Children share their ideas for positive change with UNICEF and State agency for child protection

24.04.2015 14:57


The consultation was the climax of UNICEF Bulgaria’s large scale inquiry “My voice matters” among thousands of young people

24 April 2015, Sofia- The permanent representative of Bulgaria to the UN, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Bulgaria and the Chairperson of the State Agency for Child Protection met with children and young people of different age, social status, ethnic background and physical abilities from all over the country. The idea behind this meeting was to get the leaders from the institutions to hear first-hand from young people and children the suggestions they have for improving the spheres of their lives that concern them the most  - such as family environment, education, social protection, the right to an opinion, development, free time, solidarity with children around the world and others.

Over 30 children had the opportunity to personally talk to Bulgaria’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Mr. Stefan Tafrov, to Mrs. Tanja Radocaj, UNICEF Representative in Bulgaria and with Mrs. Eva Zhecheva, Chairman of SACP. They were selected among 7000 young people who, during the period 10 March-10 April filled in the first of its kind large scale online questionnaire or participated in real-life focus groupsfocusing on the children in Bulgaria. The inquiry encompassed children from big and small cities and towns, children of different ethnic background, children with disabilities, children who use social services and children from school councils and youth groups.

The children identified and presented to adults the main challenges in a few areas - poverty, low quality education, violence, easy and undisrupted access to illegal drugs, cigarettes and alcohol.

Poverty is a key issue. Children experience it through the lack of material goods and daily care, as well as through the absence of their parents who either work too much or work abroad.

Almost all children claim they enjoy going to school and value education as a means to secure a better future and development for themselves. Simultaneously, however, there is a great need to make the educational system, the lesson and the way of teaching more contemporary. What is essential for students is the acquisition of skills and knowledge that are more practical, the opportunity to gain experience, the more interactive teaching and the use of modern-day technology.

In social live, a major issue that children at school face, is violence in all its shapes and forms - physical and psychological abuse, humiliation and rudeness, as well as the undisrupted, unproblematic access to harmful of forbidden substances.

What the children also mention is the need of friendly communication with their peers and adults around them in order to feel secure, confident and satisfied. The majority of children claim that adults take into consideration their opinions, but at the same time, a lot of the children don’t feel comfortable arguing with adults or teachers in order to withstand their views.

In order to achieve improvement in all of these areas of their lives, the children provided a lot of suggestions and decisions to the institutions. Among them, we could see: the establishment of groups based on common interests in the social networks;  the introduction of school classes dedicated to child rights; the conducting of seminars and workshops for parents and young people; the betterment of the school facilities and the conditions needed in order to be able to spend their leisure time in the urban environment more fruitfully; the provision of scholarships for gifted children; the introduction of means to help children and families with special needs; the provision of better access of children to mainstream media, through which they would be able to express freely and authentically their opinions on topics that concern them.

Apart from that, the children and young people had 5 core questions directed at SACP and UNICEF:

- Why is it easier for Bulgarian children to gain access to cigarettes, alcohol and illegal drugs than it is for others around the world?

- What do Government authorities do in order to integrate children of ethnic minorities?

- Why is it that children are often aggressive towards their own peers and classmates?

- What would you cite as the most common reason for children to call the violence hotline 116 111?

- What is it that makes the representatives of SACP, UNICEF and UN deal with child rights and what makes them dedicate their life and work to causes related to children?

The children promised to present their conclusions, recommendations and questions for the Government institutions in written form. On its part, SACP promised to make sure that all authorities get to read them, along with the analysis of the responses that nearly 7000 children gave via the informational and social campaign ”My voice matters”  conducted by UNICEF. All challenges and solutions that have been pinpointed are expected to have an impact on the updating of the National Strategy for the Child.

About the National Strategy for the Child (2008- 2018)   
The strategy is the main document that defines the priorities and actions which would improve children’s wellbeing in Bulgaria. It is created in accordance with the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Bulgarian Law for the protection of the children in relation to their place in society; the right to live in a family environment; the ensuring of circumstances for the effective practice of the rights of the child; improving their health and lowering the risk of poverty. According to the Law for the protection of the child and in the carrying out of the National strategy, the Council of Ministers annually accepts the National programme for the protection of the child, offered by the Minister of Labour and Chairperson of the State Agency for Child Protection. 

What is child participation all about?   
Child participation is a right of all children – both on individual and group level (when children, for instance, represent other children in group organizations). On an individual level, children have the right to be heard and their opinions to taken into account whenever adults (parents, relatives, teachers, doctors, judges or other professionals) are making decisions which affect children. As a group, children have the right to be given the possibility to exert influence and provide information in relation to the decisions being made by the society – for example, in school, local authorities, providers of services, civil organizations or the Government. 

About UNICEF:   
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do.  Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.   

My voice matters

28.04.2015 in Projects

In March 2015 UNICEF Bulgaria launched an informational and social campaign dedicated to the right to child ...

UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. To save their lives. To defend their rights. To help them fulfill their potential. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, every day, to build a better world for everyone. And we never give up.