Monday, 24 December 2007

Ensuring meaningful child and youth participation

Ensuring meaningful child and youth participation in the fight against commercial sexual exploitation of children: the ECPAT experience

Children's participation is especially important in fighting their exploitation. Children have the right to be involved in decisions that affect them such as the kind of assistance to be provided. They have the right to have decisions (and the considerations that led to those decisions) reviewed. They can play important roles in improving services (in rehabilitation centres for example), they can reach out to their peers to inform them about their rights and make them aware of certain risks, and they can assist in designing prevention, rehabilitation and advocacy programmes.

Unlike many other organisations that deal with exploitation of children ECPAT International has embraced children and youth participation as an important principle and policy in their work.

ECPAT International has published a number of materials related to their practice and policy of involving children and youth, such as:

Good practices for working with experiential and at-risk youth

Information about the ECPAT International Child and Youth Advisory Committee

Information about the Youth Partnership Project in South Asia

ECPAT's latest publication is a report of a survey of its practice worldwide to involve children and youth.

It provides useful insights in practice and methods of involving children and youth and the challenges encountered. The publication also includes the full text of ECPAT’s child and youth participation policy and their child protection policy.

The report notes that:

“Strengthening ECPAT’s child and youth participation has been a process of exploration and innovation which is still at its early stages of refinement and development. As children and youth have been mobilised for social action, the resource needs (both in human resources and financially) have become more apparent. However, if we recognise children’s participation as a fundamental part of the strategy to achieve children’s protection from sexual exploitation, then we are also recognising our own responsibility to uphold children’s fundamental rights.”

Sunday, 23 December 2007

An Autobiography of Child Work: a reflexive account

Children’s perspectives are crucial in understanding the life-worlds of working children

An Autobiography of Child Work: a reflexive account. By Birendra Raj Giri in Childhoods Today, Volume 1 issue 2, December 18, 2007, Centre for the Study of Childhood and Youth at the University of Sheffield, United Kingdom.

This is an impressive account of the childhood of the author, Birendra Raj Giri, from Nepal, highlighting the ‘double trouble’ of combining schooling with work in rural areas. The article shows the importance of the different roles children play in their own family and society and how these are often not acknowledged by adults.

He managed to combine school with a heavy workload at home. Birendra’s description of his experiences brilliantly shows the awkward position of many children whose views are ignored by adults who claim to act in the best interest of children.

“While I loved attending school, teachers would be my worst nightmare because my household work often would not allow me to complete the homework and I had to pay the penalty for that. The common form of punishment at the school was beating from palm to shoulder with a long skinny stick and asking students to straighten their arms or slapping on their backs. The stick would have such an impact that not only the pain but also the ‘blue stripes’ on their hands or backs would last for days and a couple of times, I received cuts on my palm and arm because the teacher was using a rough stick.


There were numerous other forms of beating, including slapping students’ cheeks, pulling ears/hair, hitting on the head with books, putting a pen between two fingers and squeezing them, etc.


However, I felt the beatings were completely unfair because the teachers were not prepared to listen to my side of the story: although I would arrive at school bare-footed, wearing torn clothes and completely exhausted by working and walking, the teachers would blame me for being indolent; if I told them the truth, they would then accuse me of lying, in spite of the fact most of the teachers were aware of my family circumstances.

Telling my parents was not useful because they would say, “look son, teachers are good people, they want you to be good too; that’s why sometimes they punish you to teach you good discipline.” In Nepal, teachers are considered as ‘gurus’ who cause no harm to their pupils, but this is not always true, especially if you have to go through constant beating like an animal. Moreover, my father had warned me that if I ever failed, he would stop sending me to school. Thus, until I was about 15 years old (I left the village after I completed 10th grade or secondary education), I had no other choice than to believe that everyone was acting in my best interests – they had good intentions, wishing to make me a good person, so I had to continue to carry out household and farm work alongside my studies (Blanchet, 1996; Nieuwenhuys, 1994) - which meant that I was trapped between heavy work at home and severe beating at school.

In the light of such experiences, if those children who only engage in harsh work are called ‘child labourers’, and those who do acceptable jobs are called ‘child workers’, while those who neither work nor go to school are called ‘nowhere’ children, then children like myself should indeed be called ‘double troubled’ children, because they are caught up between heavy work and study, not to mention the severe punishments at school. My childhood experiences therefore make me believe that rural children of Nepal are deprived of education in multiple ways. Firstly, most village parents are extremely poor like my own, and cannot afford to send their children to school. Secondly, there are often no schools nearby and small children cannot walk for hours to reach the school. Thirdly, many children are double-troubled with work and schooling, which often become incompatible. Finally, the inferior quality of education quality and unfriendly student environment (viz. physical punishments) seriously discourage children from attending school.” (pages 9-11)

Based on his own experiences Birendra stresses the need to take children’s views into account in research and discourse on child work:

“[This does, however,] require that we understand children’s living and working conditions and how they make sense of the environment that they (are forced to) work in and only carefully devised research is likely to produce useful results regarding the different sectors in which children are found working.” (p.18)

Childhoods Today is a new e-journal published, bi-annually in the first instance, by the Centre for the Study of Childhood and Youth at the University of Sheffield, United Kingdom, and supported by the Worldwide Universities Network.

The aim of the journal is to publish high quality empirical and theoretical work by up-and-coming researchers in the field of childhood studies and to provide a reference for others working in this and related fields.

Childhoods Today is an externally reviewed journal that is unique in providing an international forum designed exclusively for the publication of articles by postgraduate students (i.e. those studying for their MA, M.Phil. or PhD, as opposed to post-doctoral students) working in the field, which can be accessed by other interested postgraduates and academics.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Minimum Standards for Consulting with Children

Minimum Standards for Consulting with Children

The Interagency Working Group on Children's Participation in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, consisting of ECPAT International, Knowing Children, Plan International, Save the Children Sweden and UK, UNICEF EAPRO and World Vision Asia Pacific has just published minimum standards for consulting with children, along with a detailed Operations Manual describing exactly how they can be implemented.

