Children’s voices in advocacy and policy development

Monday, March 9, 2015 - 15:43

Children and adolescents are shaped by their psychosocial environments, but at the same time they also bring their unique value and influence to the world. Taking children’s opinions into account in decision making, empowers them to become informed and active citizens.

It is known from childhood theories, research and practice that “children are active constructors of meaning, with voices to be heard and the capacity to express their views with wisdom and insight” (Hallet & Prout, 2000; Moloney, 2003). “Children are key informants and experts on their own lives” (McNaughton, 2002) “and, indeed, are our best source of advice for matters affecting them” (Australian Institute of Family Studies, 2007).

The reality however is that children are rarely consulted, and their vulnerability often leaves them most affected by epidemics, and the last to benefit from policy development.

RIATT-ESA is working to turn the tide for children, by placing children’s voices in the front of policy making and advocacy. What are the children saying? Where do they feel the biggest gaps in support and wellness in their communities?

RIATT-ESA, supported by YouthReachSA asked young people aged 13 to 19 years, attending school in an underprivileged community in Johannesburg, this question:

 “What would make the world a better place for children?” 

*Some of the children’s comments included:

“People with an education are less likely to steal, and go to taverns” (Busisiwe Diepsloot high school)

“Support for children who need help with their homework” (Nokwanda Diepsloot high school)

“There needs to be more public hospitals, as people cannot afford health care from the private hospitals.” (Katlego Diepsloot high school)

“Most women and children are suffering from violence and rape from their loved ones.” (Mpumi Diepsloot high school)

“Many children around the world are victims of abuse, when children are abused it also harms their minds.” (Emily Diepsloot high school)

“Caring, loving and being willing to listen will make the world a better place for children.” (Annah Diepsloot high school)

“Caring and loving parents” (Priscilla Diepsloot high school)

The children’s answers were on point and confirmed what established researchers are finding, and policy makers instituting as priorities:

RIATT-ESA policy briefs

SADC Minimum Package of Services for Orphans and other Vulnerable Children

About the area:  Dieplsoot is a poverty-stricken, densely populated settlement in the north of Johannesburg, South Africa. It is made up of government-subsidized housing, brick houses built by landowners as well as shacks made from scrap metal, wood, plastic and cardboard. It is estimated that there are 150 000 people living there, half of them unemployed. (Wikipedia)

Join the conversation on #Children’sVoices

By Angelita Silva

*Children’s real names were not included; all the children are between the ages of 13-19 years old