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A day at the United Nations

Canyon student flies to New York for

Posted: March 4, 2009 12:04 a.m.
Updated: March 4, 2009 4:30 a.m.

Julia Price, center, of Canyon High School, in New York as a North American delegate to participate in Red Hand Day at a United Nations presentation Feb. 12.

When I found out that I had been selected to be the North American delegate presenting the Red Hand Campaign to the Secretary General of the United Nations, I was overwhelmed with excitement. It didn't all really sink in until I was about to board a Continental flight to New York.

The day I arrived I met with three other delegates: Yina Paola, from Columbia; Madeline, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Anna-Maria Anders from Germany. Anna-Maria Anders, like me, is a youth activist, but both Yina and Madeline are former child soldiers.

When I joined the Student Task Force in early 2008, I learned facts about the recruitment and use of children in armed conflicts.

Although I was educated on the issue and knew of the hardships faced by child soldiers, it was a whole new experience to look into the eyes of former child soldiers. As I listened to what these young women had to say I felt both sad and inspired. The bravery and composure that both Madeline and Yina displayed as they confessed to having been forced into an environment of violence and sexual exploitation was the most moving part of my experience. I will never forget meeting such remarkable women.

The day of the ceremony was the busiest day of my trip. Along with the other youth activists we arrived early at the U.N. building for a guided tour of the building.

This was followed by an exclusive meeting with the Special Representative to the Secretary General on children and armed conflict, Radhika Coomeraswamy. We each shared a brief synopsis of our backgrounds and activism on the Red Hand Campaign and it was very exciting to hear her input on an issue so important to all of us. After this brief meeting youth activists across the U.S. met for a panel discussion. Then the group headed over to the UNICEF building to prepare for the ceremony.

Speaking in front of Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon was one of the most intense and memorable moments of my life. All of the Student Task Force's work on the Red Hand Campaign led up to this moment. Our voices were being heard and responded to. After we gave our speeches, Anna-Maria had the honor of presenting Ban-Ki Moon with a red book containing a collection of handprints, from 101 countries. He shook each of our hands and gave a speech acknowledging the issue. Other speakers included Radhika Coomeraswamy, Executive Director of UNICEF Ann Veneman, and Human Rights Watch Children's Rights Advocacy Director Jo Becker. Each representative then made their own Red Hands as a tangible form of their opposition to the use of children in combat and dedication to ending it.

This was a life altering experience that I feel so honored to be apart of. I was moved by both the people that I met and being given the opportunity to speak out on behalf of child soldiers and my fellow youth activists.

Julia Price is a Canyon High School senior.


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