It's the inside that counts

Diana Savickaja, age 10, was the youngest person to testify before the Joint Select Committee on Human Rights. Children face discrimination in all sorts of ways, she says

When I went to Portcullis House, I was feeling really nervous as well as extremely excited. I talked to some of the MPs and then we sat down. Jean Corston, the committee chair, introduced herself and the other MPs. Then she asked questions about what kinds of discrimination and human rights problems children and young people experience. I answered very quietly because I was so shy.

The camera was moving and everyone was looking at me. I said that shopkeepers sometimes check inside your pockets to see if you have stolen anything. I talked about racism, about children getting picked on because of their race or culture.

I talked about Muslims getting discriminated against. Muslim girls often get picked on if they wear scarves on their heads and people sometimes pull them off. They get picked on even more because of what happened on September 11.

I talked about older children finding it hard to pay a child's fare on the bus because of the way they look or if they are quite tall. I also said that there is a lot of discrimination against black kids, with many people thinking they might commit crimes.

I talked about children picking on other children and saying rude things about them and their family, such as: "You and your mum and dad are ugly". I talked about refugees and asylum-seekers, especially asylum-seekers because children say rude things about them. They might say something like, "You're an asylum-seeker, you have no money and you have not got permission to travel to different countries."

At the end of my speech I said, "People get picked on because of what they wear, what they look like, what they bring to school and where they come from. Basically, children get picked on for what they have and have not got."

Then Mr Shaun Woodward asked me two questions: "Do you have any ideas about why we need to do more to stop bullying? Do you think bullying is a big problem?" I said that bullying is a big problem and some people get bullied in my school. Then Mr Woodward asked if schools are good at stopping it. I said that the bullies are told off but the bullying carries on. I answered questions for about five minutes. When it was over I felt happy and proud about what I had done. I hope that my speech goes somewhere and something will be done about this problem. I also hope that some day children will respect each other. I always think to myself, it's not the outside but the inside that counts.

Diana Savickaja is a member of the Children's Rights Commission for London

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