In order to best protect people, they must be integrated into the process and encouraged to participate. In my opinion, a decision which concerns me made in my absence is against my interests.
Every child has the right to say what they think and to participate
The participation of children is a right guaranteed by the International Convention on the Rights of the Child. In 2016, as part of the Congolese government’s policy, in partnership with UNICEF, a Child Parliament was established in the Mambasa territory, in Ituri Province.
In Mambasa, as in other parts of the country, children have a desire to defend and promote the rights of their peers. These young leaders are convinced that, for society to respect children, it must allow them to participate in decision-making which concerns them.
Since the Mambasa Child Parliament was created, children have felt involved in promoting their rights, despite the multiple obstacles which they may face. Wivine, aged 15 and president of the Parliament, states that “nothing is more important than building a world in which all children will have the chance to realise their full potential and to grow up in peace and dignity.”
Child Parliament: a meeting place for modern times
The Mambasa Child Parliament has become a palaver tree around which the children of the territory come together to discuss the situation of their peers, reflect on solutions to be carried out and to decide on concrete action, always aimed at respecting their rights.
“The promotion and protection of the rights of the child should not remain a simple ideal,” states Bernard, the young spokesperson for the Parliament. It is important “that they become an everyday reality to ensure the development of the children and young people of Mambasa.”
Unfortunately, this modern-day palaver tree is not sufficiently supported. The children know what they are doing but “Mambasa Child Parliament needs support from the Government and organisations working on the protection of the rights of the child, but also from society in order to allow it to fulfil its role in this territory where there are numerous rights violations,” says David, a Young Reporter.
Ensuring the participation of every child
Children are the most vulnerable group in the world and their rights are often flouted. Children must have complete knowledge of their rights in order to be in a position to promote them through various structures such as Child Parliament. It is time that society accepted the participation of children at all levels, as recognised in articles 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15 of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Mulasi, 15, is responsible for the status of girls in the Parliament. “Young girls today are left outside of a world they should be part of. It is others [boys] who defend and promote their rights.”
Mulasi is appealing to young girls in the territory. “I’m calling all willing girls to come and join us to learn about and defend our rights”.
Firstly published on February 2018
Translated from French by Amber Sherman
Aristote est Jeune Reporter de la Province de l’Ituri. Ancien vice-président du Parlement d’Enfant de sa Province, il étudie actuellement le droit. Pour lui, l’enfance est la richesse d’une nation.
Aristote is a Young Reporter from Ituri Province. Former vice-president of the Children’s Parliament of his Province, he is currently studying law. For him, children are the wealth of a nation.
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