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NGO 英語頻道:Child participation goes beyond listening to children

【明報專訊】"CAN we have paediatric in‑patient services here at North District Hospital?" "Roads are packed with cars parked on both sides. It's frightening to walk across streets."... These are genuine concerns raised by children and they are really being listened to.

As adults, we can simply choose not to discuss certain issues that we judge to be irrelevant. The truth is this often ends up undermining children's autonomy as shown in scenarios when we ask our children to pick a musical instrument to learn but often forget to ask whether they are willing to do so at all. Have we considered their feelings and concerns when we make decisions? Only when we give them leeway to explore and express themselves using their intellect are they truly taken as part of the community and do we realise what is to be done for our next generations.

It is a common misconception that children lack the capacity to make informed contributions to decision-making. However, just as we all agree that children should be coached to swim, read and write, they can also learn how to "express themselves" and "respect others" under the guidance of adults. If we want our children to grow up having deep appreciation of independent thinking and responsible citizenship, we ought to start today. To ensure meaningful child participation, adults need to be equipped with knowledge about children's rights and learn to work with children to reach decisions.

Community development promotes children's right to participation. It sets out to equip adult facilitators and children with knowledge and readiness to unravel (拆解) hidden safety hazards in their community and make further positive changes. It also enables children to make inspiring suggestions.

This model may cater for temporary needs, but in the long run, a more extensive and effective mechanism, through which children would find it more welcoming to fully express their views on matters of their concern, should be introduced. To make this happen, it is pivotal (關鍵的) to engage all parents, teachers and other professionals to adopt a brand new perspective on our relationship with children. Let us all be facilitators who understand and value children's voices!

By Kanie Siu, CEO of Plan International Hong Kong

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