Creating our Human Rights Defender Shields for the #DGD2018

Hello! My name is Dylan. I’m currently working on a rather large project, designing five giant papier-mâché shields using paint and collage that show the views and ideas of over 200 children from across Scotland about children’s human rights. I originally got involved in the StreetsAhead project over two years ago. Due to the success of the original project, we have continued to work on more projects around Tranent, Edinburgh and Scotland.

Back in 2016, we got the opportunity to go to Geneva, Switzerland to speak at the Day of General Discussion at the United Nations. That experience was incredible. I love the freedom of Children’s Parliament as they use unconventional methods. I feel it works a lot better than the methods used by schools. Children’s Parliament is not just friends. It’s family. You never feel alone and new opportunities keep coming.

In May, I helped to run two workshops in schools in Blairgowrie and Inverness to gather children’s views about which rights they think need to be defended in Scotland. I loved participating in the workshops as the response from the children was absolutely amazing. I think they saw us as role models instead of teachers and it was so powerful that they could just be so confident sharing ideas with people they’ve never met before.

After finishing the five workshops across Scotland, me and the other 11 child human rights defenders looked at all the children’s artwork and stories and discussed which rights were most important to the children we worked with. These became the five themes for the giant shields. You can watch a short video of us making the shields here:

The first shield is about children’s right to play. In Scotland, children feel that they aren’t able to play because the areas they are supposed to play in are all messed up. Children also feel so bombarded with homework, they don’t go outside.

The second shield is about a child’s right to an education and a decent standard of living. We’ve grouped these two together because school is a child’s second home in many ways. If you’re happy at home, you’re more likely to be happy at school so it’s important to think about how much home life can affect a child’s education. One of the main ideas on this shield is about how education should be a lot more interactive and creative. I think this should also be implemented into schools across Scotland. If more creativity was brought into schools, children would be a lot happier and have a lot more freedom to express themselves.

One of the main things we stand for at Children’s Parliament is ‘being yourself’ and that’s the theme for the third shield. I think this is really important, as we should all be able to be who we want to be. It’s clear that the children across Scotland don’t always feel they have the opportunity to express themselves and their identity. Scotland is a very diverse place and children want to celebrate this.

The fourth shield is about children’s right to protection from harm. Although the dream of children is to be able to express themselves and be who they want to be, a lot of children feel that they can’t always be themselves and they feel alone. Sometimes, children face discrimination or have abusive relationships with parents, carers, teachers and other people, including children, in their lives.

The final shield is about the right to be loved and cared for, no matter who you are. In this shield, we see two figures caring for the girl in the middle. This is a really powerful message. We need to be talking more about love because everybody needs to be loved! If you’re not loved, it’s going to be really hard for you.

So what’s next? The next stop is the UN Day of General Discussion in September. We’re going to be showing our shields at the UN Palais des Nations in Geneva in a two–week long exhibition. All the folk who work at the UN, international visitors and children from all over the world who are participating in the DGD will get to see them. I’m really looking forward to discussing my views with other people at the DGD and telling them what it’s like to be a child growing up in Scotland.

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