The minimum standards have been developed through six years of practice by the multi-agency group, starting with evaluation of children’s involvement in international consultations, the initial drafting and piloting of the standards at the East Asia and Pacific Regional Consultation concerning the United Nations Study on Violence Against Children, in 2005, and a number of other formal consultations with children in different parts of the world.

What are minimum standards?

Minimum standards are statements of the lowest acceptable level of practice by both adults and children to ensure meaningful children’s participation in a formal consultation or conference. Minimum standards ‘draw a line’, stating what is and is not acceptable for children’s participation.

In general, minimum standards need to be:

Adhered to: They should have monitoring mechanisms and sanctions if they are not all met;
Non-negotiable: They draw a line to show what is acceptable or not acceptable;
Transparent: Clear criteria for each standard give details of the steps an agency needs to take;
Permanent: They are fixed and followed consistently and constantly;
Agreed upon: One organization or group is accountable for them (the organizing committee) and key implementing agencies for the standards (local partners) understand and agree on them.

The Minimum Standards are based on five principles:

  1. Transparency, honesty and accountability
  2. A children-friendly environment
  3. Equality of opportunity
  4. Safety and protection of children
  5. Commitment and competency of adults

Download the Minimum Standards here.

Download the Operations Manual here.

The Interagency group has its own website where more of its publications on children's participation can be downloaded:

Print copies of the minimum standards can be obtained from:
Plan International
Asia Regional Office
18th floor, Ocean Tower 2 Building
75/24 Sukhumvit 19 Road
Klongtoey Nua, Wattana
Bangkok 10110 Thailand
Tel: +66 (0)2 204 2630-4
Fax: +66 (0)2 204 2629

From the introduction of the minimum standards:
Since the 1990 World Summit for Children in New York, children have increasingly been involved in international events and meetings in which their rights and welfare are discussed. The rationale for this is usually described as their ‘right to give an opinion’ on matters concerning their lives (Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989). However, their involvement in making decisions remains limited, and they may have no actual place at the decision-making table.

Children’s participation in international meetings and conferences is limited by adult control over:
■ The resources required for children to attend;
■ The topics of discussion;
■ The agenda and procedures of the meeting;
■ The selection process;
■ The topics on which children are asked to give their opinions.

In Seen and Heard, a 2004 research assessment on the participation of children from the East Asia and Pacific region in the Special Session and related international forums, the researchers noted that:

  • selection processes were not always transparent or representative;
  • some adults had negative or paternalistic attitudes towards children;
  • children were not adequately protected from potential threats to their health and well-being or from abuse and exploitation;
  • children were inadequately prepared for their roles in the forums;
  • the events lacked follow up.
In addition, the researchers noted growing international concern about the approaches used for involving children in international adult settings in which children have little or no influence on the actual decision-making process. This was mostly due to a lack of forward planning, particularly unrealistic budgeting, and failure at the regional level to collaborate fully with national organizations working with children in participatory processes.

The full text of the research assessment can be downloaded here.

NOTE: Inviting children to participate in formal conferences is only one option for consulting with children. There are many valid alternatives. Experience shows that participatory activities with children at the local level, close to where children live, encounter fewer constraints (and may often be the preferred option) compared to formal events. Formal conferences or consultations are more effective when based on a process of local activities with children.

Monday, 10 December 2007

Children hold local governments acccountable

Children hold local governments accountable

Following is a report by Concerned for Working Children (CWC) about children’s involvement in local government in India.

The report uses terminology which is commonly used in India but may be difficult to understand for those who are not familiar with it. I therefore attached an explanation about the terminology at the end of the report.

The first set of Children's Grama Sabhas - 2007 underway in Karnataka

The reports from the first set of Children's Grama Sabhas 2007 stand testimony to how a well facilitated process of Children's Grama Sabhas not only holds the local government accountable to children and ensures their commitment to children's rights, but also has a powerful impact on strengthening local governance.

The first Children's Grama Sabha report is from Halli Hole, a remote Panchayat of Udupi District, one of the field programme areas of the Concerned for Working Children. Hundreds of children took part in this Sabha last week in which the Panchayat reported back to children about the successful implementation of 19 Programmes that are a direct result of the issues raised by children during Children's Grama Sabha - 2006. These include constructions of toilets in schools and improved access to basic facilities and services, not only for children, but for the entire community. The President of the Panchayat, Shankar Narayan Chatra, said 'It is now absolutely clear to me why children's participation is essential to strengthen local governments. Children do not only list their problems, they also describe the implications of the problems and the importance of addressing them. This has been extremely useful to us to develop our action plans.'

750 children took part in the Children's Grama Sabha at Hardalli Mandalli, also in Udipi District. After carrying out a huge procession in which children voiced their issues, they made detailed presentations about a range of demands, including the need for a community hall for the local high school, water facilities and toilets for many homes that lack them. Hari Prasad Shetty, the President made a special reference to the high quality of children's presentation. He pointed out that "Children have collected the background data and have presented their issues in a very concise matter. We are committed to develop actions plans for their problems in consultation with them." (Please see photographs attached)

Children and adolescents are critical observers of their own condition and should be participants in decisions concerning themselves and their lives. A practical experience of participatory democracy is essential for the moulding of the 'new citizen'. They need to understand and prepare for governance and citizenship and therefore must be enabled to interact in a constructive and meaningful way with local governments at all levels. For children's participation to be truly productive and not just tokenistic the State should create structures for children to; first of all; access their local governments that are closest and most accessible to them.

It may be recalled that Panchayat Raj Ministry, Government of Karnataka issued an Order (638 - 2007 dated 30.10.2007) which makes it mandatory for all Panchayats to provide an opportunity for children to articulate their issues directly with their elected representatives, and emphasises the need for the Panchayats to report back on the action taken regarding the issues flagged by children is a very important step in this direction. It is equally important that the State now conducts systematic capacity building programmes in order to equip the Panchayats, officials and all civil society groups that will be engaged with this process to ensure that Children's Grama Sabhas realise their full potential.

Terminology explained:

India has a federal system of governance – with a Central Government and each state having its own State Government. Within each State, a three tier local government system exists in the rural areas.

The lowest level of local governance (and according to the Indian constitution, the most important) is the Panchayat. This consists of several villages - and is the lowest democratically elected government and the one closest to the people and children. All the plans and the identification of beneficiaries for government schemes and the like are and should be carried out at this level.

