Giving children a voice of power: Children travel to the United Nations

by Childrens Rights Alliance for England

Published: 08 Oct 2015

We are part of a steering group of the See it, Say it, Change it project of Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE). It gives children a voice on how our rights are being realised.  There are 22 of us aged seven to 18 from all over England with diverse backgrounds. Our experiences allowed us to talk in depth about certain issues, for example, standard of living. Earlier this year, we carried out research with nearly 1000 children and young people through focus groups and an online survey. We used the findings to compile a report to the United Nations.

We are all feeling happy and proud after what we have accomplished on this exciting trip.  This week our steering group travelled to Geneva to meet with the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child as part of the UK examination on how well it’s respecting children’s rights.  There were two different meetings: the Pre-sessional Working Group, which was more formal and a separate children’s meeting. Both consisted of a different number of people. The pre-sessional had around 40 people including Non-Governmental Organisations, children’s commissioners and national human rights institutions. However, the children’s meeting was for under 18s only and we were joined by groups from Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. After giving our presentations on key topics that mattered to us, we were then asked questions.

These are the experiences of some of the members of our group:

Jamie-Lea, 14

When I woke up this morning, I felt mixed emotions. I had felt very tired as it was an early start this morning and I was tired from the day before. Also, as I was doing the Pre-sessional, I was really excited because only four children got chosen. I was doing the observing part. I had to listen closely to hear what was said so I could note it down. I was very nervous in case I missed any vital information. However, I got over my mixed emotions and went in the pre-sessional with confidence and it was very good, and I would definitely go again if I got the chance to. I did have the chance to speak, which made me very scared as I represented the people that didn’t go in. I talked about: children in care, mental health, and bullying. I feel proud of  myself for doing this because normally I don’t want to speak, because I don’t think my opinion would count but the See It, Say It, Change It project has made me realise it’s important to speak out and so I did that meeting.  It has been a good experience for me and I really enjoyed it.

Tufa, aged 8

This morning everyone woke up at 6:00. I got ready and went to a huge place where we met the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and said some speeches about respect, health, standard of living, violence against children, children in care, and education. We also met other people around the world. We also met people from Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales. We all felt nervous at first but when we met the UN Committee we felt great. We also made a communications group were we took pictures and put them on Twitter.

We had sooooo much fun and we all got along with each other .We also stayed in a Hotel in Geneva.

Liam, 16

This morning I was very excited to present to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. I woke up at 6:00 which is not normal for me. We all had to be downstairs and eating breakfast before 8:00. We travelled to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights within the UN, by this time I was starting to get nervous. Our presentation time came and by then the nerves had gone. I was there to discuss violence against children particularly by the police. I found it so rewarding knowing that I was helping children and young people to get there voice out to the UN and ultimately trying to make change. This trip has been one of the most rewarding trips that I have been on and I look forward to continuing the work with CRAE.