My right to participate

It has now been exactly 25 years since the Convention on the Rights of the Child exists. To celebrate this special day, Carmel explains us one of the most important right of the child, one he daily uses in his mission of young reporter : the right to child participation.

Child participation is a fundamental right for every child. This participation is reflected in the ability of the child to give their point of view on the many issues concerning them, whether at home, at school, in their respective communities or elsewhere.

In DRC, for a long time the issue of child participation was considered useless. For a long time, the child was regarded as a person who had nothing interesting to say, just there to listen and obey adults. Now, the Congolese child is aware of his rights, especially in connection with his participation.

With greater extension of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, including the right to child participation as one of the founding principles, the voice of the child is gradually gaining ground: more and more people take into account what children have to say.

The image very often conveyed of children in DRC is one of malnourished children, outside the school system, living on the street or released from armed forces and groups. They are reduced to mere recipients of government projects and donors. With participation, the DRC child is gradually in the process of developing a new statute: a real partner of the organizations.

Some persons always wonder what child participation is.

I answer them by saying that child participation is of paramount importance, as children we are the future.

In all areas, either medical or educative, it is necessary to listen to the views of the person you want to treat or educate so as to apply what he needs. This is the same for a child: it is necessary to listen to them to claim to one day bring solutions to the problems he faces.

Participation is a way for better understanding of the child and better preparing their future. No one should be the kind of adults that meet every year to discuss issues concerning children; without inviting if only one single child to speak on behalf of all.

To date, in DRC several programmes have emerged in relation to child participation. The child reporters in DRC, of which I am one of the members, are children trained by UNICEF and the Ministry of Gender, Family and Children. We learn advocacy techniques, article writing, production of audio-visual media, production of TV broadcasts and above all we are introduced to participation in order to advocate for the cause of Children from DRC and elsewewhere.

Regardless of the situations in which the children of DRC can find themselves, we, the child reporters, have learnt to know our rights and to say, in a loud and intelligible voice, what we think about our future.

We have the chance to be, in the same day, at the same time, to listen to the concerns of our peers (in our neighbourhood) and around a table with the higher authorities of the country and even the world, to plead the cause of children.

Allow us to inform you that in the framework of child participation, we, the children of DRC have made our voice heard in the local communities, provinces and at the national level; and it is also and always in the framework of child participation that, we, the children of DRC, have made our voice heard at the international level, participating:

–        at the third Pan African forum on the child held in Addis-Ababa in 2012

–        at the forum of hope for children on peace in the Great Lakes region held in Bujumbura in 2014

–        at the Heads of States Summit of the CIRGL (International Conference of the Great Lakes Region) held in Nairobi in 2014

–        at the summit for girls on early marriages and genital mutilation held in London in 2014

–      one of us recently received a prize in New York for having remarkably promoted girls’ education during the recent “back to school” campaign.

Child participation is for me an opening to new horizons; it allows me for the first time to really say what I think.

To be a child reporter inspires the desire to create a world worthy of children.

Photo : UNICEF RDC 2014 Adrien Majourel

Translated from French by Tahirah Charles.

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Carmel a 15 ans et il est enfant reporter de Kinshasa. Cycliste et constructeur de robot, il aime le football et Cristiano Ronaldo. Sa devise? "Malgré les tempêtes, il faut aller de l'avant".

Carmel is 15 years old and is a child reporter from Kinshasa. Carmel is a cyclist, builds robots and likes football and Cristiano Ronaldo. His motto is: ‘Despite the storms, one must move on.’

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