The aim of this study session was to introduce you to the right of children to be active participants in decisions and actions that affect their lives. The key points it addresses are as follows:
- Participation is a process of being involved in decisions and actions that affect you. Despite historical traditional practices that encourage children’s participation, children are often denied this opportunity. However, this right to be heard and taken seriously is one of the fundamental principles in the UN Convention and the African Charter.
- In the field of health care, the right to participate is addressed in four key articles in the Convention: the right to respect for evolving capacities, the right to information, the right to express views and have them taken seriously, and the right to privacy and confidentiality.
- Participation is not only a right but also carries significant benefits for children. It leads to better decisions, it builds their confidence, it reduces fears and anxieties, and it helps children to take on the responsibilities they will have in later years. The health worker benefits too, as children will be more likely to communicate more effectively with the health worker and to cooperate in treatment.
- Many adults have concerns about letting children participate. For example, they worry that children lack capacity or that it will erode parental authority. On the contrary, participation serves to enhance children’s lives and can strengthen relationships between adults and children. Of course, children should never be forced to participate against their will. It is a right not an obligation.