1.10 Child participation: obligation or burden?
Do children have an obligation to express their views?
Does giving children rights to be heard burden them unnecessarily?
Neither the UN Convention nor the African Charter imposes obligations on children to express their views. Rather, they provide a right for the child to do so. Children should be given the opportunity to participate and express their views if they so choose, and be helped to do so.
The assumption that children will be burdened unnecessarily is rooted in a view of childhood that imagines children and adolescents do not take decisions or responsibilities at very early ages. However, even small children can act responsibly, for example, in caring for younger siblings, coping with parents in conflict, deciding on what games to play, and negotiating rules. Listening to the views of children, and supporting their participation in a way that respects their evolving capacities teaches children to listen and respect the opinions of others, clarify their own opinions and make decisions about their lives.