"My dream is that one day every single child will be appreciated by every adult" - Dana Rušinová, Director of the Coalition for Children Slovakia
1. Could you tell us about your background, what brought you into children’s rights sector?
The most helpful experience for me is that I am a mother of two children who go to a Montessori school. Each child needs an individual approach, because they all have different talents. Although as a child I was placed in classes for children with special talents, today I cannot accept the idea of this kind of division in education. Children need to grow up and learn in a diverse environment with children coming from various social backgrounds. Otherwise they will suffer long in their adulthood due to a lack of understanding by others.
2.Can you explain briefly what role the Coalition for Children plays in Slovakia?
After focusing on fighting for gender equality, human rights and environmental problems, in Slovakia it is time now to prioritise children’s well-being. The potential of the Coalition is enormous. We wish to increase the awareness of children’s rights among both the lay and the expert public, but mainly among politicians and civil servants. Through our active work, we want to convince them that civil society organisations (CSOs), devoted to children and youth, have an irreplaceable role as partners in designing and implementing systemic change but also in providing public services to children and families.
We wish to promote both “top-down” and “bottom-up” innovation. As the Foundation’s Director, I can initiate educational and grant programmes to support such projects. The goal of the Coalition is to network people and promote the need of advocacy activities among CSOs. I very much appreciate that Eurochild builds the capacity of its members, because, in my country, I can see that organisations working with children have less impact than other types of CSOs.
Also, we wish to be pointing out mistakes made by public institutions in the protection of the rights of the child. Our goal now is to support the Children’s Commissioner in Slovakia. Which was elected with 14 years delay since the recommendation of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2001.
3.Recently the European Commission supported a seminar on the EC Recommendation “Investing in children: breaking the cycle of disadvantage”. What does the Slovakian government do to implement the recommendations?
The seminar was great! It presented possibilities on how to use the European funds in the implementation of the Investing in Children Recommendation in Slovakia. The participants’ vivid discussion confirmed the interest of public administration authorities in building partnerships with civil society, mainly in projects focusing on Roma children but also in social projects in general. It also made evident that the European funds are still very hard to access by most of CSOs, one of the reasons being the requirement of highly sophisticated financial management of projects.
We also understood that the Investing in Children Recommendation is in fact a tool to meet the needs of children and the protection of their rights. The Recommendation is, I believe, a great success of the Eurochild’s advocacy activities. In addition, it recognises that investing in children is the most effective investment in the future of Europe.
4. According to you, what role can the EU play in the area of child protection and children’s rights?
I can see that our Government tries to implement the EU requirements and recommendations, of course, in a form adjusted to Slovak reality. Therefore, I consider the Investing in Children Recommendation as well as the regular monitoring of its implementation in partnerships with CSOs as a useful tool to foster change in the field of children’s rights. In my view, the EU can play an important role in challenging its Member States by making the European funds more accessible to CSOs, mainly in the form of grants administered by experienced local foundations.
I welcome the new priorities for European cooperation in education and training (ET2010). They address inclusive education for all children, which should reflect the individual needs and develop the unique potential of every child. Education should be based on real life, including labour market needs, and develop life and social skills.
5.With regard to your work, how do you see the role of networks like Eurochild? Do they help the Coalition for Children Slovakia - and in what way?
I welcome the networking among our members but also with the representatives of international institutions. An example is the cooperation we started with the European Network of Ombudspersons for Children (ENOC). Considering the fact that the first office of the Children’s Commissioner is soon to be opened in Slovakia, the Coalition deems these contacts as very important. In my view, there are two areas where Eurochild could help our work on the EU level: it can create more awareness about the fact that the implementation of the Investing in Children Recommendation needs to be carried out in partnerships with CSOs. Secondly, it can help to promote more effective and targeted use of EU funds and other financial mechanisms in dealing with problems of children and youth, in order to help better CSO accessibility.
6. What is the achievement of your organisation that you are most proud of?
The year 2015 was a very successful one. The Act on the Children’s Commissioner, which we helped drafting, was adopted by the Parliament. One of the legal requirements for adoption was that each candidate has to have positive references from at least five relevant CSOs. We are also very happy that the Slovak Parliament adopted the Amendment to the Act on Family which reflects the requirements of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and improves the level of social-legal protection of children in Slovakia. We were involved in consulting the content of the Amendment.
Above all, however, we are proud of our first “Complementary Report on the Implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in Slovakia in Years 2007 – 2015”, written from the viewpoint of CSOs. Where we identified ten main problems in the protection of the rights of children in our country. Forty experts from twenty-six organisations were involved. Last October, we presented the report at the pre-session meeting of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva, the members of which appreciated its comprehensiveness. Several of our recommendations were reflected in the additional questions the Committee requested to be answered by the Slovak Government before the Committee’s official meeting in summer 2016.
7. What are your hopes/dreams for the future for children in Slovakia?
My dream is that one day every single child will be appreciated by every adult. That adults will do everything and anything to assure that children have happy childhoods and will be able to perceive the uniqueness of each child and provide them with the time they need for whatever they are doing at the moment. Also, that a disabled child, an ill child, a child from a socially disadvantaged background, or a child facing crisis will always have people around, ready to help mitigate the consequences of their difficult situation. I think we can get there. Major changes require endurance: that’s why I am not frustrated by the vision of a far future; because I can perceive every single step as taking us nearer to it.