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MARIO participates

2011-07-13

Prishtina, Kosovo, July 4-6, 2011: MARIO partners met to exchange experiences and learn from each other on how best to include children’s views both in project design and implementation and monitoring. „Child participation”, the theme chosen by partners for this three-day Knowledge Exchange Meeting, means that partners consult children, hear their views and take them into account, keeping in mind their age and maturity. This much-needed approach allows professionals to target their actions to best answer the needs and wants of children.
The first day of the meeting was dedicated to sharing expertise on child participation methods. The question of participants was however how this can be done in an effective way that also answers the interests of the children and respects their rights. The project MARIO aiming at better protecting children on the move – including victims, or potential victims of trafficking, all partners found it important to hear the views of these children, but in an integrated way.
On the other hand, victims of trafficking, exploitation and/or abuse are never identified as such when they work with other children in the group. As Blerina Kashari, programme manager at Save the Children in Albania, pointed out „the important thing is to create the space where they can share their experiences – and then they will”. While former victims can become very credible advocates of safe migration, children in the region have been found reluctant to get involved.
Moreover, and as the ECPAT program shows peer-to-peer approaches, youth-led awareness raising actions and the engagement of children should be accompanied by a child protection framework which includes a code of conduct, a complaint mechanism and child protection policies and procedures in place.
Neil Whettam, recently appointed Tdh Regional Protection Advisor, described child participation in the work of child protection workers in Scotland, where children participate in the selection of the head of the municipality as well as the head of local child protection and where a special social worker is appointed to ensure the participation of children – with proportional representation of children from different backgrounds.
On the second day, partners discussed concretely on how to ensure the participation of children in the project cycle management and have taken steps to implement these ideas for the future. Also, they have taken stock of already existing initiatives, such as the child-led groups for advocating on child rights in Albania or the Child Participation Monitoring Model currently in place in Bulgaria.
Central and South Eastern European countries have a long way to go to fully involve and include children in decisions affecting them: often decisions are made about children without even asking their opinion. However, partners found that they can also influence others through themselves mainstreaming child participation in the project. As Sendrine Constant, Delegate of Tdh Albania pointed out „the attitude of adult carers towards children has changed throughout the project.” [JA]