On November 20, National Child Day recognizes Children’s Rights in Canada and around the world. Canada recognizes that children have a voice, and 21 years ago adopted the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, with the desire to promote awareness on Children’s Rights.
This year the United Nations is celebrating the 25 year anniversary of the creation of the National Convention of Rights of the Child, first created November 20, 1989.
All people have rights. The right to life, liberty and security. The right to freedom, to dignity, to be treated fairly, and to live free from oppression. The right to be recognized as a person before the law. But it wasn’t until 1989 that children’s voices—our youngest citizens—were explicitly recognized. The United Nations recognized that the well-being of our children, those under the age of 18, directly affects the strength of our communities and societies as a whole.
In 1959 the UN adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child which states ten principles and calls on parents, voluntary organizations, local authorities and national governments to recognize these rights and strive for their observance. This is a continuing task, as children’s well being is not created through words but the actions these words inspire, and social changes are achieved not by good intentions but through communities investing in it’s children.
According to the Society for Children and Youth of BC, a Convention is a legal agreement that articulates the rights of children, elevating the declaration of the rights of the child to that “of full rights-bearing citizen.” Similar to the Declaration of the Right of the Child, the Convention outlines responsibilities for children, parents and the government.
Progress has been made in the last 25 years across the world. According to UNICEF in the last 25 years we have seen a decline in infant mortality and an increase in school enrolments. Due to these two documents, children across the globe are receiving more access to sanitation, water, nutrition, vaccinations and practical services.
National Child Day reminds us that children and youth have a role in shaping their own future and should participate in matters affecting their lives. It is “a day that supports Canadian children’s rights by voicing your concerns about Canadian children’s right violations to the politicians of Canada and to educate our children about their rights and responsibilities” states the Child Day Act.
Are we listening to our children? Do we encourage them to participate in shaping their tomorrow?
The Convention on the Rights of the Child encourages children and youth to use their voice “to make sure everyone feels included and respected.” This includes making sure that children have “meaningful opportunities” to voice their opinions about their school and be a part of making it the best school it can be. This means asking about school, and being willing to pay attention to the answers. Sometimes it means hearing what children are not saying, or giving them confidence to say what is on their minds – because every child has a voice.
And we can teach our children about global issues, how we as individuals can help reach beyond our own community. Because, while much has improved in the last 25 years, there is still much to do. Children in underdeveloped countries, in rural communities and in impoverished homes continue to struggle to gain their voice, to gain the most basic of needs. And we can teach our children to help—to make their tomorrow a better place for all children, everywhere.