Together recently held a series of four ‘UNCRC in Scotland‘ seminars in partnership with the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships (CRFR) at the University of Edinburgh and the Centre for Child Wellbeing and Protection (CCWP) at the University of Stirling. The seminar series — funded by SUII — sought to improve and address gaps in the implementation and monitoring of the UNCRC in Scotland. Members of the Glasgow Youth Council and the Scottish Youth Parliament were invited to attend the seminars as part of a film-making and creative project. As the seminar series progressed, the involvement of these young people became so much more as they learnt about the UNCRC across law, practice and policy, eventually Chairing the final seminar on next steps for implementation. After meeting Suki Wan, Thomas McEachan and Joel Meekison during the seminar series, Aberdeen City Council invited the three of them to Aberdeen to share best practice of embedding a child-rights based approach into planning and services.
This blog was written by Suki Wan MSYP on her experience of the visit to Aberdeen. Suki is an elected member of the Glasgow Youth Council and the Scottish Youth Parliament for Glasgow Shettleston. She was recently voted in as Vice Chair of SYP and is committed to advocating for equalities and human rights throughout her work.
Sounds like a pretty good summary of our day right? You know where we were, when we were there and what we were doing. But that itinerary fails to reflect one thing (other than the amount of caffeine we had to keep us going from a 5am wakeup call) and that is the sheer amount of commitment, knowledge and love for children’s rights that we came across time and time again throughout our day.
At Harlaw Academy, children and young people were working on their visions for the future of their city centre. Print-outs of different articles from the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) were scattered around the tables, in between plasticine models of colourful bridges, swings and climbing trees and amongst the carefully drawn out plans for a Junior Olympics Event; an accessible amusement park built for the non-able bodied and ‘Hobbyfest’ where children and young people met to showcase their hobbies and meet new friends.
Over lunch we had conversations about Harlaw Academy’s elected pupil representatives who were working hard to increase youth voice and engagement within the school population. This is supported by the innovative development of the online hub which will allow every pupil to feed in and have a say about the environment in which they learn and grow in – a clear development in Article 12 on the rights of children and young people to have their voices heard and taken seriously.
At Riverbank Primary School, we enjoyed a very well-delivered tour by Michael and Casper – two of Riverbank’s pupils and we saw exactly how and why Riverbank is a Level 2 Rights Respecting School. At Riverbank, rights are integral to the school curriculum and most importantly they are a part of the everyday. Articles from the UNCRC could be seen throughout the school in what would seem like the unlikeliest places but they made sense when taken a closer look at. Article 31 – the right to play – was up on the wall under the diagram of playground monitors. Article 12 – the right to have your opinion heard – under the list of pupil council representatives. Article 30 – the right to learn and use languages and customs – was posted under the language tree made up of the different languages and cultures that pupils inhabited. At Riverbank, rights are the everyday.
Finally, we met with Aberdeen City Youth Council and had a chat about how our youth councils operated, giving each other advice and stories about our experiences running youth participation forums in our respective cities. This wasn’t an explicit conversation on rights but I realised afterwards just how powerful a conversation it was: we represented two groups of young people who were making decisions – choosing and being empowered every day to exercise those rights. This conversation was important because Aberdeen City Youth Council represent the core of Aberdeen’s dedication to rights and showed how the young people of the city were taking ownership and claiming their rights as something that is inalienable and fundamental.
I’ll be honest with you, when we first turned up to Seminar #1 on the ‘UNCRC in Law’, we had no idea that this was the path it would lead to.
To becoming fiercely passionate about the UNCRC and all of it’s accompanying documents. To wanting to scream and to shout about our rights as young people from the rooftops. To joining the Children’s Rights Tribe as articulated in practice by the Children’s Parliament.
Thank you to the Children’s Rights Tribe – we’re about to get a lot bigger!