My Wish For The Children Of The World

Photo courtesy of UNICEF/Singh.
Priyanka Chopra bonds with girls on a 2014 trip.
Priyanka Chopra is an actress and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. The views expressed here are her own.

Sometimes the dichotomy of the world we live in can be quite daunting.

Ironically, within this dichotomy, men and women have continued to witness great technological advancements, all with far-reaching and critically impactful results.

This is what makes the continuing exploitation of children across the world so scary. When, as a thinking race, we can invent solutions to so many problems, why are girls still being denied the right to go to school? Why do they have to watch as their brothers are allowed to get an education? Why are so many of our children still living without clean water, medical care, and protection? Why are their bodies and minds still unprotected from violence, abuse, and exploitation? Yes, as we can see, there is much work to do.

Besides sadness, there is a perplexity that envelops me when I think of these problems. Why have we not been able to find solutions? Why are children being deprived dignity and opportunities? Is it mainly because they live in poverty, or because they have a disability, or simply because they’re children?

But no, the sadness did not lead me to lose hope. That's because, as I sat in the United Nations building on the occasion of UNICEF’s 70th anniversary earlier this month, I was surrounded by a cross section of amazing human beings, all of whom are fearlessly fighting for a world that is fit for everyone. It was not just inspirational, but to be working with these individuals now, fighting for the causes along with them, was also very motivating. These selfless individuals, some who have been doing this kind of work for decades, are dedicating their voices, time, and hearts to help combat the atrocities, and sometimes, putting their own lives at risk to save others.
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My New Year's wish for every child is simple: Freedom

That evening at the United Nations took me back to the many children I have met on my numerous field trips with UNICEF across India. Irrespective of their circumstances, the children I met were determined to change their lives and take charge of their collective future. They all had a spark, a hope, a determination, which is now etched forever in my mind. I always recall it with a special fondness.

As each one of these amazing people in the room made a wish for every child, I was filled with a renewed sense of purpose. Through the many stories I heard that night, I could feel their commitment to making a tangible change in the world. It was an assurance to fight the atrocities, to ensure they were not going to be ignored.

Yes, we are living in extremely hard times. The world as we knew it as children has changed a lot. We live with horrifying images — sometimes of a 10-year-old girl dressed as a bride, marrying a man twice her age; sometimes of a child being hung for a crime committed against her; sometimes of a girl being held down while her genitals are mutilated. But now, no more tears and no more pain. Together, we are resolved to changing all our children’s lives for the better.
Photo: UNICEF/Markisz.
Newly appointed UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Priyanka Chopra speaks at the UNICEF 70th anniversary celebration.
Every image we see must ignite us to do more, to act with urgency, to campaign more, and find new ways to fight all of these injustices. Before these endless images of horror put us at risk of becoming a desensitised society, we must act. Before we completely lose the urgency to challenge the violations of children’s rights that we are seeing, we must act. We must recommit ourselves to fearlessly advocating for a world in which these images are no longer filling our news feeds, and children live free from oppression and abuse.

It is going to be a daily battle. But we will overcome.

The journey is neither going to be easy, nor short. It is going to be a daily battle. Clean water, medical care; protection from abuse, violence, and exploitation — the issues are many, but we will overcome. That is a promise.

I said this at the UNICEF’s 70th anniversary evening: “We must put all our efforts into creating a world where children's rights are not violated because of their gender, their race, their ethnic group; because they live in poverty or with a disability. And we must continue to build on the immense progress that the world has seen in recent decades as a result of those who have worked tirelessly in some of the toughest places on Earth to fight for a world where every child has a fair chance.”

Today, as a newly appointed UNICEF Global Goodwill Ambassador, I recommit myself to lending my voice to the children who have been silenced and ignored. This has gone on for far too long. It has to stop. In doing so, I urge everyone across the world to commit themselves to giving our children hope — because they are our only future.

My wish for every child is: freedom.
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