Blog & Comments

It’s time to normalise child participation

Una, 16 years old, Serbian national and member of the Eurochild Children’s Council (supporting organization - Child Rights Centre) delivered the closing remarks at the EU Child Rights Forum that took place online on 29 September- 1 October.

Illustration by Visuality

She spoke on behalf of the 65 young participants representing 18 countries. Here are a few excerpts.
As a representative of all the young participants at this forum, we are all very thankful for this opportunity. So on behalf of them, I would like to share some thoughts from the past few days.

…Over the past few days, we heard some really motivating comments. For example, some of us agree with the Commissioner to create a child friendly language. Another one was from the Vice-President that a child is a child regardless of social status or background, because it means to us that there are adults who are looking at us equally and we all have the same rights.

Lastly, yesterday I heard someone say that it is important that we learn from each other’s mistakes. And even if mistakes are made in putting child participation into practice and bringing adults and children together, this is so much better than not including us, because we can work together to improve. This Forum is an important stepping stone for child participation and we should keep going in the right direction and include more children every year.

Of course, in all things there is always a place for improvement, so to keep us going in the right direction, we as children have some thoughts on that.

As Commissioner Reynders said, we should use more child friendly language at events like this as well as in documents and other things related to us. Also, all adults were children once too and we hope you can support and encourage us by being patient with us at events like this. We need support and understanding from adults to help us express our thoughts and opinions, because that’s not always easy for us.  We also had some ideas on how to do that: the first one was to include children in creating guidelines for adult participants, so that adults know how to support children to participate; the second one was to create an anonymous box for the questions and comments.

…Now that we’ve shared a bit about our experience as participants with you, I’d like to move on to some of the important issues that children here feel need to be included in the Strategy on the rights of the child.

Throughout the Forum, young people have been talking about what should be prioritised in the Strategy. We’ve talked about combating violence against children, education, mental health and responding to the impact of the pandemic on children. We’ve also talked about the importance of making sure children have access to the services they need. We highlighted the need to improve access to information that affects our lives, whether that’s through overcoming digital inequalities or by ensuring information is more child friendly and accessible.
We talked about the need for a strategy that helps adults to better understand our needs so that they can support us and ensure our rights are protected. We hope that training about children’s rights and child participation can be given to adults including decision-makers, judges, educators and other people getting in contact with children and we hope that children can be actively involved in delivering this.

We need a strategy that is inclusive of all children and that supports children in vulnerable situations and we need a strategy that promotes and supports our right to participate in decisions that affect us. Because nothing that is decided for children should be decided without children. It’s time to normalise child participation.