Special program for children and teens represents Ukraine’s rich diversity of cultures
“My favourite fairy tale character is a bird. I imagine myself as a bird, free to fly anywhere I want”, shares Nafisa, a 16-year-old school student in Kyiv, Ukraine.
This year, Nafisa and her two sisters took part in the project “Diversity of cultures in Ukraine: tales from around the world through children’s voices” organised by children’s internet channel Veselka TV, with support from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) Innovation Fund. The project aims to contribute to the development of a culture of diversity in Ukraine by giving a voice to children, our best advocates.
“We invited 76 children and teens from all over Ukraine who each experienced forced displacement, said Dina Ibrahimova, director of Veselka TV. – 24 were children with disabilities, and a few of them who could not record their voice, but instead worked on beautiful illustrations of characters of the tales. This truly was an inclusive project.”
Following hours of art activities, training and rehearsals, the project culminated into the recording of an audiobook, with the voices of asylum-seeking and refugee children from different countries and ethnic backgrounds – Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Congo, Syria – and ethnicities – Roma, Crimean Tatars – as well as internally displaced children from Eastern Ukraine and Crimea.
“I was very young when we came to Ukraine from the Democratic Republic of Congo and my first few years in school were terrible. Other kids were rude and unjust to me, recalls . – But today everything changed. I am the leader of my class and I have great friends, who support me just as much as I support them. Even when I started to cover my head, I only found understanding among them.”
Reflecting on her experience, Amina believes that it is possible to build a diverse and inclusive global society. In the future, she wants to be a diplomat and contribute to the future she dreams of.
During the launch of the audiobook, children were warmly greeted by representatives of the government and from international and national organisations.
“I have just texted my husband that I had tears in my eyes listening to the audiobook. I am so moved by this project. I want to thank the organisers for bringing up this very important topic which is too often forgotten. One thing unites each and every one of us with the participants of this project: the goodness in our hearts. Dear children, you are the future, not only of Ukraine, but of the whole world,” declared Inna Draganchuk, Deputy Minister for Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine.
The Government Commissioner for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Tetyana Barantsova said that she often hears of displaced children and teenagers who face bullying and ill treatment. “This project is not just about creativity or communication. It also really helps children overcome very difficult life situations”, she said.
“It is difficult to speak after having listened to the children, both because I am so moved and because I will never be able to express as eloquently as them the importance of respect for diversity and the power of inclusion. It’s a privilege for me and our organisation to be part of such a special program for children and teens representing Ukraine’s rich diversity of cultures”, said UNHCR Representative Karolina Lindholm Billing. She added that UNHCR has a long-standing commitment to apply an age, gender and diversity approach to every aspect of its work. “Our protection, assistance and solutions programs are responsive to the priorities of affected individuals and communities, regardless of their capabilities and background, because what we are striving for is inclusion and in ensuring that no one is left behind,” she emphasised.
“Across all cultures, fairy tales promote the same things: goodness, kindness and righteousness. These are important notions for us at the State Migration Service, when displaced adults and children approach us seeking justice, shelter, and protection. Currently, 1,295 refugees and 916 people in need of complementary protection are registered by the State Migration Service. Among them are 182 children under 14 years old. I am happy to see children with bright talents, who unfortunately have already experienced difficult life circumstances,” said Gaga Kiknadze, Head of the Communications and Electronic Services Department of the State Migration Service of Ukraine.
The implementation of the audiobooks project was carried out by an IDP-led professional TV studio for youth and children NGO “Veselka TV” in close cooperation with UNHCR, refugee communities and IDP communities as well as a civil society across Ukraine. 76 children from Kyiv, Vinnytsia, Odesa, Uzhhorod, Severodonetsk, Luhansk region, Brovary, Bucha, Irpen, Pereyaslav and Kyiv region participated in the project.
Unique music and sound effects accompany children’s voices throughout the audiobook, in order to make the tales more accessible to people with visual impairment.
The project was implemented within UNHCR’s Digital Inclusion programme thanks to the support of the Government of Luxemburg. The project was carried out in partnership with the NGOs: Crimea SOS, Rokada, Tenth of April, Crimean Family, Helping Hand, Common Cause, Perspective, the Roma Women’s Foundation Chiricli, the Luhansk Regional Branch of SOS Children’s Village, and the Brovary Center for Comprehensive Rehabilitation of Children with Disabilities.