RED HAND DAY
Every year on February 12th, Red Hand Day encourages political leaders to stop the use of child soldiers. This day is also referred to as the International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers.
Sadly, many countries throughout the world allow the use of children in armed conflicts. About 250,000 child soldiers in the world are used in at least 20 countries. Some countries where this practice is especially common include Afghanistan, Colombia, Iraq, the Philippines, Sudan, and Yemen. The majority of child soldiers are between 15 and 18 years old. However, some countries recruit children as young as 9 years old.
Besides facing life-threatening dangers, child soldiers also experience a lack of proper nutrition, shelter, and health care. In addition, brutal methods are used on these children to discipline them. As a result, some of these child soldiers die or become permanently disabled. Child soldiers that survive are traumatized for life.
In some countries, no child is safe from becoming a soldier. They even force girls to become soldiers. These girls also face the possibility of forced marriage and sexual violence. If these children have a chance to return home, their lives may still be very difficult. Some children return as orphans. Others are not able to attend school or get a job.
HOW TO OBSERVE RED HAND DAY
On this day, children around the world paint their hands red and put their handprints on paper. Along with their red handprint, some children add a personal message to stop the use of child soldiers. Many of the children who participate are former child soldiers. In 2009, the event collected over 250,000 red hands in over 100 countries. These handprints were presented to the UN Secretary in New York City. Other events on this day include marches, petitions, and school awareness programs. Many organizations, such as World Vision, Amnesty International, and Child Soldiers International also host events.
To participate, make a red handprint, take a photo of it, and share it on social media with #RedHandDay.
RED HAND DAY HISTORY
On February 12, 2002, more than 150 governments implemented an optional protocol to outlaw the recruitment of children under 18 in armed conflicts. In 2008, to commemorate this protocol, former child soldiers collected red hand-prints and placed them on paper and banners. They used the red hand to symbolize putting a stop to the use of child soldiers. Since then, the day has been known as Red Hand Day.