Ms Šuica opened the 14th European Forum on the rights of the child with this exemplary quote on child participation, encapsulating the essence of the three-day event that took place in Brussels on 27 – 29 September. She, amongst many others, highlighted the importance of focusing on childrens’ rights in modern society, and empowering and supporting us throughout our lives.
To say this Forum was anything under a phenomenal collaboration between young people and the EU would be an understatement - the theme of ‘bringing children to the centre’ was pivotal to the forum, and it most certainly was evident throughout the event. I had the privilege to attend this forum, and the ideas and knowledge I took away from this forum is invaluable.
The forum was rich in diversity, with international speakers ranging from representatives of global organisations such as UNICEF and the UN, to children in places of conflict. Hearing such unique and insightful perspectives gave me the chance to look at the world through a different lens - to look at the legislative and human side of child rights.
Kiden, a girl from South Sudan, a country currently facing conflict, advocated for global organisations to hold perpetrators accountable for violating human and child rights. Through her speech, not only did she give all of us an insight into the life of a child currently living in a war-stricken country, but also reinforced the fact that young people are the cornerstones of change. Her speech was powerful and strong – she reiterated that young people need to be protected and assisted, not ignored and patronised.
And she was only one example. So many extraordinary young people spoke throughout the three-day forum, talking about child participation in EU initiatives, EU engagement at a local level, protecting the online space, amongst many other issues that affect us. And in this forum, we were not only heard, but listened to - we were constantly being consulted and our feedback and demands for the EU were being recorded and acknowledged.
As well as that, we had the opportunity to deep-dive into issues of concern, for example the conflict in Ukraine and how it has affected children. Daria Herasymchuk, the Adviser and Commissioner of the President of Ukraine for the Rights of the Child, highlighted the fact that children being displaced is only the tip of the iceberg. We think that their struggles are over when they’re accepted into host countries, but in reality, there’s much more to it.
They have to tackle a whole new system of education, language, curriculum and peer group, while still being traumatised from the effects of war and destruction in their home country. They are culturally alienated, put in a negative limelight and are separated by their families. For kids with special needs and disabilities, this transition is even harder, especially as they are leaving their familiar surroundings.
And my favourite thing about the forum was that they talked about what was wrong with the world but also about how to fix it. There were amazing ideas and initiatives discussed in the event, from expanding EU opportunities to kids with disadvantages or poor socio-economic backgrounds, to things we can do to influence social media companies to change their policies to protect children. I walked away from the forum with hope, because I knew that these global institutions are taking big steps towards tangible changes to improve the lives of billions of kids all around the world, and we were going to take that journey with them.
To learn about the event and watch the recordings, please visit euchildforum2022.eu
Find out more about the work of BIK Youth more generally at www.bikyouth.eu.
About the author:
My name is Prachi, I'm 16 years old and I live in Ireland. I'm extremely passionate about internet safety and protecting online well-being, and a huge advocate for online transparency and better digital education. I was a BIK Youth Ambassador at the Safer Internet Forum 2021, and it was one of the best learning experiences I've had. We explored so many aspects of the internet during this period, like online society in the future, education, and data security laws. It was a brilliant opportunity to voice our thoughts, concerns and demands as young people to policy makers, corporations and educators.