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2008 Roundtable on Children's Participation

Cape Town City Council/ Public Participation/Nathan Fisher
© Cape Town City Council/ Public Participation/Nathan Fisher
Participants at the 2008 Roundtable on Children's Participation.

Background
The second roundtable on child participation with civil society organizations, took place in late August 2008, following on the roundtable held in September 2007.  During the 2007 discussions, children’s participation in matters that directly impact on their rights and wellbeing was identified as a critical area that needed further analysis and debate.  It was also agreed that children’s capacities to participate must be strengthened and institutional spaces to facilitate this participation must be created. The 2008 round table was therefore specifically organized to build on the broader theme of “strengthening democracy and good governance for children”.

Justification
Parliamentarians are the custodians of children’s rights and therefore crucial in shaping the destinies of children in South Africa.  The participation of children and young people in political spaces is however not only important for parliamentarians to hear their voices, but it is also an imperative element of children’s development as responsible citizens in their own right.  It has long been recognized that including children in decision making impacts directly on their ability to access opportunities, the development of their capacities and the quality of their lives and ultimately, to take their rightful place as citizens.  Children’s participation is acknowledged as a basic right in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and is entrenched in various legislation and policy documents in South Africa, including the new Children’s Act.

The South African Parliament has expressed its commitment to public participation and some of the core activities have included: public hearings, outreach programs, radio programs and broadcasts, the People’s and Children’s Assembly and Taking Parliament to the People campaign. 

Aims
The aim of the Roundtable was to examine mechanisms and strategies whereby children and members of parliament could engage each other on the identification and discussion of specific concerns that children may have.

Ultimately, the workshops will facilitate the development of a framework for parliamentarians and children to engage more strategically towards the identification and discussion of specific concerns that children may have and to find appropriate solutions towards addressing these.

Cape Town City Council/ Public Participation/Nathan Fisher
© Cape Town City Council/ Public Participation/Nathan Fisher
One of the youth delegates at the Roundtable raises a point.

Outcomes
The 2008 round table programme showcased best practice examples of children and youth participation in existing structures and institutions such as the:  Junior Mayoral Council, Representative Council of learners, Office of the Rights of the Child, Children’s Institute and Molo Songololo. The barriers, challenges and successful facilitative mechanisms were highlighted.  The breakaway sessions identified pertinent issues that required attention and discussed strategies to support children’s participation in their engagement with parliament.

The pertinent issues that parliamentarians should be focusing on during the next parliament revolved around education, social and economic problems and health.  The children and youth present requested that parliamentarians take children and youth more seriously in terms of their well-being and right to participation.  More importantly, the need for positive role models and the examples set by parliamentarians were emphasized.

A positive outcome of the Roundtable was the breaking down of communication barriers by bringing children, parliamentarians and civil society together.  It presented children with an opportunity to witness and participate in a dialogue with adults who are concerned about the issues affecting children and youth. 

Recommendations
The key strategic outcomes of the roundtable are focused on how the engagement of children with parliament can be facilitated to ensure that children’s issues remain on parliament’s agenda.  The following recommendations were made in this regard:

  • Mobilising and strengthening the participation capacities of children. It was recognised that there are many civil society structures which facilitate and promote children’s participation.  It was agreed that these structures would be coordinated under the auspices of the Western Cape Provincial Children’s Rights Advisory Council and a framework established for children and youth to voice their concerns, challenges and solutions for issues affecting them to parliamentarians.
  • Raising awareness regarding the facilities and organizations which are available. Children and youth indicated that they require a greater awareness of the facilities and organizations which were available and how to access them.  It was agreed that a data base which facilitates and promotes child and youth issues would be established within the Premier’s office in the Western Cape.
  • The importance of the role of the media to highlight children’s issues. The role of the media as a persuasive and powerful tool which could draw parliament and civil society’s attention to the concerns of children and youth was recognized. 
  • Parliamentarians would make themselves available to interact with and listen to the children and youth in their constituencies. These interactions could be regularized, for example, through schools visits.

It was agreed that the Western Cape Children’s Rights Advisory Council together with civil organizations and the support of UNICEF would monitor the implementation of the recommendations.

 

 

 

 

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