The National Child Strategy aims to build a more child-friendly society where every child can grow and develop safely and in peace. The Strategy helps to build a Finland where children feel valued as themselves and where they or their actions are not constantly judged. One of the aims of the Strategy is to ensure that children can be children while at the same time giving them the opportunity to participate in society. Another aim is to strengthen measures taken by adults to realise the rights of the child.
The participation of children and young people in the preparation of the Child Strategy was ensured despite COVID-19
In preparing the Child Strategy, the inclusion of children, young people and civil society has been a key objective from the very beginning. Originally, our intension was to bring together children and young people to discuss their everyday lives, wellbeing and rights. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 epidemic posed its own challenges for our plans. We were faced with a new question — how to get children and young people to talk to us without meeting them face-to-face?
We decided to do this by using the hybrid model. We got in touch with civil society actors, such as organisations, and requested their help. We provided them with ready-made questions and themes and asked them to organise workshops with children and young people involved in their activities. We also offered to hold workshops ourselves if somebody requested that. In the end, a total of eight workshops were organised in one way or another.
We also carried out an online survey together with Fountain Park between September and October 2020 and received almost 3,000 responses to the survey. We were glad to see that the survey had reached a wide range of children, young people and adults of different ages from across Finland. The purpose of the survey was to find out what kinds of things children and young people think should be promoted in order for Finland to be a good place for children to live in. We are currently analysing the results of the survey, but it is already clear at this stage that every respondent has provided us with valuable information and views to support the preparation of the Child Strategy and the related implementation plan.
Children and young people want to know what their opinions affect
In their responses, children and young people point out that adults should genuinely listen to them and take account of their opinions better than before. The need to be genuinely heard relates to the way how children are used to having their views heard. Adults know how to ask questions, but very often it remains unclear for children and young people what the information they provided will be used for or if the information actually had an effect on something.
The responses to the survey will also be analysed to address this challenge. What measures could we take to help both children and adults have a better understanding of what matters their views have been sought on? Based on a preliminary analysis, it is clear that it is essential to provide adults with tools to support children’s initiatives. In addition, when listening to children and young people’s views, adults should always tell them why questions are being asked and what they can influence by answering the questions.
Those who responded to the survey also said that children and young people’s views are generally sought on matters that are related to their everyday lives. It is important for children to get to influence important everyday matters in particular, such as leisure time, friends and school. Children and young people have a lot to say when it comes to their own lives, and this is the message that we want to pass on in the Child Strategy.
’’Listen. More information about youth councils. Opportunities for pupils and students to get genuinely involved in decision-making at schools (e.g. teacher meetings).”
(An answer from the survey in autumn)
Listen to children and young people also after the Children’s Rights Week
Next week we will celebrate the Children’s Rights Week (in Finnish or Swedish), which is an important event for all of us interested in children’s rights and inclusion. During the Children’s Rights Week, it is important to listen to children and adults can pause and genuinely focus on matters that involve children. As important as this is, it also important to listen to children at other times. We would therefore like to challenge you all to do this, because children deserve it. We can begin this next Friday, 20 November 2020, when the Day of Children’s Rights will be a designated flag day for the first time.
The Child Strategy encourages everyone around Finland to fly the national flag in support of children’s rights.
On behalf of the Child Strategy team
Elina Stenvall and Laura Saarinen
Read more about the Child Strategy www.lapsistrategia.fi