Taha relates to us how she got involved with this cause, which ultimately won her a Silver Medallion at the 2012 Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards and the International Diana Award – a lasting legacy to the late Princess of Wales to recognise inspirational young people – at the age of 16; and about her experience at the UN.
“Before this, my idea of doing good involved charity and random acts of kindness. I never planned for any of this to happen. It began very unexpectedly. I started Child Awareness Project (known as Search For Thamana, in the beginning) in May 2011, shortly after my 15th birthday, in the midst of my IGCSE exams. It was a Facebook Campaign to find 5-year-old Thamana who was kidnapped from a beach in Chennai, India. Initially, the police and media paid little attention to her case, but the power of social media pushed this story from the columns of tabloids to major daily headlines. Thamana, was located 8 days later as a result of the attention this campaign got. I realised that Thamana was one of many missing children but one of few who are found.”
“I felt that change was necessary and continued the initiative Instead of dissolving the page, I chose to use it to highlight other cases of missing kids. Eventually I began using it to address other issues such as child abuse, labour, bullying and everything else that impinges children’s rights. In 2016, I renamed and registered the initiative as the Child Awareness Project (CAP) to better serve its purpose. Currently, we are working to launch many offline activities, as well as some major online initiatives to empower and engage young people to stand up for Children’s Rights, while also continuing to campaign about the importance of these rights.”
“I realised at this juncture how good it felt to be able to help others and spread positivity. It’s important to try to bring about change for the better, even if it’s by a seemingly small action. No deed is insignificant. Even if you are able to help a single person, you have ultimately made a difference.”
“For my work with CAP, I received a Silver Medallion at the 2012 Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards (National School-level recognition for Voluntary Service). I was selected among the top 15 Distinguished Finalists among over 3000 volunteers across India. Shortly after, I went on to receive the International Diana Award. At school, I joined debate and Student Council and continued making CAP more efficacious. Apart from CAP, I began volunteering in various activities like teaching Basic English and Mathematics to children with special needs. Between A-levels, extra-curricular activities, and CAP, I developed good time management skills that helped me continue the same work-life balance while studying medicine.”
“Many people assume that medicine is too busy to do anything else that demands time and effort. You might tell yourself that it’s impossible, but that’s simply an excuse. It might seem like walking on a tightrope at first, but once you organise your schedule well-enough you can accommodate everything. Once you get the hang of it, it becomes effortless. At the end of the day, ensure that you enjoy every bit of it. You can’t spread happiness, if you aren’t happy.”
“When I started medicine at IMU, I, too, assumed that I wouldn’t have time to take part in additional voluntary activities. To my surprise (and delight), we were encouraged to take part in community-based activities. I engaged in various voluntary services such as teaching English to Burmese Refugee Children, volunteering in a health promotion camp in a village, leading a campaign to educate young girls about menstrual health and volunteering with Parkinson’s patients. I also received the Voluntary Service Certificate of Excellence (commendation) from IMU in 2015.”
“I was able to expand CAP a great deal during my time in IMU. CAP was also among the 10 stories in India shortlisted in Our Better World’s Good Story Pitch by Singapore International Foundation. I was conducting social media campaigns, and digital advocacy events, online collaborations and networking. During Semester 4, I decided that it was time to shift focus to offline activities. In fact, a possible collaboration between CAP and IMU Cares is currently underway to conduct field activities in Malaysia.”
“I had recently completed Semester 5, when I received an email stating that I had been selected, as one of two Global Youth Ambassadors, to represent the cause of Safe Schools at the UN General Assembly. We had a month to prepare. We were given reading material and had campaign tasks to complete in that duration. I was excited and nervous at the same time. My week there turned out better than I had imagined. It was expectedly hectic. I attended various events including the launch of the Education Commission Report, a summit on the Together for 2030 Agenda, research events and numerous high-level meetings. I also had the opportunity to meet and chat with various current and former world leaders, governmental and non-governmental officials, influencers and a Nobel Laureate. It was an unforgettable experience. I have also published a blog in Huffington Post about my experience at the UNGA in much detail. After I got back, as part of my advocacy for children’s rights, the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) published my blog, on the International Day of the Girl (October 11, 2016), highlighting gender-based discrimination and education inequality.
“We, at CAP, believe that engaging the youth is as important as empowering them, therefore apart from advocating for children’s rights, we also encourage young people to take a stand in their own communities. We have launched the #HEARD initiative that serves to do just that. Applications to sign up as a ChildPro and be #HEARD close on 1 November 2016.
Taha who is due to transfer to Dalhousie University in May 2017 for completion of her medical degree, plans to continue her voluntary work until May. She will also be studying and undertaking medical electives to prepare for the transfer.
“I still haven’t made up my mind about what I choose to specialise in, although, at this point, I am inclined towards surgery. I also plan to increase my advocacy via CAP. I hope to promote child health, something that I can do better once I graduate.”
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