Vol.1 The policy of our activities is “Children take center stage!” ~Ms. Machiko Kaida, Representative Director of NPO Japan International Center for the Rights of the Child (C-Rights)~

In 2022, C-Rights celebrated their 30th anniversary. I would like to share with you the thoughts of Ms. Machiko Kaida and the projects she is currently working on through this campaign.

It all started with a lecture she heard as a college student
The trigger for Ms. Kaida’s long-standing activities related to children’s rights was a lecture by Michiko Inukai when she was a student at Sophia University (1982). She heard a story of a refugee child who had been attacked by pirates and was deeply moved to do something to help refugee children around the world. She then established a UNICEF club at the university and later got a job at the Japan Committee for UNICEF. Ms. Kaida was also influenced by Susan George’s book “How the Other Half Dies.” She thought that it was important to first change awareness in developed countries, so she became involved in development education at the Japan Committee for UNICEF.

Ms.Kaida studied at a graduate school in the UK, and in 1989, just before completing her study abroad, she came across a book called “Broken Promise,” about the Convention on the Rights of the Child which she translated and published. After that, she stayed in Bhutan and India, where she learned much from NGOs working with street children, empowering them as “rights holders”. In 1996, she joined C-Rights, which had been founded in Osaka by her friends from university.

Japanese are buying sex with children in Cambodia!
In December 2001, the Second World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) was held in Yokohama, where Ms. Kaida met a Cambodian girl who had been sexually exploited. She felt outraged that Japanese people were taking advantage of children’s weakness by buying them for sex.

From 2004, Ms. Kaida lived in Cambodia for four years and participated in activities to eliminate child sexual exploitation. She began awareness-raising activities to prevent children from going abroad to work in dangerous places, in order to protect them from sexual perpetrators from developed countries. After that, she learned that there were many children who went to Vietnam to beg. From 2012 to May 2023, she focused on areas known as “begging village” working to prevent human trafficking and child labor.

Letting children know that they have the right to say NO.
When Ms. Kaida returned to Japan from Thailand in 2010, she was surprised to find that the idea of “teaching children their rights will make them selfish” is still deeply rooted in Japan. She is concerned about school rules that do not recognize individuality, young carers who have no one to talk to, children who suffer sexual assault and cry, and children who cannot say no to unpleasant things. She wanted to let children know about their rights and that they have the right to seek advice and say no.

Subsequently in the “Children’s Rights in the World Karuta” (Godo Shuppan, 2022), which she created with her university seminar students, she included messages such as “Please ask for advice” and “You have the right to say no.” She also expressed the right to not have others touch your private parts in the karuta as “Don’t touch me here, this is private.”

It seems that through playing the karuta, children realize that the issues close to them are related to rights. Children also create their own original karuta cards, honestly expressing the frustrations they feel towards adults in their own words. For example, one child wrote, “When you scold us with harsh words, it hurts us deep inside,” and “I’m against violence. Put yourself in the shoes of the victims.” Raising awareness through playing the karuta is currently the most important backbone of C-Rights’ activities.

In addition, Ms. Kaida has given numerous lectures to local governments, boards of education, and principals’ associations, appealing to them to make use of the “Basic Act on the Child” and listen to the voices of children. Let’s all create opportunities for children’s voices to be heard!  (Michiyo Namura)

C-Rights official website: http://www.c-rights.org/index_e.html
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/crightstokyo
“Children’s Rights in the World Karuta ” (Godo Shuppan)
“Children’s Rights for Living Your Life the Way You Are” (KADOKAWA)“30 Ways to Protect Children’s Rights Around the World” (Godo Shuppan)