Universal Children’s Day 2019

Written by Vivian Cheung, Legal Case Manager of PathFinders

Today is Universal Children’s Day, an important date signifying the world’s commitment to protect all children.

60 years ago, on 20 November 1959, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, which recognises, among other rights, children’s rights to education, play, a supportive environment and health care.

30 years ago, on 20 November 1989, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (the Convention) took effect as the first comprehensive document setting out the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of all children regardless of their ethnicity, gender, religion, language, abilities or any other status. It also sets out how adults and governments should act together to protect the rights of children. With 196 state parties, including Hong Kong who ratified it in 1994, the Convention is the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history.

At PathFinders, we believe these rights should be protected and respected, and that all children should have a fair start to life. Sadly, the majority of children born to Foreign Domestic Workers (FDWs) are often deprived of their basic human rights (including the right to timely birth registration, education and health, family life, and access to justice) because of their immigration status. Unless one of their parents is a permanent resident in Hong Kong, they are not be entitled to permanent residency. Some FDW mothers’ contract was terminated when they fell pregnant, and some of them subsequently overstayed and sought asylum due to a fear of returning to their home country with a child born out of wedlock. For the mothers who are still in their employment contract, their children can only remain for the duration of such contract (each lasts two years), and as their mothers are required to live with their employers who have no obligation to house the children, arrangements for their care become very challenging.

PathFinders has a passionate, non-judgmental, dedicated team to help these children and their FDW mothers in desperate need, to overcome financial constraints and language barrier, obtain birth certificates and proper documentation, access the courts and healthcare, and receive necessary vaccinations as well as education. We also educate and guide the FDW mothers from when they become pregnant of their maternity rights and options so as to empower them to make the best decision and choose the best path for their children.

Today is the day to celebrate the advancement the world has achieved for all children. However, it is also a day to remember there are still children in Hong Kong who might yet to have their rights realised, and we should do more to protect them.