IX. The costs of children's silence
The world reaps rewards by listening to children. Yet, in spite
of clear evidence to this effect, most children remain invisible
to policy makers and their concerns go unattended.
Children like this young boy sitting on
the railroad tracks in central Jakarta, Indonesia, remain
largely invisible to policy makers.
Children cannot vote and have no political representation or
access to the courts. One must delve deeply to find their views
in the media. Many children marry, work or become soldiers long
before they are visible on the political terrain.
Article 12 of the Convention of the Rights
of the Child states that "in all matters affecting the
child, the views of the child
[should be] given due weight
in accordance with the age and maturity of the child."
Children's invisibility in families, communities and nations
deprives the world of important input and fresh ideas. Silencing
children contributes to a world where they are victims of inequality,
abuse, exploitation, poverty and fear.
Fortunately many countries, knowing that their future intertwines
with that of their young, put children into the national equation.
Bolivia, for example, created Offices for the Defence of Children
in 158 municipalities to protect children's interests. Its goal
is to have a branch in each of the country's 314 municipalities.
These child protection offices took a leading role in denouncing
previously ignored child abuse.
In some of the emerging democracies of Eastern Europe and the
Commonwealth of Independent States, youth parliaments are mushrooming.
In the Republic of Moldova, a Children's Parliament includes representation
for institutionalized children. Elected youth councils work collaboratively
with the country's 18 local administrations, involving young people
in the decision-making process. Azerbaijan's higher-than-average
proportion of young people elected as Members of Parliament includes
the chair of the Children's Organization.
In Africa, children's parliaments abound. Giving children their
voices through participation in councils and parliaments exists
in nearly every country on the continent.
The long history of silencing children has produced atrocious
conditions. During a time when technology abounds, profits soar,
voyages into space no longer make headlines and world communication
is only a mouse-click away, children still languish in poverty,
continue to be victims of physical, psychological and sexual abuse,
are forced into combat and are exposed to deadly diseases.
Silencing children, killing their spirits and dashing their hopes
is an indelible scar.
For additional information on topics mentioned in the text, click
on the links below:
Bolivian Office for the Defence of Children
Moldovan Children's Parliament
The Azerbaijani Children's
For an extended treatment of the effect of war on children, see
The State of the World's Children 1996