These young people want to be heard!

Adolescents from the island of Villingili are working with their community to bring about positive social change

Mohamed Yasir
The adolescent participants (boys and girls) from the Atoll Education Centre (G.A atoll) stands in front of the issues and solutions they identified in the child participation forum
22 June 2018

For every child, a voice

The Child Participation Forum held in the island of Villingili (Gaafu Alif atoll) together with the Ministry of Gender and Family aimed at bringing adolescents between the ages of 16 and 18 to discuss issues which concern their wellbeing, the rights they are entitled to and to engage them more on various social issues and the national development discourse. 24 students studying the A’ Levels in G.A. Atoll Education Centre participated.

5 boys preparing for their group presentation
These 5 boys were very excited to discuss and prepare their presentation on issues that concerned their wellbeing.

Challenges are daily challenges here

When asked to identify issues and challenges that affected their lives and hindered the full achievement of the right they are entitled to, the adolescents noted - bullying in schools, over protective parents/family, negligent parents, negative influence of social media including cyber bullying, discrimination based on gender and sexual harassment, especially for girls.

5 girls and 1 boy preparing their presentation enthusiastically
Group work was done with much enthusiasm as they had so much to share.


The children pointed out that these issues persist largely due to how society is organised in the island of Villingili. On bullying, they felt that it does no stop as no actions are taken against the perpetrators (e.g. the school management is unable to take action due to existing education policies). Also, the person who is being bullyed doesn’t have the confidence to raise his or her voice, the presence of local gangs encourage students to become bullies and that some feel bullying is just plain fun. No harm intended. While this may not be how the victims feel about it.

5 boys have a fun discussion in their group
Humorous issues were also discussed together with the serious ones, as the children found the discussion a safe space to share.

Over-protective parents and family

While the children agreed that a parents and families should need to ensure the safety of children, they emphasised the importance of giving children the space to explore and grow. How island societies are organised limits the horizons of children, particularly girls in taking a leading role in working with adults to address social issues such as crime. It was also noted that parents and the community at large need to trust children more with responsibilities and their opinions on matters that affect their wellbeing. 

4 girls preparing their presentation
Girls who participated raised a number of issues particularly affecting their wellbeing.

Negligent parents and educators

The children felt that there were a lot of parents do not give enough time to children due to their busy schedules and social activities such as their interests in politics. These interests kept parents glued to social media and television. The children also noted that there was an increase in the number of family issues that led to dysfunctionality and ultimately to divorce which affects children far more than most people can understand. Behaviours of children are determined by their wellbeing, particularly on the health of their families.

3 boys and 2 girls from the group discussing their presentation
The participants shared common concerns and backed each other up.

Negative influence of social media including cyber bullying

Social media is the next world most kids inhabit, but our participants are quite aware of the negative aspects associated wiht it. They felt that the lack of knowledge on positively using social media and the negative consequences of misuse lead to using social media in undesirable ways. In a society, where there are challenges to expressing oneself, social media provides that space. This is why the children thought that a lot of their peers use social media to be visible and popular, and unfortunately get the wrong inspiration from negative and depressing content that could lead to further worsening the anxiety that they some of them may have. The children also though that it would be good if parents guided their kids on safe usage of social media.