Children's rights - how come nobody asked us?
“Kids grow up having a lot of ideas,” says Lucienne. “We are very aware and come up with a lot of ideas older people might not have. You can see in the Young Scientists competition each year kids as young as 14 or 16 having amazing ideas.”
“A lot of older people don’t seem to have any opinion on anything and we do, we have a lot of opinions and we don’t have a voice and that’s wrong,” agrees Ellie, while Kirsty points out that in their CSP classes they are immersed in learning and thinking about rights and how they should be applied, while most adults aren’t giving such issues a second thought.
They are particularly vocal about how unfair it seems that young people don’t even have a voice in issues that impact crucially on their lives, such as whom they should live with if their parents break up. They say adults can’t truly know what is best for young people because they are no longer young themselves. Of course they must ask young people if they want to get the answer right.
“Adults talk down to us,” says Josh. “They think they have more experience so they know better, but they can’t know what’s right for us without trying to think like us.”
“If I could say one thing to adults,” says Kirsty, “I’d say ‘Don’t always think you know what’s best for us. Think about how a child feels, how a child is thinking. And if you can’t, ask a child.’ I think by voting Yes adults will think more about what a child thinks.”
‘Ireland has failed children’
Throughout the corridors of Newpark are posters, some hand-made and some from Unicef Ireland, proclaiming “It’s About You” and encouraging the teenagers to get to know what this referendum is about. Peter Power, executive director of Unicef Ireland, explains the concept of the “It’s About You” campaign has been to get children informed about the issues being voted on on Saturday.
Despite the fact none will have a vote in it, it is, he says, an opportunity to stimulate in children an awareness of themselves as important and valuable and worth listening to.
“If we can’t begin that then this referendum is really just lip-service. We realised the need to explain what’s going on in this referendum, in the words of children. So we engaged with children and youth groups all over the country and asked them to articulate children’s rights in their own words.”