Empowering Voices: The Importance of Child Participation through Forums for Children’s Rights

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Children have unique perspectives, insights, and ideas that deserve to be heard and respected. Recognizing and respecting children’s rights to participate in decisions that affect their lives is not only a fundamental human right but also a pathway to creating a more inclusive and just society. One powerful way to promote child participation is by setting up forums where children can actively engage in discussions about their rights. In this article, we will explore the significance of child participation and how establishing such forums is a crucial step in ensuring children’s voices are not only heard but also valued and acted upon.

The Importance of Child Participation

Child participation is an integral aspect of child rights, as enshrined in international conventions like the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Here are some compelling reasons why child participation is essential:

  1. Fostering a Sense of Ownership: When children actively participate in discussions about their rights, they feel a sense of ownership over their lives and decisions that affect them. This fosters a positive self-identity and self-esteem.
  2. Promoting Critical Thinking: Participation encourages children to think critically, analyze situations, and make informed decisions. It helps them develop essential life skills and become responsible citizens.
  1. Ensuring Inclusivity: Children often experience discrimination or exclusion due to their age. Child participation ensures that their unique perspectives are considered in decision-making, leading to more inclusive and equitable outcomes.
  1. Building Empathy and Respect: When children engage in discussions with their peers and adults, they learn to empathize with others’ viewpoints and respect diverse opinions. This can lead to reduced conflicts and improved relationships.
  1. Driving Positive Change: Children are not just the future; they are the present. Their insights and ideas can drive positive change in their communities, schools, and families.

Setting Up a Forum for Child Participation

Creating a forum where children can actively participate in discussions about their rights is a tangible and effective way to promote child participation. Here’s why it matters:

  1. A Safe and Supportive Environment: Forums provide a safe and supportive space for children to express their thoughts and concerns without fear of judgment or reprisal. This environment encourages open and honest dialogue.
  1. Fostering Collaboration: Forums encourage collaboration among children and between children and adults. By working together, they can identify issues, propose solutions, and advocate for change collectively.
  1. Learning Opportunities: Forums offer valuable learning opportunities. Children can learn about their rights, the importance of respectful communication, and how to engage in constructive discussions.
  1. Policy Influence: When children participate in discussions about their rights, their input can directly influence policies and decisions that affect them. This ensures that their needs and interests are prioritized.
  1. Enhancing Awareness: Forums raise awareness about children’s rights among children themselves, as well as among parents, teachers, policymakers, and the wider community. This increased awareness can lead to better adherence to child rights principles.

The Dream House Children’s Forum

Child participation is not a luxury but a fundamental human right that must be safeguarded and promoted. Establishing forums where children can actively participate in discussions about their rights is a powerful means to achieve this. When we listen to children, respect their opinions, and involve them in decision-making processes, we not only honor their rights but also nurture responsible, empathetic, and empowered individuals who will shape a brighter future for all.

As adults, our responsibility is to create these spaces for children, listen attentively, and act on their recommendations. By doing so, we not only promote child participation but also pave the way for a fairer and more inclusive society where every child’s voice is valued and heard.

In fulfillment of this responsibility, the Rumah Impian Indonesia Foundation has established the Children’s Forum of Rumah Impian. The Children’s Forum of Rumah Impian regularly conducts activities with children under the care of the Rumah Impian Indonesia Foundation, spread throughout the Special Region of Yogyakarta.

In late August 2023, the Children’s Forum of Rumah Impian convened at the Jogoyudan Community Housing Unit in the Gowongan Village of the Jetis Sub-District in Yogyakarta City. The meeting venue was facilitated by the local neighborhood association (RW) of Jogoyudan.

During this meeting, 16 children from five areas under the care of the Rumah Impian Indonesia Foundation were present. These children came from Tukangan, Sidomulyo, Tlukan, Wonocatur, and Jogoyudan. These five areas have different environmental characteristics, which greatly influence the issues children face in their respective communities.

Children from Sidomulyo live in densely populated settlements near the Winongo River, while those from Tukangan reside in densely populated areas near the Lempuyangan railway tracks. Tlukan is a small village situated between the Maguwoharjo railway station and the Adisucipto Airport. Children from Wonocatur come from a scavenger community, and children from Jogoyudan are urban children living in the Jogoyudan Housing Unit, not far from Malioboro Street.

The objective of this meeting was to provide children with an understanding of the four fundamental rights of children. Engaging discussions took place about which rights they have already received and what they would do if their rights were not met.

When facilitators asked questions, all the children eagerly responded. They also posed critical questions, which were met with thoughtful responses from other children. Many of the questions centered around the practical application of children’s fundamental rights in their daily lives and their relationship with their parents regarding these rights.

When asked what they could do if a right was not met, some children responded that they would need to request that right but also consider their parents’ capabilities. Children are trying to voice their aspirations while still considering their parents’ conditions and situations.

One child named Intan, for example, expressed an interesting viewpoint when answering the question, “What would you do if your rights were not met?” She replied that she would accept it and continue to be a good child, who worships and forgives both parents. However, if her parents exceeded boundaries, she would report it to the authorities and share her story with someone trustworthy.

A discussion ensued among the children when asked, “What rights have not been obtained?” A child named Mei said that she asked for permission to ride a motorcycle, but her request was not fulfilled. Mei’s statement was challenged by Rafid. Rafid inquired about Mei’s age and explained traffic regulations regarding the minimum age for riding motor vehicles. Rafid pointed out that Mei’s request was different from her rights.

This forum began with a pre-test given to the children to assess their understanding of children’s fundamental rights. Then, after the discussion, the children were given a post-test to see how the discussion had changed their understanding. The results of both tests showed that before the discussion, the children had a vague understanding of children’s fundamental rights. This situation changed after the forum discussion.

Seeing the enthusiasm of the children and the results of the forum discussion, it can be concluded that the children’s forum is an effective platform for promoting child participation in understanding their fundamental rights. This forum is also beneficial for nurturing children into responsible, empathetic, and empowered individuals who will shape a brighter future.

Children are not just the future; they are the relevant existence today. In our efforts to build a fairer and more inclusive world, let us unite in granting children the rights to speak, listen, and act. By establishing forums like the Children’s Forum of Rumah Impian Indonesia Foundation, we weave hope, open opportunities, and guide children to become future leaders who care and take responsibility. Together, we can build a society where young voices are valued, respected, and empowered to change the world.

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