Promoting a Safe and Empowering Environment for all Children and Youth

On the occasion of the 42nd Session of the Human Rights Council, IIMA and Vides International, together with the permanent Mission of the Philippines, organized the side  event: “Promoting a Safe and Empowering Environment for all Children and youth – best practices for child and youth protection and participation through human rights education” held at the Palace of the Nations on September 25, 2019.

The event was co-sponsored by sixteen Permanent Missions: Egypt, El Salvador, Italy, Portugal, Ethiopia, Montenegro, Poland, Sierra Leone, Brazil, Thailand, Colombia, Haiti, Mexico, Spain, Holy See, Uruguay; and also by the NGO Working Group on Human Rights Education and Learningand Child Rights Connect.

The main objectives of the event were: identify practices to implement at the national level to promote a safe and empowering environment for all children through the mobilization of support based on the community for child protection and participation; strengthen global efforts to ensure that child participation is fundamental in all initiatives and decisions that concern children; give visibility to issues related to human rights through the testimonies of children, young people, and educators; encourage governments and civil society actors to engage in constructive dialogue to effectively address the human rights challenges that prevent the creation of a favorable environment for the participation and protection of children and young people at all levels.

The Ambassador of the Philippines to the UN in Geneva, His Excellency Evan Garcìa, in his introductory words at the event, highlighted the importance of the participation and empowerment of children and young people through human rights education. His Excellency emphasized above all that the world program for human rights education has the aim of developing a culture of human rights and strengthening the partnership and cooperation at all levels, in accordance with the fourth phase of the Action Plan for the 2020-2024 period.

After the words of introduction, a video-message was shown of two Indian children/youth, S. Abinaya and Kotteswaran Dhanasekran (unfortunately absent due to the denial of a visa), who shared their experience in the children’s parliament that made them protagonists in the defense of children and youth rights, making it possible to break the vicious circle of poverty, of discrimination, and marginalization. The Child participation project carried out in India by IIMA and VIDES, with the support of Misean Cara, made possible their concrete commitment to put an end to the isolation of their villages.

The moderator of the event, Elena Ippoliti, Human Rights Education and Training, OHCHR, presented the speakers’ panel composed of IIMA educators, an expert from the Committee on the Rights of the Child, and a donor representative.

Sr. Mary Josephine Isabella Antony Raj representative of IIMA-India and Coordinator of the National Development Forum in India, , presented the joint program of IIMA, VIDES, and Misean Cara, that through good practices prevents and combats early school leaving, child abuse, child labor, and early marriage.

Thanks to this project, 366 children’s parliaments were created in 20 states of India, forming 7,133 child leaders (ages 11 to 18) and 1867 members (ages 5 to 11) making them aware of the problems of other children and empowering them to find concrete solutions, such as the campaign against child abuse, the campaign against early marriages, the campaign against child labor, the “No to plastic” campaign, as well as various other campaigns to preserve water, electricity, and nature. They also brought concrete services to the community like opening a village library, providing streetlamps, transportation, and road construction to connect the most remote villages to the city. The children’s parliament embodies the dream of teaching human rights in schools at least once a week, making India free from corruption and one of the leading countries in protecting the rights of children and young people.

The second speaker, Guillermo Gutierrez Mercado, coordinator and human rights educator in an IIMA school, shared his experience in a human rights education project with persons deprived of liberty (most  of them under thirty years of age) in a prison of Uruguay. The aim of the program was to make young detainees aware of their rights and establish a broad range of interventions relating to the promotion and protection of human rights, above all in critical socio-economic contexts that specifically target children and youth. The program makes the young protagonists and generates meetings of youth communities that allow them to accept differences and build union ties.

Valerie Philpott, representative of Misean Cara highlighted the priority of projects directed to the creation and promotion of safe environments for the most vulnerable children.

Misean Cara – Mission Support from Ireland, in fact, seeks transformative changes by supporting initiatives that address structural issues at the local, national, and international levels, addressing at the same time, questions of rights and of responsibilities. This is ‘transformation in progress’ and the Irish government recognizes this immense and unique contribution with its long experience and continual support of the missionaries and their projects.

Professor Philip Jaffé, member of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, highlighted in his presentation the role of the Committee in supporting the Member States to guarantee child participation. The empowerment of children and of young people is complex and requires people and institutions. Each component plays a fundamental role where education strengthens the child’s skills and offers the ability and opportunity to participate fully and responsibly in a free society.

The event saw a wide participation of States and NGOs. The interest generated by the event’s theme, hopefully could pave the way to a constructive dialogue with stakeholders so as to protect and promote the rights of children and young people through education, and especially human rights education.