A child’s right to participation is one of the basic rights enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Article 12 of the UNCRC establishes the right of every child to freely express her or his views in all matters affecting her or him, and the subsequent right for those views to be given due weight, according to the child’s age and maturity.
Children’s right to be heard is interrelated to their enjoyment of rights to protection and development. Children and young people have first-hand experience of the hardships and challenges they face in their communities. Understanding children’s views and experiences are essential to devising an effective strategy for their protection and development. Furthermore, children’s participation goes beyond helping solves problems that affect them directly and expands out to numerous issues that affect their communities and societies.
Plan International Hong Kong believes that children and young people hold the key to providing specialised knowledge and innovative approaches to bringing about changes in their communities and improving overall society. The Voice of the Children demonstrates a child-centred model of community development – from raising awareness of children’s rights to identifying problems and building consensus with peers and other stakeholders, advocating for the government and those involved to take responsibility for bringing about positive change in the community.
In June 2018, Plan International Hong Kong launched a pilot project, “Voice of the Children Phase I (2018-2019)”, with the Alliance for Children Development Rights in Yau Tsim Mong District and the North district. To draw on more local experience in using the child participatory model for community development, Plan International has also partnered with the HKSKH Lady Maclehose Centre in the programme’s second phase since June 2020. “Voice of the Children Phase II (2020-2022)” has expanded to Kwai Tsing District, Yau Tsim Mong District and Sham Shui Po District. The project enables children to identify issues concerning their protection and development and take action for change based on their findings. “Voices of the Children” Phase III has started in June 2022 partnering with Hong Kong Christian Service North Point Happy Teens Club and HKSKH Lady MacLehose Centre. Bewteen 2022 and 2023, community-based children participation programmes will be carried out in Kwai Chung district and North Point district. The project enables children to identify issues concerning their protection and development and take action for change based on their findings.
Plan International developed the “5-Stage Model – Child Participatory Community Development” specific to the local context and culture. Following this model, our partner organisations raise awareness of children’s rights and roles in the communities, facilitate children to identify problems and solutions and build consensus with peers and other community members, and partners with them to influence key decision-makers in the community. We believe children are an active agent of change. We believe that making children partners in change would promote a more united and inclusive community, leading to positive and long-lasting social advancement.