Higher than that is the Taluk Panchayat - at the block level. This is more the monitoring body - and also the fund-disbursal body. In Kundapur Taluk, for example, there are 56 Panchayats.

Above this is the District/Zilla Panchayat. This also has a monitoring role as well as a role to inform the policies of the State Government. In Udupi District, for example, there are 3 Taluks (Kundapur, Karkala and Udupi) and 147 Panchayats.

The Children's Grama Sabhas are being held at the level of the Panchayats.It is a meeting of all the children of the Panchayat to discuss issues of their concern and negotiate with concerened officials and elected bodies.

The three tiers mentioned above are democratically elected. The elections at the Panchayat level are supposed to be de-linked from political parties - however, in reality, most often there are party affiliations. Good news is that there are quite a large number of independent candidates in the Panchayat Elections - and the members of Namma Sabha are also considering contesting these elections as representatives of their organisation.

Namma Sabha is an association of youth, composed of artisans, crafts persons and others engaged in various occupations.

See also this webpage for further explanations about terminology.

For more information contact:

Kavita Ratna
Director - Communications
The Concerned for Working Children
303/2, L.B. Shastri Nagar
Vimanapura Post
Annasandra Palya
Bangalore - 560 017
Phones: 0091 80 25234270, 2523461

The issue was also covered in the Hindu, one of India's national papers on November 23, 2007, highlighting different views on the issue of children's involvement in panchayat raj institutions:

Fiat on children's participation in gram sabhas raises eyebrows

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Home alone: Perspectives of home-working children

Home Alone - León, Nicaragua
Home-working children, "are rarely taken into consideration in discussions about children's rights and child work since they do not have salaried work, and they are not 'in the streets'. These children run a major risk of having their rights violated as they often live in poverty and are left at home without any adult supervision on a regular basis. Still, poor families are dependent on these children while parents and older siblings are working outside the home."

Home Alone is a participatory action research project addressing children who work as caretakers for younger siblings in León, Nicaragua. The purpose of the project is to help León's home-working children improve their situation by involving them in the identification of their problems and empowering them to propose interventions and solutions based on their own experience. Home Alone also aims to ensure that the general public and the media are made aware of these children's problems and perspectives, as well as to advocate for the recognition of this group's rights by people in positions to make structural changes to improve the situation.

The project's central approach is encouraging and enabling children to share their knowledge and ideas, both about their own situation and about how to support other children in taking part in the issues that affect them. This approach is based on the premise that children have the potential and capacity to contribute to their own development. To that end, Home Alone draws on a series of methodologies and tools that facilitate the participation of children in all phases of the research process: from the gathering of the data to the analysis and the dissemination of the results. In this sense, the research is described as "participatory action".

Specifically, organisers work to engage children to participate through fun, attractive, and meaningful activities. Photography, video, child-led interviews, and advocacy are central elements. Some of the particular techniques include:

Children are familiarised with the use of single-use cameras so that they can document whichever elements of their everyday lives, as well as the lives of their brothers and sisters, that they choose. The objective is to collect authentic information about home-working children's reality and interests with a minimum of guidance or direction from researchers. Participants later act as storytellers in a video documentary by explaining in their own words the meaning of the images they have created. Using the children's own photographs as visual stimuli during the interviews is a technique for engaging children in the process of interpreting, analysing, and categorising the collected data (the photographs). The aim here is to use face-to-face communication, expressed through the video medium, to enable children to communicate their concerns in their own environment, to be shared with influential policy makers in these alternative types of "meetings"

As of October 2004, approximately 300 photographs taken by the children involved in the project had been printed. Organisers state that "the experiences in the Home Alone project clearly show that children are very capable taking photographs and that they really like the visual story-telling method as photography offers." They stress that the children and their families have given informed consent for the use of the photographs by the researchers and the communicators, and are consulted each time a photograph is considered for use in different media as part of the project.

The Barcelona-based CrozzCom - Communication for the Development in Action is an NGO working to facilitate collaboration with other NGOs, academics, media professionals, and development practitioners, especially those working to protect children's rights. Organisers say "We believe that visual methods and tools, such as video and photography have much to offer for researchers and development practitioners that work for the wellbeing of children".

Click here for a related report, "Child Interviews: Experiences from the Home Alone Project."

Click here for a related summary, Home Alone - Photography Gives Strength and Comfort to Nicaraguan Children Left Behind.

For more information, contact:
Lena Wall
Project and Communication Manager
Home Alone Project
Calle Mayor 16, piso 1º
08960 Sant Just Desvern
Tel.: +34933716811
Mobile: +34607222930

Communication Initiative site

Friday, 30 November 2007

Children as change agents: Guidelines for child participation in periodic reporting on the CRC

Children as change agents: Guidelines for child participation in periodic reporting on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, by Jennifer Miller, Mississauga: World Vision, 2007.

World Vision has just published this very useful document to guide the involvement of children in reporting to the Committee on the Rights of the Child.

These guidelines respond to the gap in information concerning children’s involvement in the reporting process, and aim to promote and strengthen children’s meaningful participation within this area. The report includes an analysis of a number of alternate country reports to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, and appendixes with specific forms and suggestions. The guidelines also include a glossary, a bibliography and suggestions for additional reading.

The guidelines address:

Creating Meaningful Child Participation

* Principles of Child Participation

* Building Ownership

* Addressing Power Imbalances

* Consulting with Children

* Accessible Information

* Building Support

Practical and Ethical Considerations

* Child Protection Policies

* Unintended Consequences

* Informed Consent

* Confidentiality

* The Roles and Responsibilities for Children, Young Adults, and Adults

* Resources: Funding and Time

Stages of the Reporting Process

* Selection and Representation

* Training and Building Capacity

* Methods for Collecting Information from Children

* Analyzing the Data and Reaching Conclusions

* Preparing the Report

* Child Delegates and Pre-sessional/Sessional Meetings

* Follow-up and Evaluations

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Inclusion and exclusion in children's citizenship

‘The exclusion of children from full political status is an enigma which democratic politics should not allow.... what is at stake here is not simply the denial of citizen rights but the right to be a citizen’ (Bob Franklin, 1986, The Rights of Children, Oxford: Blackwell, p.24)

Citizenship is often defined narrowly by franchise (the right to vote in national elections). The status of ‘child’ is also associated in national and international law by reference to the age of franchise (the age at which a person achieves the right to vote). Thus there may be something contradictory in the idea that children can be citizens. Nevertheless, children often do act as if they are citizens, not least by taking on responsibilities within their families, communities and nations.

