If there was one thing I could change, that would be the education system.
Could you introduce the work of the Plataforma de infancia to us? Who does it represent?
Plataforma de Infancia is the Spanish coalition of children’s rights NGOs. It was established 20 years ago with the aim of reporting to the UN Committee on Rights of the Child. We continue to do that, but in the mean time we have grown to unite 59 organisations and regional platforms in Spain. At the national level, we advocate with the government, congress and senate to improve policies that affect children. Through training and information exchange we also contribute to the capacity building of our member organizations.
Children’s participation is another pillar of our work. We work with the local councils to improve participation of children, by raising awareness of their rights and empowering them to have their opinions heard. We also cooperate with stakeholders from other sectors to build a stronger impact on topics of common interest.
What are the key issues you are working on?
We focus on investing in children. The investment in social protection represents only 1.3 % of Spain’s GDP, which is below the EU average. The levels of child poverty and inequality are disproportionately high, not only as a result of the economic crisis but even more so due to the lack of targeted policies.
Violence against children is another issue of concern. To begin with, there is no common definition of all forms of violence against children. We are noticing a lack of coordination between different levels of public administration, which creates gaps in the protection of children. Legislation on domestic violence and violence in educational settings is also not coordinated; the situation needs a broader integrated approach. The law on violence against women is a good model that would be worth following for a law on protection of children.
What are the opportunities and the challenges in the area of children’s rights?
The perception of children’s rights is a challenge. It is difficult to explain to people that children have their own set of rights, separate from and to a certain extent different than their parents or families. The official curricula do not include programmes to educate children about their rights. We try to increase awareness through our programmes of participation.
What are you doing to engage children and young people in your work?
We have three different programmes to involve children and young people in decision-making processes that affect them. “Cibercorresponsales” is a digital social network for children, created and coordinated by Plataforma. We have two coordinators who help children respond to relevant topics, to develop and express their ideas. More than 2000 children take part in this network every day and we also have annual national meetings to get children’s feedback on contents as well as different ways to improve the programme and network.
We also work with UNICEF to improve the impact of local councils, where children share their views on the issues and opportunities with their local town halls.
Children’s ideas help us improve our advocacy efforts and better adapt our work plans to their needs and desires. We hope to create a permanent council that will allow us to receive input from a group of children on a regular basis.
If there was one thing you could change, that could influence how children’s rights are understood and protected, what would that be?
I would make a huge change in the educational sector. It is through education that we can raise awareness of children’s rights and guarantee equal opportunities further along in their adult life. The official curricula in Spain currently do not include any subjects on human rights, let alone children’s rights. I believe it is important not only to teach children about their rights but also to get them involved in the decision-making processes. Recent reforms reduced the possibility for the latter.
Children can only truly learn about participation by doing it; schools are a perfect place to put that in practice and give them an opportunity to engage in active citizenship.
Plataforma launched a manifesto for the national elections. What was the impact of this manifesto?
In the run-up to the last national elections, we put a lot of effort in advocating our proposals with all political parties. Our proposals were decided upon in working groups, which also involved children who shared their views and ideas. In January of this year, children explained their own proposals in a face-to-face meeting with parliamentarians. Next year, we hope to return and ask the parliamentarians for a feedback on the promises they made.
So far, the impact of the manifesto and our advocacy has been quite significant. Some political parties completely took our ideas and proposals on board; some even added a specific chapter on public policies on children’s rights in their programmes! The proposals to improve early childhood education and care, and adopting a law on violence against children are included in the political agenda.
We take part in coalition of stakeholders from various sectors, established with the purpose of keeping track of the progress in delivering on the promises made during the campaign. We are monitoring the work of the political parties and sharing the results openly on the website called “Poletika”. Since last year, more than 7% of initiatives in the congress were related to children. We believe the project helped bring children related topics to the forefront of the political discussions. It is a step forward!
What do you hope to achieve as a member of Eurochild?
Eurochild is the perfect place to collaborate with NGOs, platforms and coalitions at the European level. It will allow us to share knowledge, ideas and best practices with members from other countries as well as to pass the relevant discussion from the European to the national level. I know we can learn from other members and hope to be able to share our expertise as well. Trainings and webinars will help us as an organization, our members and our staff.