Round Table “Child Rights Today, Child Rights in the Past”
The Round Table “Child Rights Today, Child Rights in the Past” held during the week when the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child was marked, was very lively. Children discussed child rights and their knowledge of child rights with their parents on equal terms.
The round table was moderated by actress Vedrana Seksan. In addition to students of Primary Schools “Aleksa Šantić” from East Sarajevo (Republika Srpska) and “Džemaludin Čaušević” from Sarajevo (Federation of BiH), participants included Journalist Rubina Čengić, Child Entertainer Mirsad Abdagić Kike, TV Anchor Arduana Kurić-Pribinja, Head of Marketing of the “Gracija” Magazine Belma Pećanin, Founder of the Basketball School Rusmir Halilović, as well as children of some of these participants. Together, they made a comparison of how child rights were respected today, 20 years after the Convention was signed, and how they were respected in the past, when today’s parents were growing up and when the Convention was in its “infancy”, or at the time when the Convention was not yet in existence.
- No one can beat children today and they cannot force us to work – Hana said at the beginning of the discussion, while a boy called Semin added he believed that child rights were more respected today than before.
- It is good that our rights are respected. For me, one of the important rights is the one allowing us to freely express our views, and it is respected in most of the cases – Semin said, while Ena added that, in spite of the fact that child rights were generally respected, she believed that this was still not enough.
- Our rights should be better respected. Many children in the world have to work and do not have the rights we have. When discussing child rights, we cannot look at our environment only; we must look at the wider community – Ena said.
“Start” Magazine reporter Rubina Čengić said she agreed with what the children had said, and added she believed it was more difficult to be a child in the past because child rights were less respected, and also it was easier to be a parent. She noted numerous problems children were still facing today.
- The fact that we do not beat children today should not be viewed as a major achievement of civilization. Many children do not go to school, have no health coverage and live in poverty – Rubina Čengić noted, while Belma Pećanin, Head of Marketing of the “Gracija” Magazine, added that ethnic segregation was another major issue children face today. All participants noted the issue of rural communities where even today many female children were not allowed to go to school by their parents, and where children, in the opinion of participants of this round table discussion, had much less knowledge of their rights. UNICEF representatives brought participants’ attention to the fact that this organization had done a lot to organize workshops and promote child rights in rural communities, and they thought that children in such communities knew more about their rights than was believed in large cities.
A particular problem noted by child participants of the round table was the lack of acceptance of children with special needs who attended inclusive education.
- When he first arrived, many children teased him because he had epilepsy, even though they did not know what that meant. After he had a seizure and children in the school saw this, they stopped picking on him – Hana said.
Danijela Lubura, a teacher in the “Aleksa Šantić” Primary School in Vojkovići, said there were similar issues at her school too, adding she noticed that children with special needs were generally picked on by students from other classes.
- Children in the class attended by this child accept the child and help him or her. However, when this child meets children from other classes, these other children can be cruel to him or her – she noted.
Discussing issues they personally faced and the rights they believed were most threatened, children offered their own thoughts. Hana said she was bothered by male-female stereotypes according to which girls must be “nice and exemplary”, while boys could be “rowdy”, while Miloš said he was most bothered by the fact that parents, when making a decision, often neglected opinions of their children:
- My friend’s parents decided they wanted to move to another part of the town, without asking him about anything. They never asked him whether he wanted to go and whether he would like the new neighborhood – Miloš said, while Sara said she was bothered by the fact that children in her school swore, fought each other and some of them even abused substances.
At this point, participants in the round table discussion, both children and parents, touched on the issue of peer violence. The discussion also included damage to the family as the core cell of the society, which later on reflected on the society itself and on the social behavior of children coming from these vulnerable families. By presenting common examples, the participants reached a conclusion that children were much better off since the Convention came into existence; however, they agreed that BiH authorities had a lot of work to do to implement the Convention, and to ensure education, health coverage and protection from violence for all children.
- Unfortunately, when it comes to children, their issues are very often swept under the rug and remain on the margins. As a municipal councilor, whenever I suggested something that could help children, they told me: we will deal with that later, we have bigger problems right now – said Mirsad Abdagić Kike, who acts as a municipal councilor in addition to being a host of child TV shows and writing books and poetry for children.
The conclusion was that parents and children had to have a lot of communication, and also that children should not hesitate to state their opinion, while parents should listen to and appreciate their opinion.