Chantal Uwizera

Chantal Uwizera (Backward Society Education – BASE): Chantal was born in Rwanda and came to the US at a young age. Growing up in Rwanda and its tragic history gave her an acute sense of the importance of human rights. Chantal received her bachelor degree in Political Science and International Relations from the University of Indianapolis in 2006. Upon graduation, she worked with the Indiana local and state governments. At the time of her fellowship, she was pursuing her Masters at American University in the School of International Service in the International Peace and Conflict Resolution program with a special concentration on human rights advocacy and international litigation. After her fellowship Chantal wrote: “The experience reminded me to take time and just enjoy the people around you… [and] to see the human aspect of child labor.”



Drawing my childhood..( the process of making a love blanket)

04 Jul

What would my childhood drawings look like? When I was little, my father used to ask me to draw him and his friends. He would beam with pride as he shows off my drawings, which I was told were nothing more than just four lines to make legs and arms and an oval shape for the head! My childhood upbringing was fortunately free of forced labor of any kind and I was left to use my imagination in drawing all sorts of images. I am returning from a week visiting four child friendly villages in Banke and Bardiya districts. The experience brought back good childhood memories although I am sure my attempt at drawing will be as mediocre as it was in the past!

Sunita Chaudary, 16 years old. child laborer at age 12. Rescued by BASE.

Sunita Chaudary, 16 years old. child laborer at age 12. Rescued by BASE.

The process of making a love blanket:

A child transferring the image onto the cloth.

A child transferring the image onto the cloth.

The project involves giving each child a piece of cloth with the hope that they would visually depict their lives: whether as a child right now or as a former child laborer. The pieces will be assembled into a blanket: the love blanket. Past fellows have created amazing blankets from Nepal, Congo, Peru and Bosnia. The concept of child friendly villages is a blanket itself, a place where the children are surrounded by love and protection and free to have a normal childhood and attend school. The blanket once wrapped around us gives us a source of comfort and protection. The same concept is used for the love blanket. The purpose of the blanket is to compile the stories of the children, including former child laborers, who all live in these child friendly villages.  The paintings show a certain level of innocence, imagination, hope and fear as they draw not only what they see on a regular basis but also improvise with the use of bright colors (yellow cows, red goats) which make the pieces more interesting.

The children fist practice on a piece of paper and then paint those images on a piece of cloth.  I suspect that this concept of drawing their experiences on a piece of cloth, relying on their imagination is a foreign concept. But the children never shy away from participating and you can see their excitement the moment that the BASE staff translates into Nepali our instructions and the purpose of our visit. The children giggle, laugh at each other’s attempt at drawing a person and copy each other’s concept. The innocence of the children is undeniably the same everywhere and transcends cultural boundaries. I myself used to rely on the school textbooks for inspiration on how to draw a dog or a house. Some children look with a blank face while others chew on their pencils, their mind pacing hoping to eventually land on an inspiration thought enough to translate into a picture.

The thoughts finally come together into pictures on their piece of paper and their mind goes somewhere else, a world they would like to imagine or for the former child laborers a world they would rather forget. Some of the children manage to draw their experiences; others draw obscure and dark images and others imagine trees being blue or yellow.

Birendra Chaudhary, 12 years old. was a child laborer from age 8. until he was rescued last year.

Birendra Chaudhary, 12 years old. was a child laborer from age 8. until he was rescued last year.

Ram Prasad Tharu and Berandra Chaudhary copying each other!

Ram Prasad Tharu and Berandra Chaudhary copying each other!

The most reoccurring images are the Nepali flag, a house, water pumps, things all too familiar to them. As the images start to take form, from a paper to a cloth and added colors, the children’ faces bloom with joy and excitement in anticipation for the final product. The pieces that they produce all tell a different childhood experience. They are all colorful with the popular color being yellow and pink. I am excited to see the final product. My hope is that the blanket will tell the stories of Nepali children, and serve them justice in explaining their daily lives, their struggles, their experiences and most importantly their longing to have a normal childhood.

Posted By Chantal Uwizera

Posted Jul 4th, 2011

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