The Children’s Rights Alliance recently published Voice, Rights, Action! – a youth-led research report by Gabriela Martinez Sainz and Jessica Daminelli (UCD School of Education) and co-researchers Alex (12), Cameron (15), Emma (17), Erin (13), Matthew (16) and Orna (16).
The report set out to better understand children’s knowledge of their own rights, identify gaps in their knowledge and skills, and to develop recommendations that will help to address those gaps in children’s rights education through policy and practice.
The findings and recommendations in the report address the voice of children and young people, their rights and what action should be taken. Key findings include:
- Children should be provided with information on their rights, how to better protect them and how these are exercised in different systems, for example the healthcare system, care system, justice system, and so on.
- The Youth Panel identified specific rights that are particularly important for them as children, including the right to education, health, participation in decision-making and their right to access services and supports for disabilities.
- Schools should provide mandatory and comprehensive education on children’s rights. This should go beyond the UN Convention on the rights of the Child and include information on remedies and supports available to children and their families.
- Special protections should be put in place for vulnerable groups of children. This should include providing adequate spaces (for example gender neutral toilets and changing rooms, school facilities and infrastructure accessible for children with disabilities) along with policies for participation and school accountability.
- Lower the voting age to 16.
Commenting on the research report, Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance said,
“This report speaks to the very ethos of our organisation as it highlights the importance of a shared understanding and education on children’s rights. It provides a fresh perspective on what we need to do as educators, as advocates and as policy makers to ensure that children and young people are given opportunities to have their voices heard on what they feel is most important in their lives, and how we they can be supported to take action to exercise their rights. The report’s youth researchers have put together a comprehensive view of children’s rights education in Ireland and put forward a strong set of recommendations that we urge policy and decision makers to consider.
Ireland has made great strides to step out of the shadow of our past and create a society where children and young people have a voice. However, rights on paper are not enough and what is clear from this report, young people are ready to help shape the future they want to see for themselves and their peers. When they are given the right information and opportunities to do so, as this report demonstrates, they bring valuable insights to the table. Now is the time to give children and young people a true voice in our political system and lower the voting age to 16.”
The launch event took place recently and is chaired by Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, Sinéad Gibney and included a presentation by the researchers and youth panel, followed by a response from Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, Dr Karen McAuley, Ombudsman for Children’s Office, Lara Hynes, Acting Assistant Secretary General of the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.
“This year will mark the 10th anniversary of the Children’s Referendum in Ireland. This report is a timely reminder of what we committed to as a state all those years ago. It is clear from the findings and the insights from the youth researchers, that children and young people have an intimate understanding of how their rights can be violated and they have a clear desire for social justice and equality for one another,” continued Tanya Ward.
“The launch is an invitation to those in Government to really listen to what children and young people are telling us they need and a suggestion on where the solution may start. It reminds us that children and young people are active citizens in their own right and they should be considered and consulted like any other group in society. It is only through this participatory approach that we will ensure that information, education and the realisation of their rights through our society truly meet the needs of all children and young people, particularly those most vulnerable.”