The real meaning of child friendly governance

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Despite much talking on child issues, how easy is to think the child’s way? Is it possible to think differently, set aside our pre-constructed mindset and try once again to be a child, taking on children’ perspective and act exactly the same way our your children would do?

Finding the right answers does not seem an easy task. After all the same Convention on the Rights of the Children, while ensuring the respect of children ‘s opinions and ideas, also makes clear that children are first of all children and their level of expression, capacity of thinking evolve and mature along the years with gained freedom.

In this way the Convention recognizes the role of parenting in the decision making on behalf of the child.

Children entrust the adults with some sort of “delegation of authority” and step by step, year by year, while growing up and gain more self confidence, forging their own vision of world and their critical thinking get shaped, they start reclaiming a bigger saying on how to manage their own life. That’s the path to what we are, the path to adulthood.

On 27th and 28th and 29th of June world expert will gather in Kathmandu to discuss about child governance and child friendly cities. Possibly this gathering, organized by Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development, UNICEF and Child Friendly Asia Pacific Network with the support of local organizations, will offer an incredible opportunity to reflect and introspect and think about some plausible answers.

How a complex task like community planning and organizing can take into account the kids’ needs in a genuine and truly way and not simply through action mirrored by tokenism? Is it involving children in, say, planning budget of a VDC or medium size municipality really possible? If the answer is yes, is it really enough? How do we ensure genuine participation of the children in this complex process?

After all a child centered governance is defined as “strategic frame that provides overall guidance to the government in realizing and mainstreaming the rights of children (Survival, Development, Protection and Participation) into the local government system, structure, policies and processes”

Most people might assume that besides “feeling good” rhetoric, the task of making child centered governance a reality is just up to the adults. Nothing more wrong.

Adults do have of course a stake in turning their communities a better place to live and prosper for their children but not only this. They also have a clear responsibility in ensuring that children, according to their age and level of maturity, have a say and they are themselves empowered to exercise their rights.

They are many ways for doing this. Some INGO/NGOs have made strides in organizing child parliaments as forum for hearing kids’ voice and opinions. While these kinds of initiatives are definitely a good way of promoting children rights to participation, a child parliament is mostly useful as campaigning tool. More practical things can be done at local level.

Nepal is a trailblazer in child clubs practices: they are run all over the country and now they do represent a common feature in almost all the community run schools but these clubs should get more active also beyond the school, something not so impossible in Nepal where public schools are run by local people and play an import role at community level.

The clubs therefore can be involved, for example, in social audits of VDC and wards of the municipalities. Children can become social activist for better transparency and more accountability at local level not only on their best interest but in the overall interest of all the community. At the same way, children can be promoter of Right to Information.

By starting asking or better complaining on issues related to education and health, children will do a great service to the society by forcing the duty bearers to disclose their books, opening up with more information and ultimately helping raising the standards.

Participatory budget is another area where children can be part of it. Quite common in many countries of Latin America, it did not take off yet in Nepal.

Child governance is not about only planning, social audit or participatory budgeting or child clubs.

A child friendly community involves many more elements.  For example it is about better learning and an health system at local level sensitive and attentive to children needs.

Education and health are keys for nourishing and fostering a sound growth of our children. Schools and local health posts play an important role in this. The School Health and Nutrition model can truly mark a difference by incorporating, at school level, basic health knowledge, awareness, life skills with prevention, including key aspects of WASH.

Therefore child centered governance can be seen as a platform for a more integrated approach that brings together different sector areas.

Last but not the least the role of the family, the real agent for psychological and physical wellbeing, happiness and emotional “prosperity” of the children. We all know that huge strides must be ensured for creating a child protection system at grassroots level with efforts to support, not only financially, families who are struggling and lagging behind. We all know their children: we meet them every day in the restaurants, in the public means and in our houses. They are the ones we often pretend not to see.

These children are the breadwinners for their family and they deserve all our respect not only because they are first of all children but also because they are economically active young citizens. They contribute to the reduction of poverty.

I am wondering what child governance means to them. Do we have an answer ourselves?


Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

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