Zoleka Mandela leads World Urban Forum with #EveryLife call for action
Zoleka Mandela, Global Ambassador for the Child Health Initiative, made a powerful call to protect every child worldwide on the journey to school as she opened the World Urban Forum in Kuala Lumpur.
She led the opening session of the Forum which will take the next steps to implement the UN’s New Urban Agenda for city development over the next two decades. Issuing keynote speeches alongside Zoleka Mandela on 7 February were UN Habitat Executive Director Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Minister of Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Noh bin Omar, Huairou Commission Director Violet Shivutse and leading delegates from the Women’s, Children and Business Assemblies.
Speaking on the first day of the week-long Forum, Zoleka Mandela emphasised that the safe and healthy journey to school must be at the centre of the New Urban Agenda. “Today, as we speak at this forum, 3 000 children and young people will lose their lives or face serious injury on our roads across the globe,” she said. “How is this not a crime? As cities are developing, our children are being killed. I beg our policy makers to please, please wake up! You have the solutions, so why are you not taking action?”
“I call on you all to join the #EveryLife campaign – this is a campaign that focuses on a priority of the New Urban Agenda. This is an opportunity for us to take action today, an issue we can all solve without difficulty. We are calling for a safe and healthy journey to school for every single child worldwide. This campaign is for the future of our cities, for each and every child and for every life.”
As she told delegates in an emotional address, her own daughter, Zenani Mandela, was denied a future when she was killed on a Johannesburg road in 2010 shortly after her 13th birthday. She had been a teenager for barely two days. “My beautiful daughter would have been 21 years old this year. She had such great hopes and dreams for the future. No family should suffer as mine has done. I urge our leaders to take action,” she said.
During the 9th World Urban Forum (WUF) Zoleka Mandela joined the FIA Foundation and its Child Health Initiative (CHI) partners in the #EveryLife campaign to advance the policy agenda on safe and healthy journeys to school, an agenda which combines calls to action on road traffic injury, air pollution and child rights. Thousands of delegates from around the world including Mayors, leading policy makers, UN agencies, government delegations, NGOs and the private sector participated at the WUF.
The #EveryLife campaign places the voices of children at the front and centre of demands that the needs of every child are at the heart of urban policies and action. The most important journey a child makes – the daily journey to and from school – is often dangerous, especially for the urban poor. These risks can be addressed by using the tools, evidence and knowledge which are readily available. As the #EveryLife campaign emphasises, by not ensuring that solutions are in place to protect children around the world, their fundamental rights are being violated on a daily basis.
Zoleka Mandela continued to lead the #EveryLife call to action throughout the World Urban Forum, meeting hundreds of participants who signed the #EveryLife declaration in support of every child’s right to safe and healthy streets. The Child Health Initiative showcased its collaborative approach to advocating child rights globally by bringing together different organisations specialized in child health, air quality and road safety at a dedicated side event. Zoleka Mandela and FIA Foundation Executive Director Saul Billingsley were joined by the Mayor of Kochi Soumini Jain, India Director of Clean Air Asia Prarthana Borah and UNICEF Urban Planning Consultant Lusungu Kayani to share lessons and challenges faced in implementing the New Urban Agenda priority of safe and healthy journeys to school. The Mayor of Kochi joined Zoleka Mandela in a show of support for the #EveryLife campaign by signing the #EveryLife Declaration and committed to support child rights in her city.
Following Zoleka Mandela’s opening address, UN Habitat Executive Director Maimunah Mohd Sharif echoed the call to empower young people and uphold their rights in city development. She said: “The New Urban Agenda focuses heavily on inclusion. We need equality of opportunity for all – every resident has the same human rights. Young people make up half the population of many of our cities. They are not just the leaders of tomorrow, they are the leaders of today.”
In his opening address, Minister of Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Noh bin Omar called for equity in urban development. “We need to design our cities in a more innovative way. We need to ensure we have inclusive cities for all. Accessibility is crucial. Our cities must be safe, resilient, inclusive and prosperous for the 21st century.”
Campaigning with Zoleka Mandela on the first day of the WUF, FIA Foundation Deputy Director Avi Silverman said: “If we are to make our cities truly liveable, to tackle climate change and ensure health for all, we must ensure that the rights and needs of children are at the forefront of urban policy making worldwide. This is what we are calling for with the #EveryLife campaign. The principles and solutions to protect our children, to empower them, and to provide a safe and healthy journey to school are well known and readily available. As the World Urban Forum heard today what’s needed is the political commitment and the funding – it’s time to deliver.”
Sign up to #EveryLife and call for action on safe and healthy journeys for every child at www.everylife.org
Click here for Zoleka Mandela’s opening speech to the World Urban Forum (40:15)
Click here to read the Mail & Guardian story "No child should die trying to get to school"