Participation educates young people about democratic values

Several studies show that involving children in decision-making encourages them to become active participants in a democratic society. Therefore, youth organizations in Croatia initiated activities which empower children to contribute to decisions that affect them as an individual.  

Participation is more than just asking children for their ideas and views. It’s about listening to them, taking them seriously and turning their ideas and suggestions into reality.

“The programs were implemented as part of the National Plan of Activities for Rights and Interests of Children for the Years 2006-2012. They gave our children the right to take part in decision-making process and to influence some of the things that affect them, and offer a different perspective from adults,” said Aida Salihagic Kadic, President of the Union of Societies “Our Children”.

“We need to start recognizing and accepting their role in society,” added Kadic. She briefly described the programs, which have been implemented for children aged 9 – 14 as follows:

Children’s Forums

The forums are voluntary based activities for children involved.

The forum annual meetings have been held for 13 years and aims to bring children from different parts of Croatia. During these meetings, children express their views or opinions on issues related to their community life. These concerns are voiced to the members of the Croatian Parliament at the annual Parliamentary congress.

Any presentations that are given during these meetings get published and handed out to a wider audience incluing members of Parliament, youth organizations, charities and governmental bodies.

“Thanks to these meetings, children develop skills such as cooperation and communication and encourage them to take responsibility.

Children’s Councils

Children’s Council allows children, who are members of the Children’s Council to raise concerns or to discuss matters, which relate to their community life. The council meetings also give the opportunity to share best practise within the communities.  A group of committee has a role to present any agreed proposals of changes or improvements to their towns/districts.

“Holding youth parliaments and school councils help young people develop skills such as cooperation and communication and it encourages them to take responsibility, ” said Kadic.

For the Child’s Smile in the Hospital

This activity aims at improving the hospitalization of children by making hospital wards and areas more child-friendly.

“Hospital experiences are unpleasant enough for adults. For children, they can be especially stressful and frightening. Therefore it is necessary to take into account children’s feelings and views concerning their stay in the hospital. We have an Evaluation Committe, which performs in-depth reviews of the hospital facilities and services to ensure child-friendliness and well-being of children and families during their hospitalization,” said Kadic.

About Union of Societies “Our Children” Croatia

The Union of Societies “Our Children” was founded in the 1950s and since then has actively initiated activities promoting the wellbeing of children. It’s a nonprofit, nongovernmental association focused on educative, humanitarian and voluntary activities.
The Union operates on the national level and is organized through its network of a 100 local Societies “Our Children” active in different towns and districts in Croatia.

The main goals of the Union are:
creating, promoting and carrying out activities for children in their leisure time,
initiating actions that promote, introduce and implement the rights of children,
helping and supporting parents in raising their children.

Author: Marketa Vesela

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