A Boy who Changed the Transport System for the Entire City
Mustafa Evtimur became one of the first Child Ombudsmen when Vinnytsa joined the UNICEF Child and Youth Friendly Community Initiative
Vinnytsia is a city in west-central Ukraine. It has a population of 372,300, of whom 70,000 are children. In 2009, Vinnitsa joined the UNICEF Child and Youth Friendly Community Initiative, becoming one of the first cities in Ukraine that set the goal of creating a friendly environment for children and ensuring their participation in local-level decision making. To achieve this goal, the city administration developed a Child Ombudsmen programme that is still running today.
Mustafa Evtimur, who is now 23 years old, became one of the first Child Ombudsmen in 2012 when he was in Grade 10 at school. Today Mustafa has Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Vinnytsia and Kyiv Universities. He works as an assistant lawyer and an assistant to a Vinnytsia city councilor. When he recalls his two years as Child Ombudsman, Mustafa’s eyes flash with enthusiasm.
The Child Ombudsman has to take care of children and make sure that their rights are protected. I realized that this approach is very effective, as children cannot always open up to an adult and talk about their problems.
Children who participated in the Child Ombudsmen programme undertook special training and learned from lawyers, sociologists and psychologists about how to communicate with other children about their problems. This training and new knowledge proved to be very useful when the city administration decided to reform Vinnytsia’s transport system. The reform, which is currently well-known all over Ukraine, was intended to renovate and increase use of public transport. Without any hesitation, the Child Ombudsmen decided to actively participate in this initiative.
Reviewing the newly developed public transportation routes, Mustafa and his peers checked if they had been designed to ensure easy access to all the schools in Vinnytsia.
Our goal was to make sure that all children can easily get to their schools from any location in the city. We also launched a campaign to inform children about the reform and to explain the advantages of the new system.
Mustafa and his team noticed that two new bus routes were not convenient for children seeking to access School 20, School 18 and School 25. The Ombudsmen submitted a proposal to the city administration to change the routes.
The Vinnytsia mayor, Volodymyr Hroysman, who is now Prime Minister of Ukraine, used to tell us that Child Ombudsmen are a bridge that connects children and the municipality. We had regular meetings with the city administration where we could talk openly the about challenges children face in Vinnytsia.
When the Child Ombudsmen proposed changes to the bus routes, they were immediately supported by the city administration. All the children in Vinnytsia can now easily get to school using public transportation. Vinnytsia is the most convenient city to live in Ukraine according to a national poll, and in particularly thanks to the transportation reforms that took place there.
“Under the Child and Youth Friendly Community Initiative, children and young people are placed at the centre of the community. The Initiative stimulates healthy competition between municipalities to put children and youth first, and concentrates their efforts on helping the most vulnerable. These goals are achievable, but they also require additional steps and investment from communities. We believe that we need to invest in children today. Together with the Government of Ukraine and our partners, we sincerely hope that very soon Ukraine will have a large number of child- and youth-friendly communities and will achieve progress in realizing rights of every child,” stresses Giovanna Barberis, UNICEF Ukraine Representative.
The Child and Youth Friendly Community Initiative is bringing positive changes to children and families. In 2018, UNICEF announced a call for municipalities to rejoin the Worldwide Child and Youth Friendly Community Movement. On 1 June, Children’s Day in Ukraine, an International Forum will take place in Kyiv on Child and Youth Friendly Municipalities. Representatives of municipalities from the countries supporting the initiative will attend the event and share their experience.