Child Rights – July 5 2019

Agnes tells UN: ‘Let us participate in our own development’

SOS Young Campaigner Agnes is a trailblazer for human rights in Benin. As an elected member of the Executive Council of Children, Agnes advocates for the rights of children across the country and voices their concerns to the Atakora region state level representative – speaking on issues such as child marriage, sexual harassment in schools and child abuse.

First chosen to be a child representative by her peers in the SOS village community in Benin where she grew up, Agnes now advocates for children’s rights nationally and internationally.

In 2018, SOS Children’s Villages and other child care organisations were so impressed by her commitment and advocacy skills that they elected her as a member of the Executive Council of Children in Benin, and last September she participated in a panel discussion hosted by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.

The event in Geneva brought together experts, policy makers and over 60 children and young people to discuss the topic of “Protecting and empowering children as human rights defenders” – a topic Agnes is passionate about.

“I have all my rights but other children do not. We should all be able to defend ourselves,” Agnes declared in her speech to the UN committee.

Her contribution is all the more impressive when you consider that, at the time, Agnes was just 12 years old.

Agnes has big ambitions for the future. ”I want to organise an annual forum for the children of Benin, to discuss the questions which concern us and report to the authorities. I want to promote the participation of the child.”

Agnes came to live at our village community at the age of two, following the death of her parents. She showed an interest in child rights from a young age, something which was quickly noticed by the other children. They elected Agnes to voice their perspectives in community discussions, and she regularly met with the children to hear about their needs and then presented their views at planning meetings where programmes were reviewed and adjustments discussed.

“Respect for the rights of the child is very important at SOS Children’s Villages and for our development, so I am committed to defending the rights of my brothers and sisters,” Agnes told us, adding that she feels empowered by the knowledge that SOS Children’s Villages will always encourage her to raise awareness and voice her experiences freely.

Now she wants to encourage other children to contribute to their communities, which she considers essential to forging a better path with access to rights for all children.

“Participation is a shortcut for sustainable development,” she says. “Let us participate in our own development and the development of our communities.”

SOS Children’s Villages stands up for children and informs communities and decision-makers about children's rights. We encourage children to actively take part in the decision-making processes that affect their lives and, when possible, speak up for themselves and be heard. Agnes is one of many young advocates striving to inspire global change in the areas of children’s rights.

A recent report released by SOS Children’s Villages and five other leading child-focused organisations of the Joining Forces Alliance, A Second Revolution: Thirty Years of Child Rights and the Unfinished Agenda,  underscores that while progress has been made for children since the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child thirty years ago, gaps in implementation remain and millions of children have been left behind. These inequalities can be reduced with the increased involvement of children, promoting them as equal and powerful advocates for change in their communities.

Read the report

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