For an excellent discussion about the main issues related to children's citizenship and for a comprehensive list of references, read:

Antonella Invernizzi's and Brian Milne's Conclusion: Some Elements of An Emergent Discourse on Children’s Right to Citizenship' in: Children’s citizenship: An emergent discourse on the rights of the child? A. Invernizzi and B. Milne (guest editors), Journal of Social Sciences Special Issue No. 9: 31-42, Kamla-Raj.

The full special issue of the Journal of Social Sciences on Children's Citizenship: an emergent discourse on the rights of the child can be viewed here.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

How can we define citizenship in childhood?

How can we define citizenship in childhood?, by Judith Ennew, Centre for Family Research, University of Cambridge in: HCPDS, Working Paper Series, Volume 10 Number 12, October 2000.

This article by Judith Ennew for the Harvard Centre for Population and Development Studies looks at civil and political rights of children.

“Children and youth have been activists in the forefront of political struggles, such as the fight against Apartheid in South Africa. Yet this is more likely to be documented (especially since the overthrow of that system) as the victimisation of children than as child political participation. Child soldiers likewise are usually regarded as victims rather than freedom fighters. With the exception of some writers in Latin America there seems to be little discourse even now about children as ‘protagonists’ who take a leading role in social change.” (p. 5).

This paper examines some of the dilemmas involved in implementing children's civil rights and freedoms. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) represents a challenge to all states party to consider children’s rights outside the traditional concerns with protecting children from harm and providing for their needs. Ideas about children’s civil rights and freedoms are often wrongly limited to the so-called ‘participation’ articles (12-15). These are tempered in the CRC by the need to take into consideration ‘the age and maturity of the child’ and in social life in general by adult control over areas in which children can participate and ways in which they are allowed to do so. Thus children’s political participation is often trivialised. Or limited to local-level democracy that is regarded as part of socialisation. Nevertheless it can be argued that, in modern representative democracies, there is little difference in practice between the citizenship rights of adults and children. One related question is whether age is a sufficient reason to exclude citizens from franchise. Indeed, to ask how citizenship is defined in childhood is to raise questions about the rights and duties of all citizens.

The article looks into:

The civil and political rights of children in the CRC
Children’s political action
Children’s voices articulating adult agenda’s
Children’s resistance as a form of (unrecognised) participation
Children's rights and democracy
The grounds for excluding children from franchise
The political development of children
Ages, stages and the passing of time

Thursday, 8 November 2007

African Movement of Working Children and Youth

I have received new information from the African Movement of Working Children and I have updated my earlier post.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Children speak out: Good work - bad work

In 1999 Concerned for Working Children (CWC) in India published working children's views on what they consider to be work they can do and work they cannot do, considering the abilities and age of children. The publication is only in hard copy as far as I know and can be obtained from CWC (see below).

A little later World Vision published Good work, bad work, tough choices, which also documents children's views - from India, Thailand and the Philippines - on what they consider work that they can and can not do:

The main thrust of this research project is to highlight the need to listen to children in order to develop effective solutions to the problem of child labour. Children in this project, who live in India,Thailand and the Philippines, told us that they want to work, that they play an active role in choosing the kind of work they do, and that their goal is to support their family. Whether they live at home in the country or on the street in large cities, children say that they hope for good jobs, fear bad jobs, and struggle with difficult choices. They have strong, clear ideas about what kinds of work children should and should not be doing, and they deserve to be heard. (p.7)

An extract from the CWC publication:


1. Cleaning and washing rice
2. Cutting vegetables

We can do this work
We are children of age 9-18

We have the information to clean and wash rice and cut vegetables, besides we have the capacity to understand the process.

For those of us who go to school it is okay if we spend half an hour helping with the cooking in our own houses. But we should not stay at home and be engaged in this work for the whole day

We cannot do this work
We are children of age 0-9

We are too young to do any of these chores; we do not have any experience. Our hands are weak. Knives used to cut vegetables can hurt our hands.

3. lightning the ‘choolah’ (oven)
4. cooking (getting food cooked)
5. grinding masala (spices)

We can do this work
We are children of age 15-18

We are well aware of the danger of working with fire. We have the physical ability and skill to do these activities.

If we do this work in our own houses for about 2 hours daily, then it is not harmful.

We cannot do this work
We are children of age 0-15

We lack the ability to do these jobs. Working near the stove/choolah can cause us burn injuries. Smoke from the choolah can cause respiratory problems, headache, burning sensation in the eyes, etc.

While getting rice cooked, the starch has to be separated from the rice. This is very risky and it may cause us burn injuries.

We do not have arms strong enough to grind masala; moreover it can hurt our fingers.

If children with mental or physical disability are engaged in these activities, it is harmful to them, whatever be their age.

Watering the plants

We can do this work
We are children of age 3-9

Our hands are strong enough to water the plants in front of the house for half an hour aday with a jug if the water is already available there.

We are children of age 9-12
If we are school going we can water the plants in front of our house for half an hour a day by bringing the wter from a distance of ½ furlong.

We are children of age 12-18
We have the required physical strength, strong hands and legs to do this work. We can draw water form the well and water our own paddy field and garden for 2 hours a day within a distance of 1km from the house. This is not harmful.

We cannot do this work
We are children of age 0-3

We are too young and lack strength to do any work.

Mentally and physical disabled children of any age group cannot do this work

Work we can and cannot do, by the Children of Balkur Panchayat, published by the Concerned for Working Children, 1999

Concerned for Working Children (CWC)

303/2, L B Shastri Nagar Vimanapura Post
Bangalore 560 017
Tel: 0091-80-25234611
Fax: 0091-80-25235034

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Janus Korczak

Let us demand respect for shining eyes, smooth foreheads, youthful effort and confidence. Why should dulled eyes, a wrinkled brow, untidy gray hair, or tired resignation command greater respect?

