Right of Children: I Want to Play Not Work
By Muhammad Daood and Mona Zaaroura

What can I tell you? Where do I start? I’ll tell you the story of my life, which is the story of working children in Shatila. My name is Muhammad Daood and I’m 14 years old. I’m in eighth grade and I’m 145 centimeters tall, which means that I’m very short for my age. I’m around the height of an eight-year-old, which is the age when I started working. Since then I haven’t grown much. I work all summer long and throughout the holidays during the winter. I’m still in school, although our schools are miserable. I work because my future will be in these jobs. Even if I finish school, the fact that I’m Palestinian meant that I’ll be a housepainter, baker, garbage collector, electrician or mechanic. For a long time, I work in pickling and canning to the point that my hands were worn out by the vinegar. I’ve worked as a blacksmith’s apprentice, in a café, and in painting houses in Shatila.

When I work in Shatila I don’t feel miserable and I don’t curse my life, because all children work here and child labor is not something strange. But it was different when I worked during the summer on a building site on the town of Shmays, near Shahim, and saw the way that children play and run there, while I was carrying buckets of cement and polishing zinc which makes me feel short of breath. Then I started asking myself why I wasn’t playing and running in the fields the way those other children were. Why did I go from school to work? Why do I have to work to live? I know why: because I come from the camp, because I’m a Palestinian refugee. That’s why I’m asking to be granted my civic right and I hope this timeless message will be seen by everyone around the world: I want to play not to work!