Regional Consultation for the UN Study on Violence Against Children
. 5 - 7 July 2005 Ljubljana, Slovenia  
Europe and Central Asia






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UNICEF Feature Story

Let all the voices be heard: Youth participation in Slovenia

by C. Schuepp

Three days before the Regional Consultation on Violence Against Children with 300 government and NGO delegates from 50 countries in Europe & Central Asia, children and young people are paving the way for a successful meeting in Slovenia.

Ellena from London and Ioana from Bucharest - both 16 years old - are addressing a group of young people in a community center in Ljubljana. They are facilitators at this preparation meeting for the regional consultation, but they are also participants at the same time.

The two young women have been part of the working group invovled in preparing for the Slovenia meeting since the beginning of 2005. In February and April, they both traveled to Budapest to meet with experts from Save The Children, UNICEF, the Council of Europe and other organizations – ensuring that youth participation takes place effectively right from the start.

“I think it’s very important that this is not just an adult-based group. Being there, we really had a say on the agenda, and in some ways, I think, we will keep it much more focused,” says Ellena.

Although she is busy with her A-levels in school in the UK, she finds plenty of time to work with NSPCC, the National Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children & the Children's Rights Alliance England (CRAE). Because Ellena has been raising awareness for child rights since she was 12, she has had a great influence as part of the working group on child participation in Slovenia, using her contacts in the UK to include a great number of young people in the process. “After the working group meeting in Budapest, I reported back to my peers at NSPCC. Then we drafted a plan for the Slovenia conference and continued discussing it through email and web messenger before I finalized it here in Ljubljana with Ioana.”

Ioana is Ellena’s counterpart from Romania. She has also been involved in child right campaigns for five years and is currently in 11th grade at school. In addition, Ioana serves as a volunteer for Save The Children Romania. She has already participated in the National Forum in Violence Against Children in Eastern Europe earlier this year and contributed to a cross-border project with peers from Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina, producing a brochure called “Children say NO to violence!”

“I think some issues that came up in the working group with the adults were solved just because we were there to present a genuine 'child perspective.' And thinking about it, I believe that this actually made the work much easier for the adults.”

Youth participation has gone a long way in recent years. “If you look back at the World Summit on Children in 1990, young people simply presented pens and flowers to the delegates. Now they are part of the whole process and although they still don’t have a fixed place at the table with the decision-makers, they are becoming a lot more visible,” says Clare Feinstein, Global Child Participation Advisor for Save The Children. Children and young people were present at all nine regional consultations for this year’s UN Study on Violence Against Children. “They are challenging the minds and the attitudes of the adults, but there still is a long way to go. A few years ago, there was a debate whether or not young people should participate at all. Now these times are behind us, but we still need to improve. It is absolutely vital to have these young voices heard in every part of the process.”

Wrapping up a successful youth participation session that lasted for 90 minutes and was thoroughly interactive, Ellena is happy that she is part of the group making a real difference here in Ljubljana. “This has been so important for the upcoming conference with the adults. It was great for team-building and I can now relate to others much better. Plus, I will be a lot more confident now to voice my opinion.”