Making children's voices heard
TASHKENT, Uzbekistan, 22 November 2011. – Members of Oliy Majlis (Uzbek Parliament) meet the Children’s Parliament as the country marks the 22d anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Promoting children’s participation in society is one of the UNICEF priorities globally and in Uzbekistan. The right to participate is integral to addressing all child rights. Participation gives children the opportunity to learn and practice their rights and also prepares them to becoming responsible and active citizens in the future.
The Children’s Parliament – known in Uzbek as “Yosh Avlod kengashi” (Council of Young Generation) – is just one of the examples of UNICEF’s support to strengthening participation of children and young people in matters that concern their lives. It was initiated by the Uzbek Children’s Fund in 2002 and connected hundreds of children across the country with similar interests and aspirations, providing them an opportunity to exercise their right to participate. The parliament experience also helped these children gain new knowledge, leadership skills and take action in their schools and communities to promote child rights. Moreover, young deputies were involved in the drafting of a Law of the Guarantees of the Rights of the Child, which was adopted by Oliy Majlis in 2008.
This year’s sessions of the Children’s Parliament took place on the eve of the anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) under the slogan “No Child Left without Attention”. In the capital city of Tashkent, 29 out of 199 young deputies from around the country came to the Legislative Chamber of Oliy Majlis where they met with adult parliamentarians. This ‘joint session’ was hosted by the Parliamentary Committee on Democratic Institutions, NGO and Citizens’ Self - governing bodies and supported by the Association for Support of Children and Families and UNICEF.
Welcoming young deputies, UNICEF Representative Jean-Michel Delmotte expressed his appreciation for their efforts in promoting the Convention and stressed: “With your creative energy, we will be able to achieve even more good results and ensure that we translate all CRC articles into practice for all children, including the most poor and vulnerable.”
Young deputies from Fergana, Andijan, Surkhandarya, Khorezm, Tashkent provinces and the Republic of Karakalpakstan briefed the members of different Parliamentary committees about the activities they carried out in their home places to increase awareness of children’s rights.
The young parliamentarians also gave their own perspectives on issues that they face and provided a new child-friendly dimension that the legislators found useful. These issues included water conservation, environmental protection, inclusion of children with disabilities, promotion of healthy life-style, good nutrition and hygiene practices, and participation in decision-making on matters concerning children and youth. More importantly, the children also affirmed their readiness and commitment to assist in the implementation of policies and laws at the community level.
“Children’s Parliament has changed my life. I knew there were problems, but never thought I could be part of the solution,” said Shokhrukh, a 19-year student from Andijan, recalling his first years in the parliament. Acting as a speaker since 2009, he remains one of its senior members and a passionate advocate for child rights.
“Children’s participation in parliament has had a very positive impact on their development as active citizens of our country. The young parliamentarians learned how to engage in a dialogue with adults and work together on common issues – be in a family, school or community environment. I am confident that they all will be able to make a difference in the society around them and influence decisions also later in the future,” says Inkilob Yusupova, chairwoman of the Association for Support of Children and Families, who previously led the Children’s Fund of Uzbekistan.
Another, regional meeting of the Children’s Parliament took place in the Kashkaradya province with the support of UNICEF and the Association for Support of Children and Families. 25 young deputies, members of Provincial and City Councils, as well as representatives of Oliy Majlis attended it. This session was chaired by Akmal Saidov, Chairperson of the Committee on Democratic Institutions, NGO and Citizens’ Self - governing Bodies of the Legislative Chamber. The discussion focused on child participation and the importance of engaging children and young people in decision-making on all issues that affect their lives and supporting their action.
The Kashkadarya province hosted two more events to mark the CRC anniversary on the same week. 200 university and school teachers, students, children, makhalla advisors, and journalists attended a special ceremony at the regional Youth Centre, followed by the opening of children’s artworks exhibition and creative performances.