Eskişehir launches First Children’s Association supported by UNICEF and the Ombudsperson Institution
“Ombudsperson Institution, Child Rights and Participation Trainings” have been organized jointly by UNICEF and the Ombudsperson Institution since 2019
Eskişehir, Türkiye, June 2023 - “Ombudsperson Institution, Child Rights and Participation Trainings” have been organized jointly by UNICEF and the Ombudsperson Institution since 2019 within the scope of the “Strengthening the Ombudsperson Institution’s Communication and Relationship with Children and Youth.”
Considering the potentially significant role of children in raising awareness on child rights, particularly among adolescents and children, the trainings are designed to strengthen the capacity of children and young people regarding child rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Ombudsperson Institution, and other means to seek remedies and to ensure their active involvement in promotional activities. Moreover, the efforts are aimed at promoting children’s effective and meaningful participation in the activities of the Ombudsperson Institution.
The 3-day program explores the concepts of rights and responsibilities, child rights, children’s participation, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and relevant national & international legislation, as well as the Ombudsperson Institution and related initiatives to seek remedies. Subjects like foundational principles of peer learning as well as communication and presentation techniques are also covered.
Having attended the training, Didar (16) who is also a peer trainer said:
“The training provided me with more comprehensive information, while the peer trainings allowed me to share that information with my peers and expand it. They also helped me refresh the information I had previously acquired, and solidify it in my mind.
Since the trainings were peer-to-peer, communication was easier for me because the people were my age. I think they also turned out to be more fruitful for the people who received the training.
I can say that these training activities played a major role in the establishment of the association and the period after that. This is because I believe that the comprehensive information made available to us during the training, about our rights and other things, is really essential.
Launched for the first time in 2019 in Ankara following the development of the required training modules, the training programs were organized in partnership with lower and secondary school students as well as members of the Ombudsperson Institution University Clubs. After completing the trainings, the youth participants carried out a multitude of activities in their schools and universities to promote the Institution and child rights.
In 2021, the training programs were also made available in Eskişehir as part of UNICEF-Ombudsperson Institution partnership, and with the support from Eksi25 (Minus25) Association. Under the supervision of the association, volunteer trainers aged 12 through 17 reached out to their peers at schools and via different activities as part of the peer-to-peer awareness raising activities and organized a children's festival.
Talking about her own experience, Elif (15), who is another volunteer peer trainer, made the following remarks:
“I can say that one of the most important things that peer education gave me was self-confidence. The way I was able to talk in front of an audience to tell something and the way they understood what I explained made me feel pretty good.
Delivering peer training made me feel important, especially at a time when young people are often wondering what their purpose is. It was nice to feel like I was making a difference. The thing that made me the happiest was when other kids came to me after the training to seek my help with their problems and asked whether they could also submit an application for that problem. Helping other kids fight for their rights is something that brings me a unique kind of joy.
With the goal of disseminating their work across wider audiences, peer education volunteers founded Eskişehir's first children's association in June 2023. The Association will be carrying out activities designed to introduce larger groups of children to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and child rights as well as redress mechanisms -especially the Ombudsperson Institution- which are tasked with responding to rights violations. It will also be organizing awareness and monitoring activities to address issues including violence against children, bullying, self-knowledge and awareness of one's capacity, career planning, tackling addiction, digital rights, the environment and climate change.
The Association’s name is inspired by Roger Hart’s analogy where he likens children’s participation to an 8-rung ladder, stressing the need to involve children in decision-making and executive mechanisms.
Didar (16) described how the trainings affected the founding process of their association as follows:
“I can say that these training activities played a major role in the establishment of the association and the period after that. This is because I believe that the comprehensive information made available to us during the training, about our rights and other things, is really essential. When a child submits a complaint or a request to seek his or her rights, the case is examined by the competent authorities regardless of the complainant’s age, because the Ombudsperson Institution is an agency that promotes the inclusion of people under the age of 18.”
Ela (14), Ceren (16), Ezel (16), Fadime Şuara (17), Berfin (17), and Bengisu (15) all emphasized how important it was for children to know their rights. They said that this knowledge can help kids defend their rights against any kind of neglect.
Within the framework of the goals laid down in the Ombudsperson Institution’s Child Rights Strategy and Outreach Toolkit developed in 2018, the Institution and UNICEF continue to support the peer-to-peer awareness raising activities. The aim is to empower larger groups of youth to enjoy their rights and employ redress mechanisms, while promoting children’s active participation.