Thursday, 24 June 2010

Undocumented Children - Children's right to identity

This Is Who I Am is a project for recognizing the identity of vulnerable children - touching upon the core of children's citizenship rights.

If you loose your passport, identity document, birth certificate…

How do you prove who you are?

Millions of children worldwide are unregistred - and as a result stateless:
Without nationality or identity they are not included in official statistics - they basically do not exist and do not have any protection.

This Is Who I Am is an ambitious project aimed at providing children who are unregistred with an identity, proof that they do exist, that they do have a background, a history.

Knowing Children will soon put up a website that provides further information and ways to scale up the project to recognize the identity of undocumented children.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Children’s Participation: Experiences in capacity building and training

Children’s Participation: Experiences in capacity building and training, by Henk van Beers, Save the Children Sweden, ISBN 91-89366-96-4, Stockholm, 2002.

I have decided to make this book available in PDF (although the quality is poor since it is a scan of the hard copy) because the experiences are still valuable and maybe helpful when it comes to capacity building on children's participation, and people have been asking me for a copy. Hard copies should still be available from Save the Children Sweden in Stockholm.

This book reflects on experiences in building the capacity of staff of organisations for street and working children to do participatory action research in Kenya from 1995-2000.

In 1995 SNV (Stichting Nederlandse Vrijwilligers – Netherlands Development Organisation) launched a programme in Kenya to assist street children projects in improving their work with children. The programme’s main components were organisational strengthening and capacity building, targeting both staff and management. Over a five year period, four 10-month training courses in Participatory Action Research with children were organised for staff of approximately 30 projects to enable them to undertake their own research, to find out more about the children they work with and to enhance the involvement of children in programming. The training also aimed to enhance the skills of staff in working with children.

In two projects a comprehensive in-house training scheme for all staff and management was conducted to address various constraints in their work in a child-focused way. In addition, a number of separate workshops and seminars on children's rights and participation were organised for various groups of organisations which with children in need of special protection measures. Additional training needs were addressed where they arose such as the need to improve counselling skills.

The experiences show that major benefits can be derived from involving children at project level, in policy development and in research. Looking at existing interventions from children’s perspectives may require a critical review of approaches, as is shown in this report. However, by providing children with an active role in their own development interventions become more relevant and effective.

This publication analyses experiences from capacity building and training in children's participation in project contexts. It examines the results of training adults and provides detailed examples of different ways to involve children.

The lessons learnt may be useful for organisations and individuals who plan to promote children's participation in their policies, research and interventions. It may be of specific use for agencies and professionals who work in different socio-cultural contexts where the concept of children's participation may be seen as alien to existing societal norms and values. Children can participate and make contributions to issues that affect them – and this report shows the benefits of children's participation both for children and adults.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Understanding article 12

The Committee on the Rights of the Child adopts general comments based on specific articles, provisions and themes of the Convention on the Rights of the Child to assist the States parties in fulfilling their obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and to stimulate international organizations and specialized agencies to effectively work on the full realization of children's rights. These general comments basically are the Committee’s interpretation of the content of certain articles or thematic issues.
The Committee on the Rights of the Child has issued general comments on the following subjects:
1. The aims of education
2. The role of independent human rights institutions
3. HIV/AIDS and the rights of the child
4. Adolescent Health
5. General measures of implementation for the Convention on the Rights of the Child
6. Treatment of unaccompanied and separated children outside their country of origin
7. Implementing child rights in early childhood
8. The right of the child to protection from corporal punishment and other cruel or degrading forms of punishment
9. The rights of children with disabilities
10. Children’s rights in Juvenile Justice
11. Indigenous children and their rights under the Convention
12. The right of the child to be heard

The Committee sometimes decides to develop a general comment on an article, provision or theme that has been discussed earlier in one of its General Day of Discussion. Since 1992, the Committee on the rights of the Child organized 13 general days of discussion on specific provisions of the Convention or on related issues. The Committee always adopt recommendations at the end of such a thematic discussion day.