Janusz Korczak, The child’s right to respect, 1929.

Janusz Korczak (1878 – 1942) was a Polish pediatrician and philosopher, who, early last century, established two orphanages in which he created a form of governance in which children played key roles. His educational ideas were based on his belief that children should be respected and listened to, rather than shaped and trained to according to the wants of adults. In the orphanages children operated a "parliament," held court, and published a newspaper that was distributed as a supplement to a daily with a circulation of 60,000 copies in 1926.

His books How to Love a Child and The Child´s Right to Respect provided teachers and parents with new insights into child psychology. He also wrote books for children such as the classic King Matt the First, which tells of the adventures and tribulations of a boy king who aspires to bring reforms.

As a children's advocate, Janusz Korczak spoke of the need for a Declaration of Children's Rights long before any such document was drawn up by the Geneva Convention or the United Nations General Assembly. Here is a link that compiles the rights Korczak envisaged as most important for children.

Janusz Korczak was killed in 1942 by the Nazis, during the Holocaust, together with the children he cared for.

More information about the life and writings of Korczak can be found below:

More information is being made available on the internet about Korczak, however, his writings are only partly accessible online. Let us hope more of his writings will be downloadable from the internet in the future.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

International Movement of Working Children

Below is some information what the international movement of working children is all about:

Who are the Movements
The Working Children Movements have been active in Latin America, Africa and Asia since the 1970s. These local organisations are a fundamental, and often the only, instrument for protection and promotion of their rights.

The Movements have been promoting projects on the following lines of action: rights education, public education, health, recreation, participation and organisation. The principles that guide this process are the protagonism of children and adolescents, respect for rights, and a critical evaluation of work.

Terminology used by organised Working Children to identify themselves
Different terminology is used to identify organised Working Children, and it is linked to the various continental and local languages. We are going to mention only the main ones, despite the innumerable forms and dialects to be found in many areas of Africa and Asia. NATs (Niños y Adolescentes Trabajadores) is a Latin American acronym which translates into English as «child and adolescent workers». In English-speaking countries we use Working Children and in francophone countries EJT (Enfants et Jeunes Travailleurs).

Methods of organisation and action of the Movements
When analysing the Working Children Movements, we must look at their organisational structure and the pedagogical methods they employ to guarantee an impact through their activities. They are helping children become aware of their own rights and are constantly working to guarantee that they be respected by identifying alternative solutions to exploitation, abuse, discrimination and injustice.

Through their organisational processes, working children and adolescents come out of individual isolation, and start a process of reciprocal recognition as a social group. Through this principle, which is the basis of their collective identity, they start to meet to discuss their problems, to propose initiatives and organise a response. During this process, they are able to create a subjective public and political presence, reaching increasingly complex levels. Therefore, group identity is transformed into a capacity for mobilization and protagonism, from the local, national to international levels.

The term “Movement”, used to define the local groups and associations of working children and adolescents, alludes to a fundamental characteristic of organisation and action of these new social actors.

A social movement is a form of collective action that calls for solidarity that shares a common goal. Its members recognize each other as equals, as active citizens with the same problems, because they come from a given social sector. On the other hand, a movement indicates the existence of social conflict.

Organised Working Children and Adolescents ask to be recognised as Social Movements that work within society to guarantee working children’s rights, and those of children in general. They work on the local and national levels, without forgetting the essential opportunities that are provided by their organisation on the intercontinental and world levels, which is strengthening with time.

“Participation” is fundamental in the Movements’ initiatives. Working Children have organised themselves in a social movement that is struggling to recover full democratic rights for children and adolescents. This means that children and adolescents participate fully in their «own» organisations, in order to recover the full status of citizenship. For example, the Movements have a democratic process for electing both their delegates and their accompanying adults. Even the management and representation of the Working Children’s organisations (whether in the day to day local initiatives or in the wide horizon of international ones), is the responsibility of these delegates who represent their peers.

Organised working children and adolescents have been promoting the importance of participation for the past 30 years, even tough the large international agencies are only just now recognising its significance. It is the main tool to bring about consciousness-raising regarding their situation. The more complete term, “protagonism”, includes everything from exchanges on the social level, to the educational process of perceiving ones own possibilities and rights, to finding common solutions to improve living and working conditions for working children and children in general.

The Continental Movements move towards a world-wide dimension
On the international level, the Working Children Movements began to coordinate their efforts of solidarity and collaboration in 1996, in Kundapur meeting, India. There, 34 delegates of the three continents participated in drafting the 10 points summarising their common struggles and claims (see document: Kundapur Declaration), the first and foremost of which was that their voice be heard and taken into consideration in decisions that affect them directly.

The World Movement had faced and overcome many obstacles when they were able to meet again in 2002 in Milan. There they expressed the need to have a world meeting. They accomplished this goal in 2004, when 33 delegates from Africa, Asia and Latin America met for the 2nd World Meeting of Working Children Movements, in Berlin (see document: Berlin Declaration).

This process continued in 2005, when a small delegation of working children from the three continents was able to meet in Kundapur (India). During this preparatory meeting they defined the agenda and the main issues to be discussed during the 3rd World Meeting of Working Children Movements that took place in Siena in October, 2006 (See document: Siena Declaration).

Source: Italianats website

Italianats is an Italian association of NGO's, unions and companies aiming to support and promote the movement of working children and youth.

The International Movement has met 3 times. All the declarations made at the end of meetings of the International Movement of Working Children and regional meetings since 1996 can be found at the Italianats site, most of them downloadable in 4 different languages. Click here to go the page directly.

Working children and youth organisations and movements

Working children and youth organisations and movements

I came across a position paper by Nandana Reddy of Concerned for Working Children, on how young workers see their work. This document is a useful compilation of extracts from several Working Children Declarations, quotes from the documentary film Taking Destiny in their Hands, and answers to a questionnaire that was sent out to the three movements of working children in Africa, Latin America and South Asia.

