Queen Rania Acceptance Speech of the Global Humanitarian Action Award

October 25, 2007

I want to thank everyone here tonight for this very special honor. 

And more importantly, I want to thank you for all you do to support the United Nations – whose birthday we celebrated yesterday… and whose bright future we all seek to ensure. 

The theme of this year’s United Nations Day was promoting global health.  And as the daughter of a doctor, matters of health and well-being have long been a part of my consciousness.  But it is now that I have sons and daughters of my own that global health has taken hold of my heart –especially the health, security, and welfare of children around the world.

As a mother myself, I know how scary it feels when a child is sick.  I know what it is like to worry about a fever that is going up instead of down.  The truth is, as parents, we always worry about our children, even when they are perfectly well.  How many of us have crept into their bedrooms at night, just to reassure ourselves they are still breathing?

You and I have been lucky to raise our children in safe and supportive environments, where things like health care, nutrition, and education can be taken for granted.  But for millions of children around the world, life hangs on the slenderest thread – a knit cap to keep warm… clean water to drink… the means to ward off a mosquito. 

And while children in America and Jordan may dream about what they want to be when they grow up, for millions of children around the world, just to make it to the age of five is an achievement.   

Children like them are counting on us to give them a fighting chance.  Because every child of every parent deserves protection and care.

That is why I am so proud to celebrate and champion UNICEF’s work.  And I have seen first-hand that for all the challenges we face, something can be done if we try.

In Morocco, I met with little girls – some as young as seven -- who had been forced to work in carpet factories to help support their families.  The factories were full of dust, with no fresh air, no windows.  Some girls had to weave for 11 hours a day.  Some were beaten for going too slowly.

But UNICEF, together with the Moroccan government, was turning their lives around by getting them off the factory floor and putting them into school.  It was truly inspiring to see the way the young girls literally blossomed – like flowers taken out of the dark and brought into the sun.  The girls I met were so proud of their schoolwork… so excited to read and write… so motivated to study and learn and make the most of their potential.  And when we asked what they wanted to do with their lives, most answered they wanted to be doctors.  “I'll tell you why,” said one 9-year-old girl, “because I want to be able to help people.”

In China this summer I visited another wonderful UNICEF program – a hospital that offers health care services to rural migrant women and their families.

These migrant families are far from home with few resources to fall back on.  But UNICEF is writing them a new prescription of hope in the form of health.  The clinic offers everything from prenatal care… to well-baby check-ups… to immunizations.  In fact, while I was there, I had the honor of giving a polio pill to a little girl… a beauty with bows of pink flowers in her hair.  I can tell you, she handled the paparazzi like a pro!

 After she had swallowed the pill, her mother gave her a big hug.  And for the little girl, the vaccine was soon forgotten.  But the mother knew her daughter would forever be safe from the threat of this deadly disease – and I did not need to speak Chinese to understand the relief in her eyes.

My daughter Iman was with me in China.  And that made the visit all the more special – to know we were linked in a chain of support that extends hand-to-hand… parent to child… person to person… from Amman to Beijing… and far beyond.  Because that, after all, is the spirit that underlies the United Nations – the spirit of people working together as one to build a better, safer world for all humanity.

 Jonas Salk once said:  “The greatest reward for doing is the opportunity to do more.”  I promise to keep doing all I can to be worthy of the honor you have bestowed on me tonight.

Thank you very much.