The Right Year for Children (RY4C) is a year of action to strengthen children's rights in England. It started on 16 December 2011, the 20th anniversary of the UK ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Children’s Rights and Wrongs! By Kevin McCullough, Director of PhotoVoice

Posted on January 19, 2012 by ry4c-admin
Kevin McCullough, Director, PhotoVoice

Kevin McCullough, Director, PhotoVoice

Kevin McCullough is Director of PhotoVoice, an organisation that uses the power of photography to bridge divides in society and engage people affected by issues in exploring and advocating for solutions. PhotoVoice runs participatory photography workshops with marginalised and issue-affected communities, giving them photography skills and a platform to represent themselves and their perspective. PhotoVoice then works to ensure the resulting photographs and writing is seen by those who need to act in order to bring about change.

Article 30: Children have the right to speak their own language and practice their own religion. Image Emmanuel / Action for Children / PhotoVoice

Article 30: Children have the right to speak their own language and practice their own religion. Image Emmanuel / Action for Children / PhotoVoice

Throughout 2011, PhotoVoice worked in partnership with Action for Children to engage and inform children and young people across the UK in the importance and relevance of children’s rights and the UNCRC. As well as leaving the young people involved in the workshops with a better understanding of what rights mean to them, PhotoVoice has created an online multimedia resource for use in schools, youth groups and families to explore what the UNCRC are and what the articles mean in practice for young people in the UK.

Visit www.rightscamerasaction.org.uk to access this free resource, and to request copies of the accompanying photo booklet illustrating the first 41 articles of the UNCRC email Matt Dawmatt@photovoice.org.

“The best thing is when you go back to a community five years later and they don’t say you built this school, but you empowered us. People ask us to speak now, and they listen because we know our rights”

Patricia Parsitau, an urban development worker in Nairobi, identifies the ultimate goal of any development worker around the world whether based in Newcastle, Newham or Nairobi – that the community you have been working with know their rights and claim those rights for themselves. And yes the empowerment process can often result in outputs such as schools, play spaces, water pumps or community centres but more often than not it doesn’t. Knowing your rights is the first step to claiming them.

The CRC sets out the rights that must be realised for children to develop and reach their full potential. Despite the existence of rights, children suffer from poverty, homelessness, abuse, neglect, preventable diseases, unequal access to education and justice systems that do not recognize their special needs. We can often think that it is only children in the developing world who are devoid of such rights but no, the Convention upholds that a basic quality of life is for all children throughout the world, including children in the UK.

Some 3.8 million children in the UK live in poverty, 160,000 children in the UK are affected by one or both parents being imprisoned, 6,033 children in England and Wales were victims of rape last year and in 2009/10 some 5,130 children were detained in custody and a staggering 53,000 children in England and Wales in 2008/09 were held in police cells overnight. (State of children’s rights in England’ CRAE 2011)

Behind these shocking statistics are many named children whose rights have been denied. Children who have the potential to claim those rights from the Government, carers and the institutions that directly impact on their lives, and yet for different reasons are not in a position to do so.  And children, who, if given the opportunity could participate in contributing to the numerous decisions made on their behalf throughout their childhood.

Participation lies at the heart of PhotoVoice’s work. We know that the process improves children’s personal development, sense of citizenship and social inclusion. For us it means listening to children and empowering them to feel that they can influence both the project and its outputs and they feel confident to influence decisions affecting other parts of their lives. I attended the launch of a report recently by a national children’s charity. It was interesting to note that the voice or images of children (taken by children) were nowhere to be seen or heard! Meaningful and sustainable participation requires us to review the structure and culture of our organizations as a whole as much as the way we plan and deliver our policies and projects.

So for the 20th Anniversary of the UK Governments signing of the Convention to be a celebration surely it must mean that children’s rights and participation are more prominent both in Government policies and the parliamentary process. Whatever next – a children’s parliament?

Kevin McCullough
Director, PhotoVoice

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