Do our children have any rights? Yes? No?

The Convention on the Rights of the Child is absolutely relevan tto the real lives of children. Children’s rights are integral to the holistic development of real children. Acutally as parents, guardians and just concerend adults in teh communitty we uphold and faciliate children accessing their rights everyday. In many cases, assisting children in the fulfillment of their rights is done within the course of carrying out the duties and responsibilities of what we consider to be that of a “good parent” or a “concerned community” or a State that is guided by teh principled of socisl justice. Tracking some of a child’s major development milestones from conception to adolescense can help to demonstrate this. The mother who seeks prenatal care from the moment she knows she is pregnant , who gets a skilled person to attend the birth is in fact safeguarding the child’s right to maximum survival and development and to health care. Following up with post natal care and immunization for the infant further promotes these rights. When the child’s birth is registered by his/her parents, his/her right to a name and nationality is realizes. Both parents making teh decision to actively participate in teh care and upbringing of the child, irrespective of the status of their relationship, upholds the child’s right to know and be cared for by his/her parents. Providing proper stimulation and of course sending the child to school guarantees his/her right to an education. the child’s right to freedom of association is upheld when his/her wishes to join the Scouts, a sports team or local youth group is supported. Guiding the child in making informed choices and giving increasing weight to his/her wishes and views as he/she grows and develops is a part of what p[parents do in preparing their offspring to be independent, well adjusted adults. These things also advance the rights of the child. At the communitty level, fund raising for parks, playgrounds and sporting facilities, establishment of community preschools and daycare centers, lobbying government for new classrooms, water systems and other infrastructural development, as well as organizing cultural celebrations are all examples of how children rights are fulfilled. The CRC also talks about the obligation of the State to support parents in providing care and guidance to their children. Therefore, adequate budgetary allocations to social services,education, health and housing are all parts of the puzzle at the macro level. Also policies and programmes that provide direct support to families are all part and parcel of advancing children’s rights. The whole discussion then begs the question, if children’s rights are ensured by parents, the community and the State everyday, during the course of the routine things they do, why is there an entire international human rights convention that Belize and almost all the rest of the world is signed onto? Why do we even need the CRC? The answer is that the world over and unfortunately even in our little piece of paradise, not all children enjoy the fulfillment of their rights and furthermore their rights are violated by the very people who are obligated to ensure them. Many Belizean children do not have access to the basic food, clothing, shelter, education and health on a regular basis, much less protection from child abuse in their very homes, adequate services if they have disabilities or the benefit of a well developed juvenile justice system that responds to their rehabilitative needs. And of course there is the perennial struggle to foster an understanding in the society at large that a child’s right to an opinion and to participate does not mean that the child is being given license to be “upstart.” So it brings us full circle to the question: almost fifteen years later, how close are we, as a State and society, to fulfilling our obligations to all our children? The next few articles will hopefully provide more answers.

Author: Judith Alpuche

Originally published in Belize Today #2/Vol 1/2005