By Ana Arely Alvear, World Vision Nicaragua
As American basketball coach, Jim Valvano, once said, ‘my father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person; he believed in me’. This level of trust and belief in the potential of children and young people is extremely important to ensuring they achieve their goals and full development. The inclusion, participation and engagement of both girls and boys should be encouraged in order to strengthen people’s attitudes towards children and young people’s abilities and the recognition of them as holders of rights.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) makes clear that child participation is a right and one of the four fundamental principles of children’s rights. When children and young people exercise their right to participate, they go through a formative process that contributes to their empowerment and strengthens their self-esteem, leadership, teamwork and assertiveness. All of these promote, in turn, active citizenship and the construction of citizens who value the common good as a priority.
Based on our many years of experience at World Vision Nicaragua, we are confident when we say that children and young people grow in experience, maturity and commitment as they participate actively in social spaces. This is evidenced in their own testimonies; for instance, Mayerling, a young female leader from the Network for Uniting Voices, said that ‘participating has given me the opportunity to express my opinion, know other people's experiences, learn from it and move on’. Another young leader, Cristel, expressed that ‘one of the best things that participation has left me is to be organised, [and the ability to] plan and execute actions that bring benefits and improvements to my community and, therefore, to my country’.
World Vision views girls and boys as social actors capable of contributing to the development of their communities as well as their own personal development. It is admirable that, in the communities where we work, children and young people are taking direct actions to promote the protection of their environment, further their rights, prevent addictions, and, more recently, engage with the It Takes a World campaign. They dedicate valuable volunteer hours towards implementing creative initiatives where they can express themselves and become an active part of society.
It is important to recognise that, throughout World Vision’s history, our young volunteers have collaborated in social transformations that have left significant and inspiring footprints as a result of their actions, establishing Nicaragua’s moral reserve. Likewise, we must emphasise that the facilitation roles that organisations such as World Vision oversee are critical to enhancing the involvement of children and young people in intergenerational dialogues that are based on mutual respect and active listening.
I feel confident in saying that children and young people are, and will continue to be, protagonists of local development, as long we support and promote spaces for their active participation. This is one essential way we can contribute to the fulfilment of their rights. It is an integral development for the nation and will enable Nicaragua to be able to depend upon the future commitment of citizens to the common good.
Whilst commemorating Nicaragua’s entry into the Convention on the Rights of ‘boys and girls’, we all should reiterate our commitment to not just Nicaraguan children, but children across the world. We must continue working to ensure that all children’s rights will be embraced, fulfilled and defended in all countries, especially in those places where recent social and political conflicts have led to the bloodshed of children and young people.
About the author
Ana Arely Alvear is the National Volunteer Coordinator for World Vision Nicaragua. She holds a Master's degree in social policies, children's rights and child as protagonist. Ana is a committed children's rights advocate who actively engages in grassroots initiatives to give children and young people a voice.