In 2009 the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child published a general comment on article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (the Convention) is a unique provision in a human rights treaty; it addresses the legal and social status of children, who, on the one hand lack the full autonomy of adults but, on the other, are subjects of rights. Paragraph 1 assures, to every child capable of forming his or her own views, the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with age and maturity. Paragraph 2 states, in particular, that the child shall be afforded the right to be heard in any judicial or administrative proceedings affecting him or her.

The right of all children to be heard and taken seriously constitutes one of the fundamental values of the Convention. The Committee on the Rights of the Child has identified article 12 as one of the four general principles of the Convention, the others being the right to non-discrimination, the right to life and development, and the primary consideration of the child’s best interests, which highlights the fact that this article establishes not only a right in itself, but should also be considered in the interpretation and implementation of all other rights.

In 2006, the Committee held a day of general discussion on the right of the child to be heard in order to explore the meaning and significance of article 12, its linkages to other articles, and the gaps, good practices and priority issues that need to be addressed in order to further the enjoyment of this right. The present general comment arises from the exchange of information which took place on that day, including with children, the accumulated experience of the Committee in reviewing States parties’ reports, and the very significant expertise and experience of translating the right embodied in article 12 into practice by governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), community organizations, development agencies, and children themselves.

The general comment aims to support the effective implementation of article 12 and strengthening the understanding of the meaning of article 12 and its implications.
It aims to elaborate the scope of legislation, policy and practice necessary to achieve full
implementation of article 12 and to highlight the positive approaches in implementing article 12. It also propose basic requirements for appropriate ways to give due weight to children’s
views in all matters that affect them.

Dissecting paragraph 1 of article 12
The first paragraph of article 12 reads:

“1. States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child."

“shall assure”
Article 12, paragraph 1, provides that States parties “shall assure” the right of the child to freely express her or his views. “Shall assure” is a legal term of special strength, which leaves no leeway for State parties’ discretion. Accordingly, States parties are under strict obligation to undertake appropriate measures to fully implement this right for all children. This obligation contains two elements in order to ensure that mechanisms are in place to solicit the views of the child in all matters affecting her or him and to give due weight to those views.

“Capable of forming his or her own views”
States parties shall assure the right to be heard to every child “capable of forming his or her own views”. This phrase should not be seen as a limitation, but rather as an obligation for States parties to assess the capacity of the child to form an autonomous opinion to the greatest extent possible. This means that States parties cannot begin with the assumption that a child is incapable of expressing her or his own views. On the contrary, States parties should presume that a child has the capacity to form her or his own views and recognize that she or he has the right to express them; it is not up to the child to first prove her or his capacity.

no age limit
The Committee emphasizes that article 12 imposes no age limit on the right of
the child to express her or his views, and discourages States parties from introducing
age limits either in law or in practice which would restrict the child’s right to be heard in all matters affecting her or him.

Research shows that the child is able to form views from the youngest age, even when she or he may be unable to express them verbally. Consequently, full implementation of article 12 requires recognition of, and respect for, non-verbal forms of communication including play, body language, facial expressions, and drawing and painting, through which very young children demonstrate understanding, choices and preferences;

“The right to express those views freely”
“Freely” means that the child can express her or his views without pressure and can choose whether or not she or he wants to exercise her or his right to be heard. “Freely” also means that the child must not be manipulated or subjected to undue influence or pressure. “Freely” is further intrinsically related to the child’s “own” perspective: the child has the right to express her or his own views and not the views of others.

The realization of the right of the child to express her or his views requires that the child be informed about the matters, options and possible decisions to be taken and their consequences by those who are responsible for hearing the child, and by the child’s parents or guardian. The child must also be informed about the conditions under which she or he will be asked to express her or his views. This right to information is essential, because it is the precondition of the child’s clarified decisions.

“In all matters affecting the child”
States parties must assure that the child is able to express her or his views “in all matters affecting” her or him. This represents a second qualification of this right: the child must be heard if the matter under discussion affects the child. This basic condition has to be respected and understood broadly.

“Being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child”
This clause refers to the capacity of the child, and stipulates that simply listening to the child is insufficient; the views of the child have to be seriously considered when the child is capable of forming her or his own views.