The compilation is organized region wise, with a common framework of six questions:
  1. What is the International movement?
  2. Child and work: is work a good place for a child? Does it depend on the age of the child?
  3. Good work – Bad work : What kind of work a child can and cannot do?
  4. What does work bring to children’s lives?
  5. ILO and working children: are the convention 138 and 182 good for them?
  6. Movement history: did their positions change with time? Are there differences of opinion between the members?
It starts with explaining the position of the International Movement – as it presents the foundational principles all the movements agree on, and then goes on to describe the regional positions. The document ends with some general observations.

NOTE: Throughout, the document speaks of the "Asian Movement", which is rather unfortunate since Southeast and East Asia region is not represented in this movement. It is not a matter of exclusion - from either side, however, the organisation of working children has developed differently in Southeast and East Asia.

More about the International Movement of Working Children (also referred to as the World Movement of Working Children) in the next post.

A Journey in Children's Participation


A Journey in Children’s Participation. By Nandana Reddy and Kavita Ratna. 2002, Bangalore: Concerned for Working Children

This is one of my favourite publications about protagonism of children.

The Concerned for Working Children have been working in partnership with children for over 25 years, to enhance their protagonism and participation and realise their rights. This document brings together some of the experiences and perceptions related to children’s participation that have been gathered over the years.

The link to this website is an updated version, dated December 2002, which includes many concrete examples of what is being discussed in the text.

From the introduction:

Children’s Participation is not a project, it is not event based; it is a running theme through every action or intervention and it requires a major paradigm shift. The understanding of participation and the way it is translated into action varies and seems to be defined by the socio-cultural context of the child and the ideological frame

surrounding this understanding. However it is important to arrive at a culturally neutral definition of children’s participation, where the principles are common, though the manifestations may vary according to the situation of children.

When Children’s Participation is seen within the frame of protagonism it takes on another dimension. The right and the ability to advocate on one’s own behalf, to be in control and a part of decision making processes and interventions. This form of participation of children and youth enhances the concept of civil society participation and strengthens democratic processes.

Children’s participation should enhance children’s personhood. Often their individual growth is side lined, especially when they are a part of an organisation. Children’s participation should also be in keeping with their capacity and ability (milestones of development) and contribute positively to the process of children’s growth and development. However, all this operates within the context of children’s rights and their participation is the means by which children realise their rights.


Sunday, 7 October 2007

Child and youth participation resource guide

Child and youth participation resource guide
By Junita Upadhyay. 2006, Bangkok: UNICEF. isbn 974 68507 2 5

This resource guide has been very popular from the moment it came out and it is now available on the web. The good thing about this guide is the categorisation in different areas and the fact that most documents are downloadable from the internet.

From the guide:

The participation of children and youth in schools, community action, media, and governance has gained growing support over the past 15 years. This interest in their active involvement is being stimulated by a greater recognition of children’s and youth citizenship and their rights to expression.

This Child and Youth Participation Resource Guide was jointly compiled by UNICEF East Asia and the Pacific Regional Office and published in June 2006, as a response to a growing need to organize the large and diverse literature on children's participation. It provides information on publications that focus on the protection of children and adolescents from exploitation, violence and abuse, child and youth participation in community and national programmes, HIV prevention, health, hygiene and sanitation and more.

How to Use This Document

This document is divided into several sections focusing on different areas in which the participation of children and youth have been prominent. In each section the author, title and brief summary of the document is included and hyperlinks are given for the full text PDF version for each publication. The link will lead you to an outside web platform. An e-mail address of the appropriate contact person has been provided when the publication cannot be directly linked. Please contact this individual/organization to acquire the document.

The Adolescent Development and Participation Unit at UNICEF Headquarters is presently preparing to make this guide available as an interactive web-based resource for wider use by its staff, partners, governments, policy makers, non-governmental and civil society organizations and especially children and youth themselves.

Looking for childhood book reviewers

Childhood studies
A journal of global child research is looking for reviewers for a variety of books. Please contact Prof. Dr. Leena Alanen and ask for a list if you are interested in reviewing books. You are also invited to recommend other books of interest for reviewing in the journal – she’d be happy to contact their publishers and ask for copies to be added to the list. Books published in the Anglophone academic world practically make 100 % of books sent by publishers to the journal for reviewing. This is fairly obvious for a number of reasons: the language of the journal is English and publishers of books in other languages can hardly count on a big enough clientele for their publications in the English-language countries, and therefore do not offer their publications for reviewing. It would however be important also to make the non-English section of childhood studies available to the international readership of Childhood; otherwise it is the English-language research literature that unfortunately has to represent what is done in the field. Prof. Alanen would therefore especially like to encourage you who are readers of non-English childhood research as well as know of books on childhood published in other languages to come forward with suggestions of books for reviewing in Childhood.

Source: e-mail message from:
Leena Alanen, Professor (Early Childhood Education), Department of Educational Sciences, P.O.Box 35, FIN-40014 University of Jyväskylä, Finland, e-mail:

Children's voices in child protective proceedings - overview of 195 countries

Do you want to know whether children have the right to express their opinions in court proceedings in Azerbaijan or Kiribati? You can find it at a database of the Yale Law School, together with all the other countries you can think of. It is part of a survey, Representing Children Worldwide, conducted at the Yale Law School researching the legal provisions of 194 countries concerning how children's voices are heard in child protective proceedings in 2005.

The website has concise information about the law that relates to children's opinions in child protective proceedings in 195 countries together with relevant references. In many cases the information is provided in the original language with (sometimes unofficial) English translation.

The site also provides:

Country Category Chart

Which categorizes the countries by both mandatory and discretionary legal models.

Country by Country Chart

Which provides a brief description of each country's child protective proceedings, explaining the way that children convey their opinions, where applicable.

From the website:
"Representing Children Worldwide is a research project which compiles information and resources on how children's voices are heard in child protective proceedings around the country and around the world in the year 2005. The website provides a summary of the practices of the 194 signatories to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child (UNCRC) with respect to this question, as well as background information on the jurisdiction's child protective practices and web resources and contact information for further research in this field.

Our research focuses particularly on how different countries' practices relate to Article 12 of the CRC, which guarantees children's right to express views freely in all matters concerning them, and particularly to be heard in all judicial and administrative proceedings that concern them.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Monitoring and evaluation of children’s participation in development projects


Monitoring and evaluation of children’s participation in development projects.

