On Thursday, 12 December 2019, Al Mezan Center organized its tenth consecutive ceremony to honor the winners of the child human rights and international humanitarian law annual art award. The competition was organized in cooperation with the Ministry of Education (MoE), United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), and private schools, as school children of all ages and from all districts of the Gaza Strip competed for the awards.
Ms. Shirin Al Shobaki, Al Mezan’s Training and Mass Communication Coordinator, launched the event by welcoming attendees and thanking the MoE and UNRWA for their continued support of the art award. Ms. Al Shobaki provided a brief about the annual competition which was held for the tenth consecutive year, and noted that more than 4,400 paintings were submitted by school children on human rights related themes, especially the right of children to protection from violence and conflict. She added that the number of winners this year was 36 students, three from each of the 12 school grades. The prizes handed out to the winners this year comprised of a collection of art supplies and honors certificates in addition to cash awards —$200 for each winner, and $150 and $100 for the first and second runners-up, respectively. Ms. Al-Shobaki reflected on her decade-long experience of organizing the competition, which saw over 28,000 pieces of artwork submitted by children, and urged for these talents to be nurtured and encouraged.
Mr. Issam Younis, Al Mezan’s Director General, welcomed the audience and thanked the MoE and UNRWA for their continuous cooperation with the Center. He then noted the importance of this competition as it provides a platform for children to express themselves artistically to the world. The submitted artwork not only conveyed the tragic reality experienced by Gaza children but also reflected their hopes and dreams and love of life despite the reality they are experiencing. Mr. Younis briefly discussed the Palestinian political division and the current difficult circumstances in which the Palestinians have become far removed from achieving justice in light of the pain and suffering they regularly experience. He also noted that recent attempts to undermine UNRWA’s mandate comes in the context of establishing a new reality vis-à-vis the issue of Palestinian refugees. In conclusion, Mr. Younis congratulated the winners, asserting that the promotion of human rights culture is a common goal for all participating parties.
Dr. Ahmed Abu Nada spoke on behalf of the Ministry of Education and thanked Al Mezan for its continued implementation of this event, which contributes to the dissemination and promotion of the concepts of human rights and international humanitarian law among students. He also thanked the participating students, and expressed his hope that the drawings would soon reflect a different reality in which human rights are respected. Finally, he thanked educational and human rights institutions for their role in disseminating and promoting a culture of human rights and in opening new horizons of hope and excellence for Palestine students.
Deputy Director of UNRWA Operations, Ms. Joanna Nathan, presented the Agency’s speech, in which she thanked Al Mezan for organizing such an award and praised the immense participation of students. She called for more joint work between the Ministry of Education, UNRWA, and private schools. Ms. Nathan pointed out that the students’ drawings expressed fundamental human rights everyone should enjoy. She emphasized that UNRWA is keen to promote a culture of human rights, commended the efforts of teachers, and expressed her happiness to participate in such events that enhance children's participation and engagement.
The ceremony included performances by the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music and Al-Anqaa Band. After honoring the 36 winners of the competition and handing them their awards, the ceremony ended with the opening of Mawtini exhibition. The exhibition featured the best 70 paintings out of the 4,400 submitted through the competition. One thousand posters of paintings by two students, Fatima Mansour and Amal Al-Houbi, were distributed to the attendees.