UNICEF, in support of the Congolese government, is giving young people in the DRC a platform to defend children’s rights and become active in the decision-making processes that concern them.
Despite the fact that the promotion of children’s rights has been a central element of the national agenda in recent years, the participation of children has often been merely symbolic. Given these observations, UNICEF and the DRC’s Ministry of Gender, Family Affairs and Children decided to give children a platform and the tools they need to defend their opinions and rights.
CHILDREN FROM 12 TO 17 YEARS OLD FROM ALL SOCIAL BACKGROUNDS
Aged from 12 to 17, the “Young Reporters” are girls and boys from all social backgrounds who come from organizations working for the protection, education, health and participation of children in the DRC.
The “Young Reporters” are trained to be more aware of their rights and better prepared to give their views on the problems that they encounter. They are introduced to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and practical workshops and games are organized to help them to understand all the issues related to children’s rights.
The children are trained to understand and master basic journalistic techniques. They are taught to master advocacy tools – videos, photos, public games and writing articles. Courses are delivered by a network of journalists and members of the UNICEF DRC team.
DEFEND YOUR RIGHTS AND EXPRESS YOUR OPINION
The “Young Reporters” program offers participants the opportunity to defend their rights by creating an environment that allows them to express their concerns, ideas, and recommendations to policy makers and managers at all levels. The importance given to their opinion in turn enhances dignity, justice, fairness and equality by placing the interests of children at the heart of the citizenship agenda.
500 YOUTH REPORTERS TRAINED IN DRC’s 11 PROVINCES
UNICEF has worked in partnership with the DRC’s Ministry of Gender, Family Affairs and Children so that the program can be implemented in 11 provinces.
Since 2007, nearly 500 children have participated in the program and received basic training in audiovisual production and advocacy techniques to defend the rights of the child.
Some discover a vocation for journalism, humanitarian work or law. The new skills and open-mindedness that this program offers children provide them with greater insight into their country, it’s problems and the solutions that can be found.
When asked, most children recognise that now they know their rights, it is their responsibility to respect those of their own children and the children they meet throughout their lives.
The whole point of this program is to enable children to find the solutions to their own problems. They are often excluded from decisions that concern them when it seems obvious that they must be involved in building a more just society that is more respectful of its children.
A TV SHOW, VIDEOS AND ARTICLES FOR CONCRETE RESULTS
Following a plea by young reporters in Kinshasa, the national television network RTNC has agreed to create a TV show called “The Voice of the Child”.
In 2008, the Goma “Young Reporters” produced a series of videos called “Inside Witnesses” on the lives of displaced people in North Kivu. The videos were released internationally by the French newspaper Le Monde and prompted international and national debates.
In 2009, Young Reporters from Matadi found that in special schools for deaf and dumb children, parents had to pay teachers’ salaries. Based on the right of children to receive free and quality education, Young Reporters managed with their plea to the Governor to have the teachers’ salaries included in the 2010 budget.
In October 2012, the Francophone Summit was held in Kinshasa. On this occasion, Young Reporters were able to speak with several members of the DRC Parliament whom they alerted about the non-observance of children’s rights in their country. They also organised games about advocacy to inform other children about their rights.
One young reporter, Eunice, was invited to the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa where she represented children in Central Africa before African leaders. On this occasion she wrote a remarkable speech called “We, African Children” in which she recalled the right of the child to survival, freedom of expression, education and health, and called for a strategy to prevent armed conflict affecting children.