Children’s right to be heard
The Convention for Children’s Rights is the most highly ratified instrument in international law. It is a hefty document that presents the civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights of children and youths.
Children’s right to be heard comprises the concept of letting children have a say in the issues that affect their lives. The Convention affirms that children are able to make decisions and form opinions in a progressive way according to their evolving abilities, experience, their development, culture, their world view and other factors.
However, one would be wrong to assume that the right to participation, as explained in the Convention, is sufficient to ensure significant participation by children in our society. Research suggests that, albeit the opportunities for children to have their say, cultural values and political systems limit and weaken children’s ability to participate in decision making.
Some children would like to participate but do not speak up because they fear making a fool of themselves or being told off by adults. They, therefore, hold back from expressing their thoughts in public and therefore do not speak up about issues that concern them.
How can we reverse this situation? I think that encouraging children participation requires social effort and action. Society needs to be better educated to change beliefs, attitudes and practices and to start promoting the involvement of children based on equality, faith and reciprocated respect.
Children and youths have the energy to enhance their abilities to be able to influence and challenge the ideas of their peers, the community and the whole country. Children need to be given the space to express themselves.
Adults today should pay attention to children more than ever. Today’s children surprise us with their ideas and their perceptions on life!