The right of the child to be heard, embodied in art. 12 of the UN Convention on the right of the child provides that every child shall be afforded the right to be heard in matters affecting her or him including in any judicial or administrative proceedings, and for those views to be given due weight.
Child participation has different forms. Consultative participation is where adults seek children’s view to build knowledge and understanding of their lives, experience and concerns. Participation can be collaborative – where adults involve children in specific programs and activities. Participation can be also child-led – it takes place where children themselves are provided with the space and opportunity to initiate activities and advocate for themselves. All three forms of participation are important and offer different opportunities for children to influence decisions that bring about change.
Participation is a fundamental right, but it is also a means through which all other rights can be realized. Providing information to children, encouraging them to express their concerns, introducing safe and accessible complaint mechanisms in case of violence and abuse, are key strategies for providing effective protection. In addition to that, children acquire skills, knowledge and confidence, which enhances their development and contributes for reaching their full potential.
Bulgaria still does not have enough experience in child participation. Various legislative changes have been made and initiatives have been undertaken to encourage child involvement but still there is lack of understanding of what child participation is, there are no effective mechanisms for child participation, there is no funding and insufficient experience in collaboratively working with children and adolescents. Often, children and adolescents from marginalized groups have very limited opportunities to be heard, to participate meaningfully and to express their views in the family and their communities, in schools and other institutions.