By Gina Arnillas Traverso and Nelly Pauccar Meza (researchers) and Gina Solari and Blanca Nomura (coordinators). 2007, Lima: Save the Children Sweden, ISBN 978 9972 696 51 0

I promise you, this is not easy reading, even when your native tongue is Spanish, in which case you might as well read the original.... However, as soon as you have gone through the more conceptual and theoretical discourse this publication becomes surprisingly practical and to the point. Indicators for children's participation need to have a sound grounding and once you have sorted that out you can look at very concrete and useful evidence that helps you understand and measure the impact of children's involvement in project development, implementation and evaluation of its impact.

Another good thing about this publication is that the indicators have been identified and developed together with children, through a thorough process of consultation and validation.

Legislative History of the Convention on the Rights of the Child

Legislative History of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Volumes I and II.
United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and Save the Children Sweden (SCS). 2007, New York and Geneva: United Nations

In addition to the travaux preparatoires of the Convention on the Rights of the Child - produced by Sharon Detrick (which, unfortunately, has only been available in hard copy) there now is an extensive compilation of the legislative history of the Convention on the Rights of the Child written by Simone Ek who has been involved in the 10 year long drafting process of the CRC right from the start. Simone Ek compiled the proceedings of the debates during 1979–1987, which form the basis for the Legislative History of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The publication can be a support for governments, Convention states, UN organs, international voluntary organisations and universities in their work to make the Convention on the Rights of the Child easier to understand. The aim has been to explain the thinking behind the decisions. It also illuminates the important part that non-governmental organisations have played in this work

Find all the discussions on children's participation rights at pages 437 - 471.

Download PDF from:

A hard copy can be obtained at SCS in Stockholm for 349 SEK exclusive postage.

Friday, 5 October 2007

Children's participation in events with adults


Patricia del Pilar Horna Castro

Easier to say than to do. Children’s participation in events with adults.

2007, Lima: Save the Children Sweden Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean. ISBN 978-9972-696-50-3

This is a recent English translation of the Spanish original.

This is one of many downloadable publications by Save the Children Sweden in Latin America. They have an excellent, regularly updated, website with information in Spanish, English and Portuguese. I will post more information from this website shortly.

From the introduction to this book:

“Children’s participation is, without any doubt, a key issue in our societies. There is plenty and varied literature regarding children’s participation. The civil society and the States are now facing this global challenge. This guide, developed by Patricia Horna, is useful in many ways: it simultaneously introduces profound considerations, mandatory theoretical background, and above all, a friendly way to enhance the relationships between adults and children when they participate in the same activities.”

(Alejandro Cussianovich, p.7)

The book provides a review on the different approaches, conceptions and myths on children and adult participation in training workshops, seminars, discussion roundtables, etc.

“It is addressed to adults who have understood that they cannot speak about what children feel or think without considering and incorporating their very voices. And, of course, it will also be useful for children to keep watch so conditions in these events meet the conditions for a “real and effective” participation, just as they have demanded.

This material wants to contribute precisely to what many adults frequently hear, read, and say: children have a right to express themselves freely in every aspect which affects them —in other words, they have a right to participate.”


“….the book is divided in three chapters which are, at the same time, the three big steps we are proposing to follow. The first one displays the current approaches and ideas on children’s participation; the second refers to the myths around children’s participation in events with adults, and the third chapter provides guidelines, ideas and suggestions which will render conditions for an effective and active participation.”


Thursday, 4 October 2007

Geographical Information Systems use in research with children

An exciting project is ongoing in Finland where researchers use GIS in a very interactive, creative and fun way to do research with children on the quality of their living environment. Children can identify their own neighbourhood, their own houses and schools and indicate things such as how they spend their free time, what they consider to be safe or dangerous places, and how they make use of and perceive their environment. They can also answer questions in relation to their wellbeing.

See and try it out here!

For more information visit SoftGIS in Finland, or get in touch with the leading researcher:

Marketta Kytta
Centre for urban and regional studies
Helsinki University of Technology

For the academically inclined, view her dissertation "Children in Outdoor Contexts - Affordances and Independent Mobility in the Assessment of Environmental Child Friendliness"

Children's involvement in local budgeting

Children and young people in action, participating in budget work
Editors: Margarida Maria Marques, Neiara de Morais Bezerra, Renato Roseno de Oliveira,Talita de Araujo Maciel. The Ceará Centre for Protection of Children and Adolescents – CEDECA-Ceará, Brazil, November 2005. ISBN: 0-620-35519-0.

This document describes the process of the involvement of a group of young people in the monitoring of the public budget of Fortaleza, in Brazil.

In 1999 CEDECA-CEARÁ initiated its programme of monitoring the Fortaleza city budget. This was done from the understanding that the struggle for the human rights of children and young people has to be conducted through the discussion of public policies that give effect to these rights, by knowing about the allocation of public resources to implement those policies and through social control in the allocation and spending of public resources.

Brazilian society has managed, through a process of broad social mobilisation, to have written into the 1988 Federal Constitution that children and young people have rights and that these need to be fully protected as a matter of absolute priority. Further, the Children and Adolescents Act (ECA) stipulates that meeting this priority envisages children having first call on public resources. Unfortunately, the democratic culture of the country does not fully recognise the rights of children and young people nor does it allow for the exercising of social control of public budgets.

Therefore, taking as a main objective the promotion of social control of policies and public budgets, the programme uses three complementary strategies: the empowerment of organised groups within civil society; the provision of technical subsidies for intervention in the drafting and implementation of budgetary legislation; and support during active mobilization and lobbying for the development of public policies for children and young people.

During the first three years, our principal partners were NGOs, forums and networks for the protection of the rights of children and young people. These were important partnerships, as the most significant networking among children’s rights organizations today includes a focus on budgetary issues in the city and in the State of Ceará. One example is the case of the DCA-Ceará Forum (a Forum of Non-governmental Organisations for the Protection of Children and Young People), which took the matter of budget allocations directly to the State, the Commission for the Protection of the Right to Education and the Forum Against Sexual Violence of Children and Adolescents.

