2.6 The law and the child’s right to information

What sort of information do you think children in your local community might need?

Article 17 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child provides that children have a right to information. At national level, a child’s right to information is not explicitly stated in the laws in any of countries in the region. However, all four countries have very clear legislation affirming a child’s right to basic education, which is a key means by which children acquire information.

As a health worker, there are three key aspects you should understand in relation to a child’s right to information:

  • Information about rights: Children cannot exercise their rights unless they know that they have rights, what those rights constitute and where to get assistance in case of any violation of their rights.

    In relation to health, for example, children need to know about what the right to health means, their right to protection from violence, their right to be involved in decisions that affect them, and if and when they are entitled to give consent to their own health care and treatment.

    The Committee on the Rights of the Child emphasises the importance of human and child rights education in the school curriculum (CRC, 2001). In Kenya, for example, the government has incorporated child rights education as a primary topic to be covered within social studies in the primary level education curriculum.

  • Access to health education and information: Education and access to health-promoting information can play an important role in protecting children and enhancing their capacities to make informed decisions in relation to their own health care.

    As a health worker, you can play a key role in ensuring that children have the necessary health knowledge and skills to make positive choices and live healthy lives, as well as helping children understand their rights in relation to health care and protection. This might include, for example, information about:

    • how they can lead healthy lives
    • sexual and reproductive health
    • HIV/AIDS awareness
    • nutrition
    • smoking
    • alcohol
    • illegal drugs
    • physical and psychological development.

    Health workers can also develop preventive and promotional materials in forms that the child understands and that are appropriate to the child’s evolving capacities. This can be done in partnership with children themselves. Children can also be provided with advice on where they can go for further information and help.

  • Protection from harmful media and information: Children have the right to protection from harmful information. Some laws exist to provide guidance on the type of information that children can access or be exposed to. For example, in Kenya, exposure to obscene materials or pornography is prohibited. However, many children do have access to harmful or pornographic materials; for example, through internet cafes. This exposure may have an impact on levels of sexual violence, and vulnerability to abuse.

Why health workers need to know the law

2.7 The law and the child’s right to be heard and to be involved in health care decisions