Example 4: National Children’s Summits realizing the right to participation in Rwanda
Project Type: Advocacy
The Rwandan National Children’s Summit has been held annually since 2004. It is a national forum with the children of Rwanda and policy makers in Rwanda’s National Parliament. The Summit, organized by the National Children’s Commission, in partnership with the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion and UNICEF, has provided children with a special opportunity to express their views and wishes about their country’s policies and programs, their rights, their country’s economic and social development and the role of children and adolescents.
Often children are limited or prevented from expressing their views, but “Evidence from around the world indicates that when children participate in decisions that affect them, are allowed to express their opinions freely, to access information and to form associations, they can make a great contribution to transformation and social change.”
International Protection for Children’s Right to Participate
CRC Art. 12(1): States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.
Kenyan Protection for Children’s Right to Participate
Law No. 27/2001, Art. 9: “The child’s interests must be taken into account before any decision concerning him/her is made. It is a right for the child to express his/her opinion on any matter regarding him/her. It is necessary to hear from the child prior to making any decision concerning him/her regarding administrative and judicial matters whether directly or indirectly through his/her representative.”
Born out of the 10th Commemoration of the Rwandan Genocide, which offered children an opportunity to reflect on the lasting consequences of the national and human tragedy, the National Children’s Summit institutionalized a platform for social dialogue between decision-makers and children.
The National Children’s Summit, held annually in the nation’s capital of Kigali, is the culmination of consultations, which take place throughout the year with children at the sector (local) and district levels. Elected child representatives from each of the 416 sectors gather the views of children and present them at the National Summit. In 2012, for the first time, special care was taken to ensure that child delegates to the Summit represented vulnerable children, including children with disabilities, children from refugee camps, street children and orphans. Policymakers and government officials in attendance at the Summit included the prime minister, the ministers of Education, Gender and Family Promotion; Governors; faith-based leaders and mayors/vice mayors of several districts. The Summit themes, which are chosen by children themselves, have focused on unity and reconciliation; a Rwanda fit for children; children and the country’s development plan; the role of children in fighting genocide ideology; the role of children in fighting violence against children; education fit for children; and how children can contribute to the nation’s second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS).
Results and Lessons Learned
As a result of the National Children’s Summits, the recommendations of children have been integrated into Rwanda’s first EDPRS as well as the work of the Unity and Reconciliation Commission. Direct dialogue with policymakers ensures that the actions of States are ever more sensitive to the implementation of children’s rights.