Compasito - Manual on Human Rights Education for Children
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Discrimination Education and leisure Violence
Summary of activities
Human Rights calendar

16. Modern Fairytale

Footprints in the sand are not made sitting down!

Themes Discrimination, Education and leisure, Violence

Level of complexity Level 2

Age 8-13 years

Duration 60 minutes

Group size 5-15 children

Type of activity Story telling, discussion

Overview Children in turns tell a story based on a series of pictures

Objectives • To introduce the issue of child labour and modern-day slavery
• To promote active listening
• For older children: To introduce the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)

Preparation • Prepare a smooth wooden stick.
• Make copies of the drawings for every two children.
• Make copies of the child-friendly CRC for each child.

Materials • Wooden stick
• Copies of drawing sequence provided as handout
• Copies of the child-friendly CRC


  1. Ask the children to gather in a circle to hear a story in a special way. Try to create a mysterious atmosphere. Show them the wooden stick and explain that this is ‘talking stick’: only the person holding it may speak. When they have spoken, they should pass on the stick to another person.
  2. Lay the pictures out so that the children can see all of them and explain that together they will create a story about a girl named Siwa based on these pictures. Then distribute the pictures, one to each child or pair of children. Explain that this picture represents the part of the story which that child or pair of children will tell. Give the children time to think about what their pictures represent and discuss it together if they are working with a partner.
  3. Be the first one to hold the stick and say a little to demonstrate how the story will be told. Then pass the stick to the child who will start the story. Explain that the person who wants to speak next should hold up their picture; if there are several who want to speak, the speaker will decide who gets the talking stick next.
  4. When the story has come to an end, ask the children if they would like to hear the real story behind these pictures. Tell or read the story of Siwa.

Debriefing and Evaluation

  1. Debrief the activity by asking questions such as these:
    • What did you base your story? Did the pictures remind you of something you have experienced or heard about?
    • Was your story based on the pictures close to the true story?
    • What did you think of Siwa’s story? How did you feel?
    • Do you have any questions about Siwa’s story?
  2. Discuss child labour and forms of modern-day slavery by asking questions such as these:
    • What is a slave?
    • In what ways was Siwa’s situation like slavery?
    • Do you think that Siwa’s story could happen in your country? Do you know of any such incidents?
    • Are there still slaves in the world today?
  3. Give children copies of the child-friendly CRC, UDHR or ECHR. Relate Siwa’s story to human rights:
    • What happens to children who are forced to work?
    • How does this affect their human rights? Can you name any of Siwa’s rights in the CRC that were violated?
    • How does the CRC protect children?
    • Do other human rights documents also offer protection to children?

Suggestions for follow-up

  • An exercise dealing with what might be a frightening subject matter should not stand alone. Follow up with some affirming and positive activity, however brief: For example ‘Putting Rights on the Map’, p. 138 or ‘From Bystander to Helper’, p. 108.
  • With older children, use the Council of Europe’s comic strip on a similar case. Preview for appropriateness:

Ideas for action

  • The children can find out what their country’s laws are to protect against child labour. How much work are children allowed to do legally? Are children protected from some kinds of work?
  • The children can design and conduct a survey to find out how much and what kinds of work children do at home. Is working for and with your family child labour (e.g. child care, housework, helping parents with their work)? Do girls and boys contribute equally to helping their families?
  • Plan a campaign with the children to combat child labour and human trafficking, a topic with which children may not be familiar with but which would interest and concern them.

