According to the Children’s Act (2009), girls and boys below 18 years have the right to be involved in, and to influence, processes, activities and decisions that impact their lives, their families, their communities and the nation at large. This is essential to improve access and relevance of other services in health, education, social services and the environment. It also provides valuable experience while growing up to learn to be fully engaged and active citizens throughout their life, and to learn to respect the views of others, both older and younger than themselves.
It means having the opportunity to access information, to form views, express ideas, and play different roles in society.
The Setswana proverb denotes this when it states that “Botlhale jwa phala botswa phalaneng” meaning that elders can learn a lot from chldren.
Participation also has risks that need to be managed to avoid exploitation of children, exposure of children to abuse, neglect or the formation of gender discrimination or other forms of inequality that is not justifiable in a democratic society that champions human rights.
In Botswana, opportunities for significant participation remain limited, for example in the ways of teaching in schools, the lack of voice in Kgotla meetings, etc. The Children’s Act has mandated the formation of national and sub-national Children’s Consultative Fora as one way to open up the space for children’s participation. The Children’s Consultative Forum (CCF) has been established by the Children’s Act, 2009. The first forum was held in 2010, in Gaborone and more will be held.