Countdown to the DGD 2018

September has arrived and our countdown to the UNCRC’s Day of General Discussion 2018 begins!  At the end of September, 12 child Human Rights Defenders from East Lothian, Scotland will travel to Geneva to participate in the DGD which will take place at the UN Palais des Nations.

All 12 children have spent the past six months exploring what it means to be a Human Rights Defender, what children across Scotland are doing to defend their rights and what adults can do to empower and protect child Human Rights Defenders. In the run up to the DGD, we’ll be sharing the children’s journey over the past six months. Join us on Twitter to learn more about the children involved, what they have been up to as part of this programme and why they’re looking forward to being part of the DGD.

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.

Stop the Press! East Lothian’s Children’s Human Rights Defenders

(Press Release 15.6.2018)

East Lothian’s Children’s Human Rights Defenders

12 children from East Lothian prepare to play a significant part in United Nations conference about children’s human rights in Geneva this September

On Saturday (16.06.2018), 12 children gathered in Tranent to start designing a giant art installation which illustrates the views of 200 children on human rights in Scotland.

In September they will travel to Geneva for the United Nations’ Day of General Discussion (DGD). This opportunity is part of the children’s ongoing involvement in a national programme, Children as Human Rights Defenders, led by Children’s Parliament and the Children and Young People’s Commissioner for Scotland and in partnership with East Lothian Council, Fa’side Area Partnership and Recharge Youth Centre.

The Children as Human Rights Defenders project has developed from StreetsAhead, an urban planning project delivered in Tranent in 2016 in a partnership between Children’s Parliament, Recharge Youth Project and Fa’side Area Partnership which saw 16 children create a large mural installation reflecting the views, ideas and priorities of 250 children from the local area about the future of Tranent. Following its exhibition at the United Nations in Geneva in 2016, the mural has now been permanently installed outside Ross High School.

Now, six Members of Children’s Parliament (MCPs) from the StreetsAhead project have developed and co-delivered creative workshops in Benbecula, Inverness, Blairgowrie, Edinburgh and Tranent to gather children’s views on what human rights children feel need to be defended in Scotland.  200 children shared their views and learned more about children’s human rights and how children can be human rights defenders.

A further six children from the Fa’side Youth Reference group, a legacy of the StreetsAhead project supported by Recharge Youth Centre and Fa’side Area Partnership to give young people an active voice in their community, now join the six MCPs for the next phase of the project. All 12 children will travel to Geneva in September to take part in the DGD. Hearing about this exciting opportunity for the first time last week, Shea, aged 13, said:

“I think going to the Day of General Discussion in Geneva will be a good experience! I hope to know more about how different countries around the world are raising awareness about children’s rights.”

Over the summer, the 12 MCPs will use the words, drawings and poems gathered from the children who took part in the workshops to highlight five key themes on giant papier-mâché shields.  These shields will help them communicate Scotland’s children’s views, when they meet with the international participants gathered in Geneva.

Bruce Adamson, Children and Young People’s Commissioner said: “Human Rights Defender’ is a term used to describe people who, individually or with others, act to promote or protect human rights. All across Scotland at local and national levels, children act as ‘Human Rights Defenders’.  Children don’t have the same political or economic power as adults and are often excluded from decision-making. Yet despite this, they show great courage and determination to stand up to those in power. It is my role to ensure that children are supported and protected when they do make a stand as decision-makers have a legal duty to protect them. This year in particular as we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, Scotland should proudly recognise, celebrate and protect our courageous children and young people.”