By requiring that due weight be given in accordance with age and maturity, article 12 makes it clear that age alone cannot determine the significance of a child’s views. Children’s levels of understanding are not uniformly linked to their biological age.

The general comment on article 12 has many more insightful points to better understand the right to be heard within the context of the CRC - see the full text of the general comment.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

The Middle Way - Bridging the Gap Between Cambodian Culture and Children’s Rights

The Middle Way - Bridging the Gap Between Cambodian Culture and Children’s Rights
By Steve Gourley, 2009 NGO Committee on the Rights of the Child, Cambodia, 2009.

This is an exciting piece of research that addresses the lack of comprehensive information available in Cambodia relating to knowledge, attitudes, and practice of ‘children’s rights’. Awareness-raising about children’s rights (CR) has been undertaken on a large scale by civil society organisations and the government and many people in Cambodia can mention at least a few rights that relate to children. Whereas awareness is relatively high, the practice appears to significantly lag behind, especially at the family level where traditional values at times interfere with certain rights, especially when it comes to participation.

The research recommends that governmental and private agencies should adopt more culturally-appropriate methods of education and promotion if children’s rights are to be fully realized at the family level.

Children were involved in planning the research, data validation, formulating recommendations. In addition, a very high proportion of child respondents (50% of all focus group participants and survey respondents) was intentionally selected to ensure that children’s interests were clearly and directly represented in the findings.

Steve Gourley presents a very useful comparison between the values of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and common Cambodian values.

UNCRC values in comparison to Cambodian values:

Equality and participation in contrast to Hierarchy
Transparency in contrast to Honour and Reputation
Gender equity in contrast to Patriarchy
Empowerment in contrast to Patronage
Justice in contrast to Harmony
Individualism in contrast to Collectivism

Steve Gourley notes:
“In view of the dramatic differences that exist, it is important to understand how each contributes to the overall functioning of society – and thus how and why specific values influence behaviour in a particular way. Each of the values above meets specific needs and therefore offers different benefits depending on the context in which they occur. Understanding the positive contribution of each can help decrease the tendency to judge a particular value or value system as “better” than another, illuminate how decision-making and behaviours can differ in various socio-cultural contexts, and help explain the conflicts that often occur between traditional parents and modern children.” (p.17)

Friday, 4 June 2010

The right to be properly researched: How to do rights-based, scientific research with children

This is a boxed set of 10 concise and easy to handle manuals for fieldworkers, giving step-by step guidance, linked to downloadable website materials and covering all aspects of research from conception to report writing.

Manual 1
Where do we start? explains the rights-based approach to research with children and how it relates to other research approaches.
Manual 2
How do we protect children? deals with the ethical rules and methods necessary in all research with children.
Manual 3
How can we be good researchers with children? provides information necessary for training, so that all researchers are fully equipped to work with children.
Manual 4
What do know already and what do we want to know? sets out the procedures of deciding on research topics and questions.
Manual 5
How are we going to find out? takes researchers through the process of choosing research methods and designing and piloting research tools.
Manual 6
How can we get the best data? provides guidance on research planning and management.
Manual 7
How do we count data? details the processes necessary for numerical analysis.
Manual 8
What do numbers mean? demonstrates the means of changing numerical results into meaningful answers to research questions.
Manual 9
How do we write the report? provides guidance on writing clear reports about research results for a variety of readers, including children.
Manual 10
Research dictionary, is an easy reference dictionary that clarifies the meanings of research terms as they are used in the rights-based approach.

The manual is written by Judith Ennew together with Tatek Abebe, Rattana Bangyai, Parichart Karapituck, Anne Trine Kjorholt and Thanakorn Noonsup, and it can be seen as the ultimate remake of Children in Focus - a Manual for Participatory Research with Children, which she wrote together with Jo Boyden in 1997 and which has been highly popular with people doing research with children.

I normally only publish information here that is available for free on the web, but this case warrants an exception. The printing costs need to be recovered before it can be made available on the web.

US$39.99 a set including postage and packaging

>A powerpoint presentation can be downloaded from the Knowing Children website with further information

Boxed set of 10 paperback manuals
English, diagrams and tables
ISBN: 978-616-7333-00-7