Colette Ernst, Success by 6 Coordinator
National Child Day recognizes Children’s Rights in Canada and around the world on November 20th, 2015. Canada recognizes that children have a voice, and 22 years ago adopted the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, with the desire to promote awareness on Children’s Rights.
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 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 of the rights of children and calls on parents, voluntary organizations, local authorities and national governments to recognize these rights and strive for their observance.
These rights are:
- The right to equality, without distinction on account of race, religion or national origin.
- The right to special protection for the child’s physical, mental and social development.
- The right to a name and a nationality.
- The right to adequate nutrition, housing and medical services.
- The right to special education and treatment when a child is physically or mentally handicapped.
- The right to understanding and love by parents and society.
- The right to recreational activities and free education.
- The right to be among the first to receive relief in all circumstances.
- The right to protection against all forms of neglect, cruelty and exploitation.
- The right to be brought up in a spirit of understanding, tolerance, friendship among peoples, and universal brotherhood.
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 its 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 across the world. We have seen a decline in infant mortality and an increase in school enrolment. 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.
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.
In Tumbler Ridge there are many organizations that work to make sure the children’s voices are heard in our community. Children of all ages have access to counselling through Children and Youth Mental Health teaming up with SD59. The Tumbler Ridge library is working to make sure our children’s nutrition needs are being met with their after school snack program. The district and community centre provide incredible recreation activities for children and we have caring teachers who are working to meet each child’s educational needs. It takes everyone in our community to ensure that children of all ages rights are met; parents, professionals & volunteers – we all have a role to play.
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, 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. We can teach our children to help—to make their tomorrow a better place for all children, everywhere.