1.1 Introduction

In this session you will learn about one of the fundamental rights contained in the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child. Article 12 of the UN Convention gives children the right to express their views and have them taken seriously. This means that children are entitled to be involved in decisions that affect them. It is commonly described as the right to participation. It challenges assumptions in East Africa that children are not expected to question or challenge adults or to contribute to decisions adults make on their behalf. Article 12 does not encourage children to be disrespectful or disobedient. It seeks to promote respect for children to be more actively involved in their own lives and to be able to influence the things that happen to them. Children are not just passive recipients of adult care and protection – they can also contribute to the exercise of their rights and participate in decisions that affect them.

This session will help you to explore your own views about child participation, to appreciate the capacity of children to influence decisions about their health. You will also think about why this is important for health workers to understand.

1 The child as an active participant

1.2 Learning outcomes