The sun rises first for children here in New Zealand.
It hits the East Cape, then tracks over the rest of the country bringing with it the promise and hope that comes with every new day. But for too many tamariki, that promise is never fulfilled.
World Children's Day is a day to celebrate our children, it is also a day to celebrate children's rights.
But with many New Zealanders still unsure about what children's rights are – or why they matter – the day too often goes unnoticed.
What is known is that an unacceptable number of our children are not living the bright sunny lives we all want for our children. They are not living in affordable, healthy homes. Their families' too-low incomes struggle to afford the basics. They live in homes with not enough food. When they become sick, they don't always get equitable access to health. We have frighteningly high rates of self-harm, violence and abuse.
These are not the elements of a sunny childhood.
If we really want change, we need to do this together as a nation. We need to care about and work toward a fair and equal society where no child is left behind. Adequate incomes, affordable homes, investing in the early years, ending violence against children, quality education from ECE to secondary, and achieving true equity for whānau Māori, are six key areas we must urgently change.
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In addition, children's rights are critical to ensuring every child lives a good life now and has a bright future to look forward to. Rights are the must haves, the essentials we need and expect our children to have every day to do well. Being able to go to school or ECE; eat nutritious food; live in healthy homes, in a safe neighbourhood; play with friends; practice their culture; join in sports; be protected from violence and harm; and share their voice on matters that are important to them.
None of these rights are luxuries or nice to haves.
Our leading politicians aspire for New Zealand to be the best place in the world to be a child, and most Kiwis wholeheartedly support this aspiration. Aotearoa is rich in resources, arguably one of the most beautiful places in world with ease of access to our magnificent outdoors, abundant in primary production, so it stands to reason that we absolutely can achieve this vision.
Yet we are not the best place in the world for children, and never will be while our children are harmed by inequality, violence, and poverty.
Rather than "celebrate" Children's Day today, let's make it a call to action. To redouble our efforts to ensure every child's rights are realised. To protect our tamariki, to provide for, to include.
Together, let's ensure that when the sun rises on next year's World Children's Day, we celebrate that more of our children are thriving.
• Jacqui Southey is Save the Children's advocacy and research director.