International Year of the Child Costume

1979 was the International Year of the Child. The girl remembers speaking in class about how children were being celebrated that year. She recalls some of the images of children that came from different parts of world and were shown on television and at school. Her mother also saw lots of images in newspapers and magazines and liked the idea. They decided to dress up as the International Year of the Child that year for the school’s annual carnival. As usual, there was a competition for the best costume. She dressed as a butterfly some years before.  Even though her seamstress grandmother created the most beautiful costume for her using an old satin ballet costume and hand-painted tulle wings, she did not win a prize.

She asked the grandmother to help her be the International Year of the Child. It was a difficult one. She created a globe out of blue satin. The silkiness of the material made me feel special and it shimmered in the light, just like the sun on blue water. She reinforced the globe with wire to hold it up like an orb around the girl’s body. Her mother asked a friend of hers, who worked in a flower shop and could draw, to paint continents and children holding hands on the globe. She took her a picture from a magazine showing children dressed in their traditional costumes all holding hands. According to the girl’s mum the picture represented the children of international relations. She wanted the girl to represent all the children of the world at the carnival. The painting turned out to be amazing! She really hoped that the idea and the perfect execution of the costume would win the prize, but they did not.

Maggie Black (1986) wrote about that year as part of her history of UNICEF: ‘The most dazzling aspect of the occasion was that the International Year of the Child had been launched at all’ (p.353). According to her, the Year of the Child’s main advocate was Canon Joseph Moerman, who was worried that ‘the child was in danger of being drowned out by the glamour surrounding more fashionable debates’ (Black, 1986, p. 353), such as population control and women’s liberation, while there were still so many issues that people should have been concerned about in relation to children.

Her costume certainly lost in the glamour contest. Yet again, a princess won the prize.