From the Frontline: Shirin Aumeeruddy-Cziffra
Shirin Aumeeruddy-Cziffra is the Ombudsperson for Children for the Republic of Mauritius. She trained as a lawyer, has been a member of Parliament, Ambassador, worked with NGOs and is currently serving her second mandate as children's commissioner. She is 60, lives in Rosehill with her husband and has two grown up children.
The Republic of Mauritius is composed of several islands in the Indian Ocean and is officially part of Africa. It has a population of 1.2 million of which 350,000 are children.
The issue in child rights I feel merits more attention is the ordinary, everyday corporal punishment in families, schools. Certainly in my country and many others, more awareness is needed to understand that this is probably the most common form of violence against children and the root cause of other forms of violence and maltreatment.
My biggest achievement in my career has been as an ombudsperson to put child rights high on the social and political agenda. Nowadays nobody would make a policy without considering children's rights, if they do, I will remind them. Recently, for instance,the Finance Minister has been very positive in his policies and at budget time, he has made children priority. He ha allocated funds to education tackling absolute poverty, violence against women and has even provided funds for NGOs. Much of this was the result of our advocacy.
The one piece of advice I would give child rights advocates would be to persevere, it's a long struggle. I would say never ending, as there are new challenges all the time.
One good thing about the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is that it is the only convention which is based on the idea that human beings needs love and care, and that this is something fundamental in the development of human beings. If the Convention was respected, the world would be a much happier place.
The worst thing? It's almost perfect isn't it?
I do think the Convention has really made a difference. We must remember that there was thirty years between the Declaration and the Convention, we cannot expect that once it's ratified it will immediately have effect everywhere, it is a long term process. But we can see that in every country there has been some progress.
One of the organisations I very much admire is UNICEF, but that is because we have been working together very well. This does not, of course, diminish the quality of work of everybody else. I am very much a UN person, I have always believed in the UN system, especially with regards to the human rights of women.
If I was not working in child rights, I would probably be working on women's rights, human rights in general in fact. I belong to many NGOs throughout Africa. Although now I think I have reached the end of my career, except that I am full of energy, probably even more now than before. Now that I have seen all the obstacles, I have not changed one ounce from my belief that human rights are fundamental.
When I was in politics in 1977 and a member of Parliament, my government passed amendments to an immigration and deportation act, removing the right of residence automatically of foreign husbands (not wives). Women had no right to live in Mauritius and marry a foreigner. I went before the human right committee and won. I used the OP of ICCPR, together with a group of 20 women.
The best thing about my job is being independent, being able to say things without hesitation my job gives me that officially. Nobody can tell me what to do what to say or what not to do.
The worse thing about my job is the amount of pressure, there is a lot of work, far too many violations. Every day, there are new cases, we do investigations, but we could do with more resources.
If I was not answering these questions... maybe I would be at the sea side.
My role in this Congress is to preside the dialogue of ombudspersons, our role here is to make sure that people understand that ombudspersons have the mandate locally of monitoring children's right and human rights generally.
My expectations for the Congress are that we will go further than just the usual engagement on paper. Commitments must go further than: 'we will do this, we will do that', in fact there should be a monitoring mechanism set up, otherwise it will be like many other conferences, with fantastic outcome document.
My perfect job in child rights would be a job working at international level.
If I had to sum up children’s rights in one word, it is the foundation of a better society, basically it's a better world.