In our office, we often talk about the voice of the child. But what exactly do we mean by this? And how does it influence our work?
The voice of the child essentially means that young people who have the capacity to form opinions have the right to express them. This right is repeated throughout the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Convention also states that governments must then consider a young person's opinion, according to his or her capacity.
The idea of listening to the voice of the child is new to many people around the world. But the voice of the child reflects a new appreciation for young people’s role in decision making. There is a growing awareness that young people’s opinions can help build a better future for everyone. The voice of the child means children and youth are not just the subject of government decisions. Instead, they are encouraged to get involved in important matters that affect them.
It’s always important to remember though that all articles in the Convention work together. No right is more important than another. A child or youth's right to express him or herself must be considered alongside a parent’s responsibility to raise their children.
So how does this concept guide our office? We like to say that all our work is driven by the voice of the child. When we advocate for individual children, the child or youth directs our work, according to his or her capacity. When we carry out reviews, we also seek input from children and youth. They are, after all, those who are most affected by the legislation, policies, programs and services we are reviewing.