By Shilla Zwizwai, Ambassador for Who Cares? Scotland
When Carly Edgar, Who Cares? Scotland Senior Policy Officer first told me that I would be meeting Ms. Amal Aldoseri, the first thing I did was to search her up on google. I simply could not believe that I was actually going to be meeting a member of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.
The purpose of Ms. Amal Aldoseri’s visit was to explore the work currently being done in Scotland around children’s rights with the hopes of taking this back to the United Nations. Ms. Amal Aldoseri, along with the members of the Scottish Youth Parliament (MSYPs), paid a visit to the Who Cares? Scotland national office on Thursday 3rd of September. Myself, Connor Chalmers (Ambassador) and Thomas Timlin (Policy development officer) were able to speak up on behalf of the 16,000 care experienced young people in Scotland. This was a surreal experience. It felt empowering being able to speak to a representative of the United Nations government body on behalf of some of Scotland’s most marginalised children.
Some of the issues discussed were around the stigma faced by care experienced young people. For years the outcomes for looked after children & young people have been very poor, however, things appear to be looking up since the recent change in law. On the 1st of April 2015 the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 named 24 corporate bodies as corporate parents for care experienced young people. This new Act and the corporate parenting training sessions currently being delivered across the Nation by Who Cares? Scotland will hopefully give care experienced young people a real chance in life. However, there are still real challenges, in particular when it comes to society accepting care experienced young people. The stigma around care experienced young people is not only isolated to Scotland but is actually a cross border issue. Meeting Ms Aldoseri was, in a way, a stepping stone towards changing society’s perception of care experienced young people across the nations.
Meeting Ms Amal Aldoseri reassured me that there are people out there who are willing to listen to the care experienced voice. It’s a movement. This particular movement starts with people of influence like Ms. Aldoseri and the Scottish Youth Parliament showing an interest in the voices and the lives of care experienced young people. For some time now we as young people have been ashamed of our care identity due to the stigma that comes with it, but this particular meeting showed me that our care identity can equally open doors of opportunity for us. I was happy to see that Ms Aldoseri had done some research on some of the work that our organisation had been involved in. She asked questions. She made suggestions. She seemed to have a real interest in our lives as young people.
For me personally, as a care leaver who will be graduating next year, meeting Ms Amal Aldoseri was a true moment of realisation. It was a moment of me realising that I too could achieve all the goals that I have set for myself. I was also secretly excited to meet Ms Aldoseri due to my desire in life of becoming a Human Rights Lawyer working with children and families. Meeting someone who had achieved so much in life, someone interested in the human rights of those around her really motivated me to go for my dreams.
To any care experienced young people reading this, I hope this gives you a hope in life. I hope this encourages you to block out the voices of self-doubt which can often be caused by all the barriers and stigma you are faced with in life. I know most of you have heard this before, but it’s true–with the right support, the right opportunities and the right mind-set, you can achieve all you aim to achieve in life.
Finally, our message to Amal is one of gratitude:
“Thank you Amal for listening. Our chances can only improve when people like you listen to us and stand alongside us. We respectfully request that you champion the cause of looked after children and care leavers across these islands and beyond.”