Tell us what you found out –
what were people’s experiences, views or ideas for change?
Two important aspects to take into account of this Forum is that it has a team to organizing it composed by adults and children. The coordination mechanism involves municipality officers (around 20) from different areas and it’s also in charge of monitoring the local strategic plan for children rights. Besides that, exists also a children committee with around 15 children (up to 18) who are actively involved on designing the different events. Both structures cooperate in order to create the programme for the final event and other small events that are organised on the previous weeks but also are autonomous to design initiatives focused to their peers, according to the main topic and objectives that they together agreed to explore.
The main initiative took place on the international Children Rights (November 20th) but before it, it is organised different workshops, sessions and debates to get to know and increase the knowledge on different dimensions of the children rights. The formats are decided according to the target and the results of these sessions are taken to the final event, where they feed the discussion and several dynamics.
Another layer of this process is the participation of younger children (under 10), who participate and give feedback through their teachers and also take part on the Forum with specific activities organized with and for them.
In the end of the final event, it was created a set of recommendations and proposals to the municipality and other local entities to improve children well-being and quality of life in the municipality of Cascais.
Tell us your advice on doing participation activities - what worked well, what you enjoy, what is inclusive?These initiatives are a result of a local strategy and plan to integrate children rights effectively in the municipality approach. This point has a huge importance since it supports and provides a framework to the work that has been developed. During these almost three years we have been adjusting the system to design the Forum. From our perspective, we have learnt that children want to be more than consultants. They want to be involved not just in the discussion but in the actual implementation and without “minor” responsibilities. One of the “demands” of the children committee was to take the lead of some initiatives and have a more active role, besides the contributions that were already given regarding the programme and overall initiatives. They were already involved in the different phases but we understood that children want to develop their own activities and sessions. For that, we provided the space and guidance but they were the ones leading and we were just supporting and somehow, we swap roles. Within the committee we felt that the sense of belonging increased and children were more and more motivated. On the other hand, it’s really important to manage expectations and ensure that these children have the resources to implement what they have planned.
What do you try to change?We have increased a stronger sense of community that enables professionals to share their concerns, difficulties and projects, aiming to learn more about the topic, supporting each other and getting to know several initiatives that take place in the municipality. This networking and dialogue allowed us to create synergies and have a deeper understanding and knowledge about the local reality. From the children perspective, it was very empowering to be on the “same table” as decision makers, to be heard and to take the lead. As a result of this process and the interest of various schools, we are developing a project that aims to create a “European Network of Child Rights Respecting Schools”, that includes the creation of a scale of reference and some other tools and instruments to build child friendly environments and to promote children rights. For 2021 we will be organizing again the Forum of Children Rights in Cascais. Something that we would like to highlight is that we have identified that the target and professionals working with children and in the area (municipality officers, teachers, youth workers) lack information on how to implement and make the rights real and concrete. They express the need to get in touch and deeply explore practices in order to understand how to integrate children rights in a more systematic and effective approach. It’s very important to have a solid knowledge on the Children Convention but it is essential to learn how to put the rights into practice in several contexts such as schools, within the municipality, CSO’s and also when a project is being design that affects children lives it is essential to have them involved and contributing. We believe that this is a step forward to have a comprehensive common ground to have a true and real child friendly city. DYPALL Network is an external consultant of this process, that provided their expertise in participatory processes and non formal education.