The Importance of Child Participation

To realize children’s right to participate in political processes that directly concern them is a main goal for this campaign. But why is this participation so important? We discussed this issue with Judy Müller-Goldenstedt, expert on children’s rights working for Kindernothilfe, a member of this campaign.

What does participation of children mean and why is it considered to be important?

Children’s participation includes the opportunity for children to express their points of view and opinions and thus to influence decisions which may affect their lives.

Participation includes different kinds of involvement, contribution, assistance and codetermination. They differ in quality and have to be distinguished in participation initiated and controlled by adults, equal decision-making, and children’s self-determined and initiated participation.

The right to be heard manifests itself in several articles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (see i.a. Articles 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, and 31). Participation is one of the Convention’s guiding principles and most advanced innovations.

Kindernothilfe attaches much importance to children’s participation in project and program work. Children are considered to be experts of their everyday living environment and indispensable in analyzing and finding solutions for their problems. Therefore, participation is not to be seen as a single activity but as a process and foundational principle.

Active involvement and contribution are important requirements for successful and sustainable improvements for the benefit of children and the implementation of development programs. Participation helps children developing new skills and competences and improving their self-confidence may strengthen understanding and implementation of democracy.

Which possibilities do we have to strengthen children and help provide their right for participation?

Reasonable children’s participation can only succeed, when corresponding conditions are created, e.g. a safe and trustful environment, where resources are provided, where children have access to relevant and child-friendly information and all risks are evaluated, etc. It’s furthermore important that children realise their rights and acquire and improve skills and competences (e.g. communication and social competence, critical thinking, competence in organization and life skills), so they can take part in participative processes in the best possible way.

What do KNH’s partners contribute?

In the context of their projects, our partners advocate for creating an advantageous environment for participation and to support skills and competences enabling children to take part in such processes. We support several projects, which, in the context of their activities, encourage children, e.g. children and human rights education, consulting children in specific issues, children’s attendance concerning implementation and management of projects, supporting implementation of claims in politics, supporting organizations led by children (e.g. working children), right up to include children in creating shadow reports for the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and implementing children’s rights.

This campaign aims on integrating children actively in research processes. Why is that important?

Integrating working children from the beginning is important, so the research process can be adjusted to their interests and needs. Furthermore, this procedure ensures that children’s interests are always our top priority.