The United Nations Convention on the rights of a child affirms that anyone under the age of 18 has the right to know about their rights and responsibilities. But think about this for a minute. How do we learn about these rights? Who teaches us about our rights?
I think it’s important that children and young people of New Zealand understand their rights. I believe that children’s rights should be incorporated into the education system, or at the very least, be promoted in all schools.
It’s vital that children have the means to learn about their rights and, if necessary, be able to access services where they can seek help when they need it. I believe that we, together with adults, should be able to take action to advocate and ensure that children are protected at home, in schools, in our communities… in fact, everywhere.
So what are we, the youth, doing about it? I am a Save the Children Youth Ambassador. We advocate for children’s rights by raising awareness about the Convention and by influencing government decision making and policy through written submissions drawing from the voices of young New Zealanders.
For example, recently we have been working with UNICEF youth ambassadors to produce a report on the rights and well-being of children and young people under the age of 18. We consulted with pupils across New Zealand, learning what they knew about children’s rights, where they learnt them, and what they would do to make a difference for children in this country. We are going to submit these findings to the New Zealand government and to the United Nations to ensure that the voice of young New Zealanders can be heard. The opinions of Save the Children youth ambassadors were also included in the submission made by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner on the Review of the Education Act.
Some of you may be wondering what good it does to know about your rights? That's a very valid point. People who are more aware of their rights are more inclined to act upon and claim them when necessary. I believe that by giving children an opportunity to learn about their rights means they are better positioned for the future and are more aware of what's right and wrong. It can also teach children about the services that are available to support them, giving greater incentive for them to ask for help when needed.
Children are the future. By investing in the children of New Zealand we are investing in the future of our country. New Zealand is a very unique country, and very multi-cultural as well. It's important that our children receive the right upbringing no matter their race, or gender – we all deserve a fair go in life.
Knowing our rights will empower us to take action and create a more aware environment that is inclusive and sensitive to everybody's different needs and wants.
I invite you to become part of this. Become an ambassador for children at Save the Children.