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Barriers to full and meaningful participation

What are the reasons for a lack of meaningful participation
Two Central American girls hugs while standing in a dormitory with four sets of bunks. they are wearing casual clothes, jeans and t-shirts. The bunk beds have pink sheets and towels draped on the ends.
© UNICEF (UN030697) / Zehbrauskas
In order for us to make positive changes, it helps if we understand the different reasons why full and meaningful participation of children in decision making does not always happen. These reasons include:

  • A lack of acceptance or experience in many societies of children playing an active role in decision-making processes
  • Adults may actively resist children’s participation. Some adults are concerned they must only follow the child’s opinion or wishes. They do, however, retain full responsibility for protecting children and acting in their best interests
  • Workers may lack the skills and tools to effectively communicate with children, to gain their perspectives, and really listen to their views
  • Children themselves might lack the confidence to share their views or feel fearful of the consequences – particularly in the presence of anyone they perceive to be an ‘official’. They may need time and support to participate properly
  • The environments in which children and young people are being asked to participate, such as police stations, border crossings or court rooms, may be quite intimidating. Addressing this issue might require little more than some creative thinking. For example, if a child is speaking to the judge making a decision about their case, there could be a separate area where they are able to talk together away from the main court room
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