If you can’t hear them, you aren’t listening
On 24 November, Eurochild Children’s Council’s Irish member Sioda, joined a panel discussion organised by Ireland’s Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth exploring how the EU can represent the priorities of children and young people, particularly in the context of the European Child Guarantee.
“In your work think about [sic] do you have spaces for children to voice their opinions? Are you listening, Can you hear those voices and if you can’t hear them, you aren’t listening." - Sioda, Ireland
The webinar was part of the What Works Festival of Learning - a series of four virtual events focused on disadvantage, its impact on children and families and how it can be addressed. The webinar’s audience brought together policy makers both in Ireland and further afield as well as different services, researchers and NGOs, including Tanya Ward, director of Eurochild member Children’s Rights Alliance Ireland.
Having seen a recording of her powerful speech at the 30th anniversary of the UNCRC in the European Parliament in 2019, Sioda was invited to speak at the webinar in order to bring a young Irish person’s perspective and to share her views and experiences as a member of Eurochild Children’s Council. In her interventions, Sioda highlighted the key priorities for children and young people both in Ireland and within a European context.
She stressed the importance of better mental health services for young people and for creating structures and organised accessible spaces for children to be able to participate in decision making and to share their views. She highlighted that many children have simply never had any kind of opportunity to participate and that if they could start to access such opportunities, these could then lead to further opportunities for participation later on. In her closing words, Sioda called on the panelists and participants to proactively make space in their work for the voices of those groups of children who so often go unheard, including trans children and children growing up in poverty who do not have adequate access to education and mental health services.
On the experience, Sioda said: “I really enjoyed being a panelist at this event. I was treated equally and fairly which I really value, and I felt I wasn’t just there for the sake of tokenism, my opinion was valued. “
Indeed, the webinar, as well as the approach of the organising team during preparations, was an excellent example of what happens when the views and perspectives of children and young people are recognised as a critical part of conversations around improving the lives of children. It was the first time that a young person was invited to participate in one of these webinars and it was certainly an enriching experience for all.