We support children to exercise their rights as citizens, to express their views and to organise themselves. This helps ensure they live more secure and fulfilling lives
Our priorities in Child Participation
Supporting transparent and accountable public decision-making
All citizens, including children, have the right to know how their country is run and how their national resources are spent. Government officials are responsible for sharing this information with them, justifying their actions to them and listening, meeting and responding to their needs. An important part of this is ensuring public monies are spent in children’s best interest. However, public decision-makers often place children last on their agenda and find it hard to discuss public spending with them.
SCOEN works with public institutions and their officials to support them to become more responsive to the children’s and young people’s views, and to ensure children have a genuine say in public decision-making – including public budgeting.
We achieve this by influencing changes at multiple levels, particularly among public officials, children and young people, and civil society. For instance, we work to ensure that public accountability mechanisms such as school management committees, district health forums and national budget review committees support children’s participation. This can be as key users of the services, in governing public services or in designing and implementing policies. We also seek to ensure children and young people continue to be consulted in these processes and that public officials are more responsive to children’s needs.
We also work with public officials to fully recognise that young citizens have a right to information and to give assertive feedback. We support them in being more willing to accept constructive criticism from children and young people by supporting them in managing consultation and accountability processes and building their capacity to be transparent, consultative and responsive to young citizen’s questions.
Our work also extends to collaborating with civil society and community members to learn to value young people’s leadership skills and how to capture young people’s feedback. This also covers engagement with public accountability mechanisms.
Our work with children and young people is focused on developing their capacity, knowledge and leadership skills to engage with public officials and accountability mechanisms. The emphasis is on supporting them to engage in accountability work in a non-confrontational way and to manage potential conflict with public officials.
Importantly, we are also committed to leading by example, ensuring we are open and transparent with children, youth and communities in all aspects of how we work and what we seek to achieve together.
Supporting young people’s engagement in accountability mechanisms
Information technology (IT) is giving children and young people unprecedented opportunities to hold governments to account, and to engage in ensuring public services are run in their interest.
SCOEN supports groups and organisations of young people to learn how best to monitor and provide feedback to governments and how to use IT to support them in their efforts.
Evidence shows that children and young people (and their organisations and groups) need to be information literate to engage collectively as active citizens and to participate effectively in public accountability mechanisms. They need to be able to access, analyse and use age-appropriate, child-friendly public information to generate the evidence they need to advocate for change.
To achieve this, public officials and national legislation need to support children and youth to access and use public information and promote freedom of information, open data and public transparency at different levels. They also need the capacity, willingness and incentives to support transparent processes, collect data and make information accessible.
Children and youth must also be willing and supported to understand the importance of public transparency, their right to access information, and to interpret and engage with public information to assert this right. They need to be supported to develop strong analytical, leadership and the critical thinking skills to effectively analyse and use public information for evidence-based advocacy.
Our focus at SCOEN is to develop precisely this type of expertise in supporting children and youth to engage with social accountability approaches, particularly at the local government level. This includes engaging with community scorecards, budgeting and ICT monitoring tools. We support high-quality child and youth-led advocacy at all levels on issues that are relevant to them, such as access to public information and transparency, service quality improvements and Convention on the Rights of the Child monitoring. We are also developing expertise in supporting children and youth to access, analyse and use public information at community, district and national levels.
Case Study: Monitoring Teacher Absenteeism in Uganda
Enrolment for primary education in Uganda has grown significantly in recent years and the gender gap between girls and boys has reduced, so that almost equal numbers of girls and boys now attend primary school. But despite these successes, challenges still remain with the education system in Uganda, the quality of education provided being the biggest of these challenges.
Very often, children are going to school, but they are not learning, and one of the biggest factors contributing to this is the high rate of teacher absenteeism. According to data from education authorities, 20%-30% of teachers can be absent at any one time in each district, with one school reporting a teacher absence rate of 62%. This, in turn, leads to irregular pupil attendance – there are no consequences if they are absent as they are simply following the lead of their teachers. 27% of children in Uganda are not in school at any given time.
Supporting child and youth groups to advocate for their rights
International is committed to supporting the development of child and youth groups to enable them to be more effective, inclusive and democratic in securing children’s rights.
Duty bearers such as parents, community leaders, school management or public officials who make critical decisions on children’s behalf often do not hear children’s voices. Children and young people carry little clout in adult decision-making processes and their issues are often seen as unimportant. This severely limits children’s opportunities to be active agents of their own development and to have a genuine say in how their lives are run.
We work with girls and boys to help them be more aware of their rights and entitlements. We help them learn how best to organise themselves, how to use their collective strength to drive change, how to network with others and how best to influence duty-bearers and those in power. We help them engage with decision-makers and to participate in the spaces where decisions are made. We also partner with adult civil society organisations and their networks to generate more space for children so their voices can he heard.
We also strengthen the organisations’ leadership, networking and influencing skills which helps them access, analyse and use information relating to children’s rights. Our work includes increasing adults’ awareness and capacity to support child and youth collective action and to facilitate links between adult and child and youth-led organisations and groups.
Supporting the inclusion of vulnerable and excluded young citizens
Children and young people, particularly from vulnerable and excluded groups, face many barriers to participating in public life. While public servants should hear from them first, to ensure no-one is left behind, these children often can’t take part in public accountability initiatives or governance processes. This further entrenches the discrimination they face which can lead to a further denial of their rights.
International supports initiatives that remove these barriers to participation and invests in learning what works best to ensuring the rights of excluded, marginalised and excluded girls and boys are taken into account. We particularly support targeted interventions that tackle the root causes and consequences of their exclusion from public accountability mechanisms.
We provide guidance on political and power analysis, social exclusion analysis and problem-intervention analysis tailored to citizenship and governance programming, linking these to our Gender and Child Rights Analysis tool. We are also developing a body of evidence on the impact that targeted interventions in programmes for excluded and marginalised children and young people have on the results of citizenship and governance work.
Working with young people
At SCOEN, everything we do supports children and young people in claiming their rights. But we can’t do this without listening to them and including them in decisions about our work.
We work not only for children and young people, but with them as partners. By hearing the voices of young people and involving them in our work, we can make sure that everything we do has the greatest possible impact.
Involving young people in SCOEN’s internal governance reminds the organisation about why it does its work and for whom
Young people have a fundamental right to be part of making decisions that affect them, and they have important ideas and suggestions to improve the way we work. That’s why we have panels of youth advisors worldwide who are part of our decision-making – holding us to account for our promises to children and young people.