World Poetry Day

by Paula Biraaro*

Human beings are expressive beings. Words, music, dance and drama in all cultures around the world depict the desire to portray feelings and communicate messages to whoever can listen. Everything in life has the essence of poetry forever in motion to touch those who truly listen. Poetry is life.

The World Poetry Day is celebrated annually on 21st March. The universal commemoration of this day begun in November 1999 by the UNESCO designated to recognise the important role of poetry in the arts and in cultures throughout the world and over time. It also wanted the day to promote the efforts of small publishers with regard to publishing poetry. The day also focused on promoting a return to the oral tradition of poetry recitals, as well as strengthening the association between poetry and other forms of expression, such as dance, music, and painting. The first World Poetry Day was held on March 21, 2000.

This year I thought it fit to focus on a recurring social justice issue on the plight of street children in my country Uganda. Below is a short poem in remembrance of these vulnerable ones.

Street children in Uganda. Source


At the crack of dawn, my day begins;
Departing from Kisenyi ghetto,
I embark on the down trodden route,
To the concrete jungle of Kampala

These streets are my domain,
Jam filled traffic routes I thereby remain,
Knocking on windows, pleading for change
Earning my keep; for shillings I must gain

Windows shut. Doors lock. Radios block.
Often occur as I approach,
Stares glares leers and sneers,
Shadow my every move.

You do not know me, you never did ask for my name
You say it is none of your concern so please do not judge!
Should it not shock and puzzle you
that a ten year old boy is begging for bread?

If you must know, my name is Larok
Hailing from sun blistered plains of Napak,
where dew is a whisper of the morning’s kiss;
with the baked earth ensconcing around shriveled root

Hopelessness is our reality, despair our song;
Casualties of unrepentant nature and bloody history
Yoked to pitiful yields of harvest and sporadic cattle raids
Will we ever move on?

To the city I was drawn, hope serenaded
Visions and dreams filled my arid mind;
on the night bus I boarded, to the capital I came
To Kampala; the Canaan of matooke, milk and pork;

I Larok, son of the soil from Napak,
vow to look eye to eye into poverty’s face,
fighting on to win fierce battles of today
If Karamoja does not develop, Larok and his family will.

Explanatory notes:
Kisenyi is one of the biggest slums in Kampala.
Matooke is a plantain, popular staple food in Uganda.
Napak is a district in Karamoja located in the North Eastern part of Uganda.

Paula Biraaro is a human rights lawyer working with the Uganda Human Rights Institution (UHRC), a National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) constitutionally mandated to promote and protect human rights in Uganda. She holds law degree from Makerere University, Kampala, and a Master’s degree in Public International Law from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

Readers are encouraged to quote, reproduce and share this content for educational, non-profit purposes, provided the source is acknowledged. The views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the HR&D team.


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