Tips for the facilitator

  • The children may need help telling the story from pictures. You could guide the story closer to the true version by taking part as one of the storytellers. They may also have trouble putting the pictures into a sequence.
  • You may need to define trafficking as a concept.
  • Be prepared to answer the children’s questions about Siwa’s story, which may be surprising or upsetting to many of them. You should also be able to explain who and how to get help if they or others are in a similar situation.
  • Siwa’s story is based on a real-life case settled in the European Court of Human Rights (Siliadin v. France, No. 73316/01). The story in Compasito intentionally does not name a specific homeland for Siwa (who was actually from Togo) or the country where she was sent (in fact, France) in order not to suggest that most trafficked children come from Africa or indeed a non-European country, or that France was the only country where such things occur. You may wish to change the story to reflect the situation in your country. However, be mindful not to suggest that trafficking only occurs from outside Europe. Unfortunately, there are many cases from one European country to another.
  • Be able to explain other protections of children against child labour besides the CRC. See Chapter V. discussions of child labour, p. 232 , and child trafficking, p. 282.
  • Help the children differentiate between work they may do to help their families and inappropriate child labour. Relate this to a child’s right to rest and leisure, education and other children’s rights.
  • Worldwide, girls are given less leisure and expected to do more unpaid work than boys. You may wish to explore the difference in expectations placed on boys and girls and relate it to gender equality.


  • For older children: Relate Siwa’s story to the European Court of Human Rights by asking questions such as these:
  • Siwa and her lawyer took her case to the European Court of Human Rights. Have you ever heard of this court? Who or what did Siwa’s case try to change?
  • What did the ECHR decide in Siwa’s case? What happened as a result?
  • Has your country signed the European Convention of Human Rights?
  • Can you, as a child, apply to the ECHR? What can the ECHR do for you?
  • For older children: compare the UDHR and CRC with the European Convention on Human Rights. For a plain-language version on the Convention see
  • For younger children: Number the pictures and lay them out in order so that children can see the sequence of events.

Further information


Siwa’s story

Once upon a time, not so long ago, there was a girl called Siwa. She lived in a very poor country. She lived with her uncle because her parents had died when she was a child.

When she grew older, Siwa realised that the world was much bigger than just her country and that there were other interesting places to visit as well. But like most people in her country, Siwa was poor and didn’t have the money to travel.

One day, however, her uncle came up with a plan. He suggested sending Siwa to a rich country to live with Mrs X, an acquaintance of his. Siwa was excited by the idea of travelling and was eager to go. The uncle agreed with Mrs X that she would buy Siwa a plane ticket to her country and that Siwa would live at her house and help the family with the housework until she had earned the price of her plane ticket. So Siwa boarded a plane and flew to this rich country. She was looking forward to all the new things she would be experiencing There, Mrs. X had promised to send her to school and to take care of her legal papers so that she could travel freely and explore this new country.

However, once Siwa arrived at Mrs. X’s house, things started to go wrong. Mrs. X was not as friendly as the girl had imagined. She expected Siwa to take care of her children and do all the housework by herself. When Siwa asked about school, Mrs. X said that it could wait.

After a while Mrs. X told Siwa that she was going to live with Mrs. Y for a while. Siwa hoped that now she could finally start going to school and enjoying her stay in this new country. Sadly, however, Mrs. Y was worse than Mrs. X. Life became even harder for Siwa. Now she had to start work early in the morning and could not go to bed until late at night. And even then she couldn’t get a good night’s sleep as she was sleeping on the floor in the children’s room and had to take care of the baby, who woke up crying several times during the night. Besides cleaning, cooking and caring for the children, she was not even allowed to leave the house to walk around in the city. Life was miserable. Siwa regretted ever leaving Africa.

One morning Siwa managed to get permission to go to religious services. But instead of going there, she gathered her courage and knocked on the door of a neighbour’s house. She asked the young couple living there for help and told her story. The couple was shocked. They could not imagine someone being treated like a slave in modern times. Siwa’s story sounded like an old fairytale, except that in reality there was no fairy to help her, so she had to find a way to help herself.

The couple took Siwa into their house and reported her case to the police. When the police investigated, they charged Mrs. X and Mrs. Y. However, Siwa was not satisfied with having these individuals punished. She wanted to make sure that no other child like her would ever have to face a similar situation. Therefore, with her lawyer’s help, she filed a case in the European Court of Human Rights, asking the country where Mrs. X lived to change its laws to protect children from this kind of slavery. The Court agreed with Siwa and that country was forced to take care to prevent similar incidents of forced work in the future. Finally, Siwa was happy. She had not only managed to escape from the imprisonment in Mrs. Y’s house, but she had also made sure that no other child in that country would have to experience what she did.

Source: Adapted from the European Court of Human Rights case Siliadin v. France, No. 73316/01.