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Why it’s vitally important to listen to a child’s perspective and opinion

POSTED November 29, 2021

Why it’s vitally important to listen to a child’s perspective and opinion

At Children Believe hearing the voices of young people is part of our strategy to change the world

By Jorge Méndez Rheineck, country director, Paraguay

Three people set something up at a table

Every child has the right for their voice to be heard, but that’s not the main reason we listen. We listen, because we value children’s voices and learn from them. We’re thankful for their thoughts and ideas, which make us more efficient in promoting their development and collective well-being.

The freedom to speak and express ideas is inherent to all humans, but sometimes adults underestimate the value of what children think and say, simply because of the stage of development they’ve reached.

Even before it became a human right, the ability to express ourselves has been part of human nature and an integral part of human dignity. When we can think and speak freely — what we in international development call “participate” — we’re realizing our dignity. This is why the recognition and realization of our dignity are the main reasons for promoting the ability and freedom to think and speak.

At Children Believe, the participation of children, whether through their families, communities, schools or societies, is so essential it’s become one of our four global strategies for helping them reach their dreams.

In Paraguay, Children Believe is especially committed to enhancing children’s voices with the goal of becoming a centre of excellence in child participation and protection against violence.

Our local team has developed important policy and program initiatives to enhance child participation, specifically protection from violence and advocating for their well-being.

The 20 Commitments in favour of childhood and adolescence, signed by the current President of Paraguay, is a good example. They were conceived, in part, in 2018 by a child-led coalition from across the country called the National Network of Children’s Organizations. The National Network is a member of The Front for Childhood and Adolescence, a group of more than 20 child-focused, civil-society organizations, which promoted the signing of the commitments.

“Together with the Front, we were able to bring the Presidential candidates together to sign the 20 Commitments to Children and Adolescents,” recalls Alcides (pictured above), a youth originally involved in the process. “Later, we got President Mario Abdo Benítez to ratify the 20 Commitments document when he assumed the Presidency.”

But, the participation of children from our communities isn’t limited to local or even national stages.

Ángeles, a young woman from one of our programs, participated in the first End Violence Solution Summit, in Stockholm. She recalls: “All the children’s delegations at the meeting agreed violence has to end, and governments need to make a real commitment; we don’t just want words, we want strong actions. And, to achieve real change, we’re willing to work with the leaders of our countries. We must do our part to make our world better.”

We agree. So, in a systematic and comprehensive way, we are promoting children’s participation in our programs through the Child Friendly Accountability Methodology. This approach encourages children to assess and advocate for their rights, especially when it comes to keeping safe from violence.

Through our programs and local partners, we promote child and youth groups and organizations. We also provide guidance and support so these organizations can articulate themselves through bigger networks. And, as active members of the National Network of Childhood and Adolescence, their influence continues to reverberate on local, national and international levels.

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ABOUT CHILDREN BELIEVE (formerly Christian Children's Fund of Canada):

Children Believe works globally to empower children to dream fearlessly, stand up for what they believe in — and be heard. For 60 years, we’ve brought together brave young dreamers, caring supporters and partners, and unabashed idealists. Together, we’re driven by a common belief: creating access to education — inside and outside of classrooms — is the most powerful tool children can use to change their world.

About Canada-Africa Initiative to Address Maternal, Newborn and Child Mortality (CAIA-MNCM):

The Canada-Africa Initiative to Address Maternal, Newborn and Child Mortality is a partnership among four Canadian organizations — Amref Health Africa, Children Believe, Centre for Global Child Health at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and WaterAid Canada. With support of $24.9 million from the Government of Canada (85 percent of the total project budget), this four-year project (2016 to 2020) aims to directly reach 1.7-million women, children and men across 20 districts in Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi and Tanzania. The partners are working together with African communities to improve the delivery of essential health services to moms, pregnant women, newborns and children under the age of five; increase the use of these improved health services; and improve the consumption of nutritious foods and supplements.

About ChildFund Alliance:

A member of ChildFund Alliance, Children Believe is part of a global network of 12 child-focused development organizations working to create opportunities for children and youth, their families and communities. ChildFund helps nearly 23-million children and their families in more than 70 countries overcome poverty and underlying conditions that prevent children from achieving their full potential. We work to end violence against children; provide expertise in emergencies and disasters to ease the harmful impact on children and their communities; and engage children and youth to create lasting change and elevate their voices in decisions that affect their lives.

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