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Why do we commemorate World Children’s Day?

Diana Jenkins, November 19, 2021 4:30PM Kids News

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November 20 is World Children’s Day and the theme for 2021 is “A better future for every child”. Picture: UNICEF media_cameraNovember 20 is World Children’s Day and the theme for 2021 is “A better future for every child”. Picture: UNICEF


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After World War II ended in 1945, many of Europe’s children needed a great deal of help and support as part of the recovery effort. The United Nations (UN) created a new agency, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), which was tasked with getting food, shelter, water, clothing and healthcare to thousands of affected children. Many children lost their home, their school and members of their family – they needed urgent help.

In 1953, UNICEF became a permanent part of the UN. You may have heard of UNICEF at school or seen it on the news at home, because the agency now works in more than 190 countries and territories around the globe helping vulnerable* children.

World Children’s Day was first established in 1954 as Universal* Children’s Day and is celebrated on 20 November each year to promote international togetherness, awareness among children worldwide, and improving children’s welfare*. The theme of World Children’s Day 2021 is “A better future for every child”.

Soldier Feeds Child media_cameraConditions for thousands of European children during and after World War II were incredibly harsh. This Soviet child is pictured being fed by a Red Army soldier in 1942 at the height of the war. Picture: Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images


The annual date given to an international day often has special significance and World Children’s Day is no exception. November 20 was the date in 1959 when the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration* of the Rights of the Child. The declaration outlines ten principles to protect and promote the interests and welfare of children, including their right to love, education and priority care.

It is also the date in 1989 when the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Since 1990, World Children’s Day also marks the anniversary of the date that the UN General Assembly adopted* both the Declaration and the Convention on children’s rights.

media_cameraWorld Children’s Day is a reminder that every child deserves access to food, water, shelter and care. Picture: UNICEF


Despite the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, it remains the case that many children are denied a happy and healthy start to life. Some children don’t even have access to clean water or enough food to feed their growing bodies and brains, let alone a clean, comfortable bed to sleep in at night.

A special day for children is an easy, effective way to help us all reflect on how lucky we are and consider what we can do to help others.

International days like World Children’s Day educate everyday people on important issues, so that collectively humanity can try to address its global problems. They also celebrate achievement and the wonder of human existence – and the world’s children are definitely worth celebrating.

World Children’s Day also allows organisations and aid agencies to share the work they do to help children in need.

There are countless not-for-profit organisations doing incredible work on behalf of children in Australia and elsewhere, including UNICEF, Save the Children, World Vision Australia, the Smith Family, the Fred Hollows Foundation, Mission Australia, the Salvation Army, the Australian Red Cross and many more.

There are many reasons why these organisations need a day like World Children’s Day to help them raise awareness, including making sure that the people who need their help most know what they do and how to reach them.

Greater awareness of both the problem and the work being done to address it also encourages donations, which charitable organisations need to continue operating and to fund their programs.

media_cameraAccess to education is critical for ensuring “a better future for every child”. Picture: UNICEF


Currently there are millions of vulnerable children in the world – yes, millions. And the problems some of them face go far beyond accessing basic needs like water and shelter.

Access to vaccination has always been a priority because children are very vulnerable to disease. Many countries do not offer the Covid vaccine or any other lifesaving vaccine free of charge, so children’s aid charities have a vital role in providing vaccines for children.

When families are forced to flee their home because of war or violence, sometimes children are tragically separated from their parents in refugee* camps while attempting to escape the conflict. UNICEF recently reunited 6,000 children with their families in South Sudan, Africa.

Millions of children are denied an education. In some cases, teachers do not receive training and there are no school supplies or classrooms. Children’s aid agencies work to change these circumstances because education is a vital part of ensuring “a better future for every child”.

media_cameraVaccination has been a priority for protecting vulnerable children from disease long before the Covid-19 pandemic. This child is pictured smiles on her mother’s lap before receiving a vaccination in an outreach EPI Centre in Bangladesh in January 2021. Picture: UNICEF


Many children around the world make a positive difference with their passion, determination and amazing ideas. It is never too early to take action on the things you care about and any day is a good day to start. World Children’s Day just gives you the perfect moment to ask yourself what really matters to you and what you would like to change to ensure “a better future for every child”.

Wear blue! Blue is the official colour of UNICEF and World Children’s Day.

Try writing a letter or a social media post. Your parents, teachers and school community can probably help you express your thoughts and ideas on how to make the world better for children. Organisations like UNICEF also want to hear what children have to say.

Learning about your rights as a child is another way to make a difference, because once you know more you can use your voice to create change in your community. Did you know that children have special rights? Use World Children’s Day as motivation to find out what they are.

Investigating your rights is exciting and empowering*. Once you know your rights, you can discuss them with your loved ones and talk about what they mean. Human rights are things that everyone deserves and they include basic needs like food, shelter and water.

You can also use the day to plan for the future. Once you are 15 years old, you can apply to become a UNICEF Young Ambassador*. This important role includes speaking to politicians about issues affecting children and will help make life better and fairer not just for Australian children but children everywhere.

media_cameraChildren aged 15 and over can become UNICEF Young Ambassadors and play an important role speaking to Australian politicians about issues affecting children. Picture: UNICEF


  • vulnerable: in need of special care, support and protection from potential harm
  • universal: including all people, always the case, common to all
  • welfare: state of health, happiness and security of a person or people
  • declaration: a formal, official statement of commitment
  • adopted: legally accepted, confirmed, taken on
  • refugee: someone forced to leave their country due to war, persecution or natural disaster
  • empowering: gives more confidence, authority and control of oneself and one’s life
  • ambassador: representative, campaigner, envoy, advocate


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  1. When and why was UNICEF established?
  2. Why is World Children’s Day held on November 20 each year?
  3. How many principles are outlined in the Declaration of the Rights of the Child?
  4. Can you name three not-for-profit organisations working to help vulnerable children?
  5. What is the official colour of World Children’s Day?


1. Your vision of a better future
The theme of this year’s World Children’s Day is “A better future for every child”. Work in a pair or a small group to discuss what you think a better future looks like for children. Try to consider ALL children, not just those who are like you.

On a large sheet of paper divided into two sides, record your ideas of what a better future includes and does not include. (Use the headings “A better future includes …” and “A better future doesn’t include …” on your work.)

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Humanities and Social Sciences; Ethical Understanding

2. Extension
Choose one of the issues that children around the world currently face – hopefully you included it in your list of things that a better future does not include! Find out more about this issue and write a paragraph to explain the problem – the United Nations and UNICEF websites may be a good place to start your research.

Think of and explain one way that you believe more awareness could be brought to this issue or explain what individuals and communities can do to become part of the solution.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Humanities and Social Sciences; Ethical Understanding

Stretch your sentence
Choose a “who” in the news story and write it down. Add three adjectives to describe them better. Now add a verb to your list. What are they doing? Add an adverb about how they are doing the action.

Using all the words listed, create one descriptive sentence.

Extra Reading in explainers