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Hundreds of thousands of children, particularly in Africa and the Middle East, have had their lives and innocence stolen from them as they have been recruited or forced to become child soldiers. Although this problem has roots dating back hundreds of years, this practice is unconscionable in modern times. 

Red Hand Day is here to raise awareness about the problem and garner support for rescue and release of these children who have been exploited, victimized and abused.

History of Red Hand Day

While warring parties use both boys and girls as scouts, messengers, cooks, porters and more, the children who are caught in the fray of participating in the war are left with few options. Whether abducted, threatened, manipulated, coerced or trafficked, these children live in fear and are simply trying to survive. This grave violation of international humanitarian law and children’s rights deserves to be named and fought against.

The symbol of the red hand was adopted by the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers in 1998. Just four years later, on February 12, 2002, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict was adopted by the United Nations.

Around that time, Red Hand Day began as a campaign to stop the use of child soldiers and give care and aid to those who need it. The idea behind the day is that the campaign collects support through red handprints with signatures that can be delivered to local, national and international government authorities. By 2007, Coalition partners in Germany had the goal of collecting one million red hands to present to the UN on February 12, 2009.

Each year, the hope is that the Red Hand Day campaign will grow bigger and stronger, shining a light on this heinous practice of abuse against child soldier victims, encouraging creative ways to prevent, free and help them.

How to Celebrate Red Hand Day

Show support for the plight of child soldiers by observing Red Hand Day in the local community and throughout the world. Check out some of these ideas for getting involved.

Make Every Red Hand Count

An excellent way for people to participate with Red Hand Day is to get more community members involved. Individuals can start by using red paint to make a print of their own hand, sign it and add a personal message. Or host an event at a local school, church group, community center or other group that will advocate by adding their names to red hands and presenting them to local government leaders. The Red Hand Day website offers opportunities to add numbers to the total collected. 

Raise Awareness About Child Soldiers

One of the most important ways to participate in Red Hand Day is by getting more people involved in the prevention and freedom of child soldier practices. This can certainly be accomplished through social media by posting photos of those red hands and letting people know how they can get more involved, use their voice, and perhaps even make a donation to a charitable organization related to the cause.

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