In 2019, the world celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. National Child Day was also celebrated on the same day across Canada.
Equitas has always been a firm believer in the important role of children and youth to generate social change in the world. Through our different programs in Canada, Speaking Rights and Play It Fair!, we have been able to better equip children and youth with the tools they need to better understand their rights. We have been privileged witnesses of the importance of including children and youth in decision making processes, but more importantly, the importance of listening and paying attention to what they have to say.
Our work in Canada
Including children and youth in decision making processes
On November 4, Equitas’ team members in British Columbia accompanied three children to present to Burnaby City Council, the final Burnaby Children’s Charter! On this day, the Council passed two motions: to proclaim November 20th National Child Day in Burnaby, and to appoint a staff person to endorse the Charter and use the Action Planning Guide to integrate the voices of children in programs and policies. Equitas, in partnership with Burnaby Children’s Community Table, have developed and designed the final Charter poster as well as the Action Planning Guide.
As participation in public life is a fundamental principle of human rights, children and youth need to be heard and participate in the decisions that have an impact upon their life.
Children expressing their rights to decision makers
To highlight National Child Day, Equitas developed a special activity booklet for children so they could learn about their rights. Over 250 organizations participated in this activity by creating their own Tree of Children’s Rights to express why rights are important to them. Check out the photos below of some of the many communities that participated, including children from the Trinity Bellwoods Community Center in Toronto, the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation, participating schools in the English Montreal School Board, as well as the Joujouthèque Basse-Ville in Quebec City. The Porteurs des Droits de l’Enfant in Quebec City also marked this day by organizing a march for children’s rights, as seen below.
Also in Quebec City, children had the opportunity to be heard by various decision-makers at the National Assembly including Premier François Legault and Mathieu Lacombe, the Minister of Families, to whom they presented bouquets of leaves that they had created.
Click here if you would like to download a copy of the activity booklet to do with the children you work with. National Child Day may have come and gone, but every day is a good day to talk to the children you work with about their rights!
Children and youth have the power to inspire decision-makers to provoke change by using their own words and fresh ideas.
Youth taking action to create change
Equitas supported Native Montreal’s youth in their process of contributing to the public consultation on Systemic Racism and Discrimination.
In a workshop co-facilitated by Native Montreal and Equitas, the Youth Council shared their experiences of racism and the intersections with poverty, homelessness, mental illness, racial profiling, and bullying. ‘Landlords won’t rent to you when you say you are on social assistance,’ stated one participant, which makes finding safe and secure lodging that is not social housing very difficult. Members also talked about a lack of trust of the police, and never knowing if they would answer calls for help.
The lack of education about Indigenous Peoples in schools and communities was underlined as one of the root causes of these systemic barriers.
The group came up with nine concrete solutions including: better representation of Montreal’s diversity in public office, more alternative education programs to meet the needs of youth who learn differently, and better training on social issues including poverty and mental illness for police.
Our work around the world
To help children and youth participate more in their local communities, Equitas work with local partners. Our work around the wold is primarly funded by the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada (GAC).
Adressing violence against children and youth in Tanzania through Human rights education
In Tanzania, almost 75% of children under the age of 18 have been subjected to physical and/or sexual violence. A baseline study conducted by Equitas and our partner TUSONGE in 2015, in three communities in the Kilimanjaro region, confirmed that violence against women, children and youth in the home and in public spaces is a major barrier to their participation in decision-making that affects their lives. Through our work in the country and our collaboration with our International Human Rights Training Program alumni’ Equitas is committed to :
- Equip community members with knowledge, leadership skills and tools to change behaviours and influence public dialogue to address violence within families and communities;
- Build collaborative partnerships between civil society, local authorities and community leaders to address violence against women, children and youth through policy dialogue and implementing the laws;
- Strengthen existing national and community networks and mechanisms which address violence against women, children and youth;
Disseminate good practices, lessons learned, research findings and capacity-building tools on a regional and national level through forums and dialogues.
For example, Equitas works with Michael Reuben, the director of Elimu Mwangaza (Swahili for Enlightenment through Education), an organization based in Tanzania dedicated to ending violence towards children. A graduate of Equitas’ IHRTP, Michael works to educate children about their rights and share that knowledge with parents, teachers, and governments to reinforce their duty to protect the rights of their children. Using Equitas toolkits and activities, and equipped with his learnings from the IHRTP, Michael encourages children to draw or put on plays as ways to explain their rights and the issues they face at school or at home. This participatory approach in turn encourages parents and teachers to be engaged in the conversation, as the activities are always followed by questions that invite their input.
“The activities and conversations build confidence in the children so that they are able to claim their rights and report the issues that they, or other children face. For example, recently we were informed of five cases of sexual abuse that were reported by children to their teachers. If the children had not been made aware of their rights, they would not have had the confidence to go beyond the fear of reprisal that was promised by their abusers”.
– Michael Reuben
Increasing girls and youth participation in community life in Senegal
Violence against girls, limited access to civic registration and entrenched discriminatory attitudes represent major barriers to participation of girls and youth to community life in Senegal. The multifaceted forms of violence suffered by girls prevent them from freely expressing their point of view and participate in decision-making in the private and public spheres. Statistics also reveal that more than ¼ of births is not registered in Senegal, which constitutes an obstacle to girls’ and boys’ school attendance and a major barrier to their right to education.
To adress these issues using human rights education, Equitas has reached out to thousands of girls and youth in the communities of Pikine and Thies enabling them to know their rights and participate more in their community. We helped sustainably change mentalities and socio-cultural behaviours towards civic registration of births by engaging with community leaders and the media and developed a practical and accessible human rights Action Guide (Andandoo) and an advocacy tool for human rights defenders and community members to take action.
Equitas works with children and youth in many other parts of the world especially in the Middle East and North Africa region where young people are often unheard even though they are the primary agents of social change in their countries.
Since the launch of the Rawabet initiative in March 2018, Equitas has been supporting the development skills and leadership of young people, women, and people living with disabilities in Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco, and Egypt to help them play a more active role in their communities and address the problems of social exclusion through community actions.
In Canada or around the world, our work with children and youth is rooted in the belief that you are never too young to create change.
Happy Human Rights Day!