Nevertheless, the perception that there were organised groups of young people in our city, discussing rights and public policies, but that they were absent from the decision-making processes on these same policies, led us to reconsider our project. Why had these groups not yet achieved the right to be heard? This question and the meeting with our partner, Save the Children Sweden, for whom direct participation is a fundamental principle of work focusing on rights, led us to the conviction that one cannot speak of democracy while excluding such a significant group within the population, even more so when the subject is precisely the policies targeting that very group. The story told here is that of the first experience of empowering and supporting groups of young people to intervene in the public budgeting process. In this narrative we describe the phases of that empowerment as well as the involvement of these young people in pressure groups for the development of budgetary legislation.

We are not dealing with a methodology created by or exclusive to CEDECA-Ceará, but rather formulated during the first year of the project with the active participation of the young people involved. The approach was adapted to daily events and the reality in which we found ourselves, taking into account the diversity of the young people, with the CEDECA team not only filling the role of educator, but also that of apprentice. Daily practices were revised and adjusted to respond to the problems and difficulties that we confronted during the project.

If certain doubts remained regarding the relevance of a project to align the public budget with the promotion of the right to participation, these doubts have been replaced by the certainty that participation is something quite necessary, not only for the young people, but also for the city.

For CEDECA-Ceará, promoting the exercise of the right to participate is about more than protecting that right; it is also a strategy to strengthen the protection of all the human rights of children and young people.

As posted on IDASA website. IDASA, in South Africa, has a children's budget unit, more about that later.

Hard copies can be ordered at:
Save the Children Sweden
Regional Office for Southern Africa
PO Box 13993
Hatfi eld, 0028
Tel: +27 (0)12 342 0222
Fax: +27 (0)12 342 0305

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Useful link: Magic


Magic has a lot of information in relation to childrens' rights and the media and provides useful resources and links. I especially like their collaboration with oneminutevideo junior . (Recently, however, it has been difficult to access this website - let us hope it is only temporarily).

In 1996 the Committee on the Rights of the Child, which advises governments on their implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child held a consultation on children and the media.

A working group then began to explore the issues involved in developing a positive relationship between children and the media. In 1998, the Norwegian Government and UNICEF initiated a process that would identify examples of good practice, forge cooperative links among the many sectors involved, and produce resources to encourage further developments in the field.

In November 1999, young people involved in media projects, media professionals and child rights experts gathered in the Norwegian capital Oslo to discuss the role the media can play in the development of children's rights throughout the world, under five headings:

• Children's right of access to the media, including new media

• Children's right to media education and literacy

• Children's right to participate in the media

• Children's right to protection from harm in the media and violence on the screen

• The media's role in protecting and promoting children's rights

From their deliberations emerged the Oslo Challenge.

The Oslo Challenge Network was set up for professionals and organizations working in the field of children and the media to share information and ideas. This network - now known as the MAGIC Network - communicates through an email group. If you would like to join this group, just go to the Join MAGIC section of this website.

Monday, 10 September 2007

Children's participation in Latin America

The CYE Journal has just published a new issue (vol. 17, no. 2), which includes 11 new papers on participation with youth in Latin America, guest edited by Yolanda Corona Caraveo and Mara Eugenia Linares Ponton as well as essays on children and nature by Peter Kahn and Emily Stanley, and several book reviews.

The issue includes papers from Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Costa Rica, Colombia, and other countries in Latin America. It is available from the journal's home page on:

Monday, 3 September 2007

Recognising children as social agents

Researching Children’s Morality: developing research methods that allow children’s involvement in discourses relevant to their everyday lives.
by Sam Frankel, in: Childhoods Today Online Journal, Volume 1 Issue 1 - July 2007

The article describes how young children can be involved in research as long as research methods are relevant to the children's own context and understanding. Among other methods, the author details how he developed a questionnaire by combining it with an audio recording that not only captured interest of the children but also resulted in accurate processing and a high response to the questions. The research makes a case to see children as social agents, "who draw and develop meaning based on their own social experiences. Without this move to engage children in the context of the social world they inhabit, policy and practice will remain based on generalisations, clouded by adult perceptions of childhood (Mayall, 2002; Oakley, 1994)." (p.21)

From the journal:

Abstract: Contemporary children’s childhoods are full of discourses about children and right and wrong. However, the foundation for these moral debates is often based on adult assumptions about children rather than reliable knowledge obtained from them. This article therefore seeks to explore ways in which children can be involved in the research process, such that their voices can be heard. Through looking at a number of creative research it argues that children can be competent and legitimate research partners within moral discourses, providing data that can inform more effective policy and practice.


The research

".... looked at the way in which children experience morality within their everyday lives and endeavours to explore ways in which children as social agents can be legitimate and competent partners in a quest for understanding. Such work can then be used as a foundation for policy makers to move away from a reliance on adult assumptions, allowing them to draw on reliable knowledge of children’s childhoods."


Saturday, 1 September 2007

Children's participation in China

From Performance to Practice: Changing the Meaning of Child Participation in China by Andy West, Chen Xue Mei, Zhou Ye, Zhang Chun Na, Chen Qiang, in Children, Youth and Environments 17(1): 14-32.

Andy West and his colleagues have written an excellent article that gives a good insight in the concept and practice of children's participation in modern China.

The article discusses some recent developments in children’s participation in China, indicating a shift is taking place in the meaning of the term “participation,” away from the traditional idea of participation as performance, which fits with school and other childhood cultures, toward taking children more seriously.

The authors describe how children's participation has been advocated in the social, cultural and political context of China focusing on how it can be done and how it can make a difference in research and working with children.

“However, arguing for children’s participation as a right is probably neither the only nor the best strategy: there must also be some demonstration of what participation is and how it can be achieved.”


“Training alone has not been successful in changing the notion of participation from one of performance and activities to acceptance of true participation as a right. Recognition of practical, useful forms of participation by adults in positions of authority was a necessary starting point. These forms include children being consulted and involved in decisions on matters to do with community, school management, and where children live. The institutionalization of such participation requires changing adult practice and attitudes.
This need to develop practical participation work still requires basic training and understanding. However, the need to show how participation can be done must also avoid the trap of providing ready-made recipes.” (p.9)

The article also accounts of what is “probably the first child- and youth-operated organization in China: called “Springbud Service Station for Disabled Children and Young People,” founded in 2004 and registered in 2005.