VIII. It takes a leader to listen
When they do not listen to young people, adults' assumptions
about children's needs are frequently off the mark.
Children help each other to complete referendum
forms in a vote where almost 4 million children and adolescents
in Mexico expressed their views on democratic values and
practices and public problems.
Researchers in London asked a group of four- and five-year-olds
to produce a mural about their environment. The researchers learned
that these children did not want play areas covered with grass
as most adults had assumed. They preferred concrete because grass
hid broken glass, dog excrement and discarded needles from drug
By listening to teens for over two decades, the Bangladesh Rural
Advancement Committee (BRAC) learned to rethink its assumptions
and stereotypes. At first BRAC believed girls' greatest interest
was marriage, but the organization soon discovered from adolescent
girls that they wanted more education. Now, BRAC trains girls
as teachers, reading centre coordinators and photographers.
UNICEF launched a series of regional youth opinion polls to help
evaluate worldwide progress towards children's rights. Children
from East Asia and the Pacific, Europe and Central Asia, and Latin
America and the Caribbean were asked their opinions on topics
such as education, violence in their lives, HIV/AIDS and social
justice. The 9- to-18-year-olds came from all strata of the population
rich and poor, girls and boys, rural and urban.
In East Asia and the Pacific, half of those polled mentioned
education as a child's right and school as the main topic of discussion
among their friends. In Europe and Central Asia, children voiced
their belief that poor families and disabled children face pervasive
discrimination. In Latin America and the Caribbean, participants
felt uninformed about sex education, HIV/AIDS and drug abuse.
Soliciting children's opinions is not only a smart thing to
do, it's the legal thing. With the adoption of the Convention
on the Rights of the Child in 1989, countries pledged to include
children's rights in policy decisions, opening the door for their
important role as contributors to families, communities and nations.
For additional information on topics mentioned in the text, click
on the links below:
The Bangladesh Rural Advancement