Child 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 can also facilitate the fulfilment of children’s basic rights to protection and development. As children have a better understanding of their situation, we have to listen to their needs and opinions in order to better protect them and help them develop their potentials.
Plan International Hong Kong aims to mainstream child participation in all decision making processes that have an impact on children and advocate for sufficient resource allocation to facilitate child participation in all aspects.
In June 2018, Plan International Hong Kong launched the pilot project “Voice of the Children (2018-2019)” with the Alliance for Children Development Rights in Yau Tsim Mong District and the North district. In order to consolidate more local experience in implementing child participatory model in community development, one more partner—the H.K.S.K.H Lady Maclehose Centre has been engaged since the second phase of the programme started in June 2020. Together with the Alliance for Children Development Rights, “Voice of the Children (2020-2022)” have been expanding to Kwai Tsing District, Yau Tsim Mong District and Sham Shui Po District. The project engages children in identifying the issues that are most concerning to their protection and development, and facilitating child-led actions based on their findings.
By launching this project, we hope to create additional opportunities for children to participate in community development and establish a new channel for children to voice out their opinions on community issues. “Voice of the Children” is therefore a platform for them to work with other children and adults in the community to solve the problems they identify in their surroundings and make practical changes.
We believe children and youth can be active drivers of change. “Voice of the Children” illustrates a community-based child-centred development model from raising children rights awareness to identifying problems, building consensus with peers and other influencing groups, advocating to duty bearers and leading to a positive social change.
Using our global training manual ‘Bamboo Shoots’ as the blueprint for our Child Participatory Community Development Project, we have benchmarked our experience in facilitating community child participation in other Asian countries to develop the localised “Voices of the Children” programme model in Hong Kong.
We hope the training manual, encompassing the details of our training workshops for both adult facilitators and participating children, will serve as a reference for other child-related professionals to promote child participation in communities and engage other passionate adult facilitators to help realise children’s participation right together.