Involving Children to help them Achieve their Dreams

Sylvester Senga, 14-year-old boy from Shinyanga, Tanzania wrote this blog after attending the RIATT-ESA sponsored Children and Youth conference at the 2017 PSS forum.

Children are usually not involved in decisions concerning their growth and development. Even when decisions are made with good intentions for children, when children are not involved, they often fail. Like any other person, children have the right to be involved regardless of their differences and their life situations.

Shinyanga is one of the regions with a high rate of violence and cruelty towards children, including early marriages, pregnancy and other violations. However, issues of cruelty and abuse and marriage laws have been discussed between the government and organizations with minimal involvement of the children themselves.

The things that children would like to be involved in are; education systems, health systems, laws and campaigns at community and family level. The children could participate in discussions around unfriendly school systems, distance to health care and education services and methods of teaching at schools. Community level campaigns would also benefit by including children’s insights on community and family life.

There are many reasons why children are often not involved, including:

  • Oppressive norms and customs. Example; Sukuma customs do not allow children to discuss ‘adult issues’.
  • Lack of education and understanding the rights of children.

If a child cannot participate in decision making even at the community and family level, the following challenges will continue to increase;

  • Early pregnancy and marriages
  • Increase in child labor and street children
  • Lack of education
  • Child mortality

What should change and what should be done

  • Starting at the family level, parents should listen to their children and give children the opportunity to participate in decision making.
  • At community level children should be involved in discussing issues that are about them.
  • At government level children should be involved in the development of laws and campaigns for them. Children should also be listened to so they can inform government of what they feel needs to be done for them.