4 Answers to self-assessment questions
Study Session 1
The three categories of rights in the UN Convention and the African Charter are:
- Provision rights: these rights require governments to make services available for children, such as the right to health or education.
- Protection rights: these rights recognise that because children are more vulnerable than adults, they need extra protection, such as protection from violence, sexual or economic exploitation, and promotion of their best interests.
- Participation rights: these rights recognise that children are entitled to be listened to, to have their own views and opinions, and that their views should be taken into account by adults.
All three groups of rights contained in the UN Convention and the African Charter are relevant to health workers. Here are some examples of how they apply:
- Provision rights: it is the job of a health worker to make sure that the children you see have the best possible health care. You should also make sure that all children are treated without discrimination. Health workers can also play a part in encouraging parents to treat their children in ways that will promote their healthy development – for example, through good nutrition and by encouraging parents to understand how children develop.
- Protection rights: as a health worker, you need to make sure that you do not abuse the rights of children by hitting or hurting them. You also need to be alert to children who have been hurt or abused by family members or by others in the community. It is part of your role to recognise such abuse and to make sure that it is responded to and the child given proper protection.
- Participation rights: when you are treating children, you need to provide them with information about their medical condition and what treatments are going to be provided. You also need to listen to the children, take their concerns into account, and involve them as far as possible in any decisions about their own health care. Obviously, this will depend on the age and understanding of the child.
The guiding principles of the UN Convention and the African Charter are:
- The right to non-discrimination
- The right to have a child’s best interests given primary consideration
- The right to life and optimum development
- The right to be heard and taken seriously.
All four principles are necessary to ensure the realisation of other rights. For example, in order to ensure that the right to the best possible health is realised, you will need to:
- Make sure that you do not discriminate against any child just because she is a girl, or has a disability, or is poor, or comes from another tribe. Discrimination can mean children are denied the right to health.
- Think about what would be in the child’s best interests. Is it in a young girl’s best interests, for example, to tell her mother that she is seeking contraceptive advice to protect herself from pregnancy, if the girl says that her mother would beat her if she found out? Is it in the best interests of a small child who is terrified of an injection to administer the injection without first calming her down and reassuring her? Ignoring the child’s best interests can mean that her health is jeopardised.
- Recognise the equal right to life of every child. It is not acceptable to allow a child with a disability to die or to be neglected just because she or he has a disability. It is also necessary to provide health care services that are designed to promote the optimum development of every child.
- Listen to children. They will have important information, knowledge and insights into their own lives, which are necessary for you to understand if you are to provide them with the best possible health care.
Examples of changes you could make in your practice to ensure:
- a.Children with disabilities are not discriminated against
You could encourage the installation of a ramp to enable children using wheelchairs to access a clinic or a hospital.
You could encourage all staff to treat children with disabilities with equal respect.
You could provide support to parents to recognise that their disabled child is being seen as having the same value as all other children.
You could try to make sure that you have staff in the clinic or hospital who are able to communicate with children with speech or hearing difficulties, so that those children are able to be heard and to express themselves.
- b.Girls are treated equally with boys
You could encourage mothers to ensure that they do not discriminate against girls when providing food in the family.
You could make sure that you do not judge girls who are pregnant negatively and treat them with contempt. Very often, it is girls who are criticised for having sex, whereas boys of the same age who have sex are not judged badly at all.
You could try to provide more confidential services for girls needing sexual and reproductive health services.