by Zakya Farnood
Published: 20 Nov 2015
Going to Geneva was a truly life changing experience!
Before I went I hoped that I would gain a better insight into the way the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child works, as well as being able to speak to them about the most important issues for children in England that the See it, Say it, Change it steering group have highlighted in our children’s report. I also hoped to gain a deeper understanding of the issues occurring today that are affecting children and young people from across the UK by meeting with children from other regions and talking to adults who work on behalf of children, like the Children’s Commissioners.
The good news is that I feel that I did gain this as well as much, much more. After going to Geneva I feel more confident when discussing and debating, and more able to share my views on children’s rights and what needs to change. Having been listened to by the UN, I now know that even though I am a young person my ideas and thoughts deserve to be respected. Taking part in this trip to Geneva has given me an even greater passion for influencing change and promoting respect for all human rights.
In Geneva I took part in the Pre-Sessional Working Group meeting with CRAE. This is a private and confidential meeting attended by National Human Rights Institutions (such as the Equality and Human Rights Commission), NGOs, Children’s Commissioners and children from England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. Participants in the meeting highlighted ways in which children’s rights are not being met across the UK. At the Pre-Sessional I read out a statement about children’s rights in England. Two of the things I talked about were children in care experiencing harm and neglect and violence against children who are in contact with the police. These are issues I am really concerned about. I want the Government to take action to better protect children. I want the Government to ensure they are listened to by those who work with them, for example social workers.
After we had read out the statements the Committee asked us all questions. These questions included some on the evidence children had given in their statements. For example they asked why the police were being violent toward children and why the Government wasn’t organising more training for the police. I was able to answer some of these questions and it felt great getting my issue across to the UN Committee as I knew this might have a positive impact for children in England.
Last week the UN Committee published a 'List of Issues'. This document sets out where the UN Committee would like more information on particular issues to help them with the questions they will ask the UK Government next year when it is examined. I was excited to see that the list of issues reflects the evidence given by children and young people in Geneva. The list requests more information about the use of restraint on children in education, young offender institutions and immigration institutions; children in care having their placements moved too often; the amount of contact children in care get with their birth families; numbers of children being admitted to adult mental health wards; and the numbers of children being housed in temporary accommodation for more than six weeks.
I’m really pleased that the list of issues reflects the points that I and other children raised when we spoke directly to the UN committee. These are things that are affecting children in England like me and something I truly want to see improved to make life better for children. In 2016, as a member of the See it, Say it, Change it steering group, I will be campaigning for change on the key children’s rights issues that we raised in the children’s report to the UN Committee.
My message for the UK government on Children’s Day is to listen to what children and young people have to say. Children of all ages, have different and important knowledge about what children’s lives are really like and what the Government needs to take action on to make things better.
In October 2015, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (UN CRC) met to discuss the key children’s rights issues in the UK. The list of issues that they decided upon can be found here. UN CRC heard evidence from a range of organisations and individuals, including children and young people, the Commission and other National Human Rights Institutions, Children’s Commissioners and civil society organisations.
As part of its work to support children to engage in the CRC process, the EHRC funded a visit to Geneva of children and young people from England, organised by the Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE), and Scotland, organised by the Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP). The children and young people presented their concerns to the UN CRC at a formal meeting with all stakeholders and at a separate children’s meeting. Children and young people from Wales and Northern Ireland also attended the session and raised their concerns.