Young people honoured at Expo 2020 on World Children's Day

Scientist and inventor Gitanjali Rao said adults need to recognise the potential of children

Young people were the guests of honour at Expo 2020 Dubai on Saturday, to mark World Children’s Day.

Fifty children of various nationalities, chosen to represent the UAE’s melting pot of cultures, opened Expo’s entry gates.

The event was organised by Expo 2020 in partnership with the Ministry of Community Development and the UN children's fund.

The main attraction took place at Al Wasl Plaza in the afternoon, with performances and talks from children, young people and leaders who are bringing about positive change through arts and innovation.

Performances included readings by two pupils, Yara Sheikh Khalil and Meriem Khadouria, who are in sixth year at Al Mawakeb Al Garhoud School in Dubai.

Hessa Buhumaid, Minister of Community Development, Reem Al Falasi, Secretary General of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood and Ted Chaiban, Unicef regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, addressed the event.

Scientist, inventor and Unicef Youth Advocate for 2021, Gitanjali Rao, 16, said adults need to recognise the potential of children.

“The really great thing about children is that we dream big and we can make those dreams a reality… My biggest message to children around the world is that self-doubt is your biggest enemy," she said.

"Don't be afraid of failure, because once you make that jump, then you can tackle the world's problems. And to adults, my message is that belief means more than you think it does."

Despite her young age, she has already racked up several notable technological achievements. She has developed a tool for early diagnosis of opioid addiction, has invented a device that can measure the lead content in drinking water and has launched an app that uses artificial intelligence to detect cyberbullying.

She counts her parents as her biggest inspiration for teaching her to stand up for what she believes in, and cited Malala and Marie Curie as role models.

"I'm so beyond honoured and humbled for this opportunity," she said.

"It elevates my voice so I can speak louder and have my voice heard, and at the same time solicit new innovators and new change-makers into this incredible world that is being a young advocate. When youth have their voices heard, more people are willing to adapt, change, and go towards a mission together.”

Lebanese singer and Unicef Regional Ambassador Yara closed the event with a concert featuring her popular Arabic songs.

World Children’s Day was established in 1954 as Universal Children's Day and is celebrated on November 20 each year to promote international togetherness and awareness among children worldwide and improve children's welfare.

Updated: November 21st 2021, 9:38 AM