The participation of children in all domains and actions that affect them is one of the pillars of the DCI Movement. Defence for Children International believes that children are advocates for their rights. They are not only rights-holders in need of protection but also active members of society, capable of voicing their own rights. Our work on child participation is underpinned by the rights enshrined in the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) – respect for the views of the child and the right of every child to express his or her views, also in judicial and administrative proceedings. We also advocate for States to ratify the Third Optional Protocol to the UNCRC, which allows individual children to submit complaints regarding specific violations of their rights under the Convention and its Protocols. The Sustainable Development Goals also call for responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels (target 16.7).
In practice, child participation means involving children meaningfully in all matters that affect their rights and well-being. This applies not only in DCI activities, but in all matters that are undertaken by local, national and international authorities and institutions. For their participation to be meaningful, children need support, particularly in the form of access to education, as well as special training and briefings.
DCI National Sections try to ensure child participation takes place in all of its activities. For example: training sessions, tool-kits, children’s clubs, or the drafting/publication of child-friendly versions of documents, including child-led submissions for the UNCRC Committee. Efforts are also devoted to briefing and guiding governments and other authorities on the means to ensure child participation. DCI has further established a Working Group on Child Participation to help ensure and guide this important aspect, including all related activities of the UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty.
17 DCI Sections around the world involve children in the planning and implementation of their projects, and support children’s parliaments and youth ambassadors’ projects. In Yemen, our Section co-runs the “Democracy School” project which aims to expose violations of children’s rights, provides legal and social aid to children in distress, and raises government and public awareness of children’s rights. This project supports the Children’s Parliament, which allows child participants to directly impact policies affecting them. This project gave Yemeni children a platform to push for high-level commitment aimed at improving conditions in key areas like education and health.
In 2018, as part of the Girls Advocacy Alliance (GAA) activities, the International Secretariat of DCI (DCI-IS), together with country partners in Sierra Leone held a consultation with children on June 16 — the International Day of the African Child — to collect their experiences and opinions on what it means to be a child human rights defender (CHRD).