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Eurochild’s ‘Speak up!’ project for children’s rights


Eurochild is a network of European organisations and partnerships (from Poland, Sweden, the Netherlands, the UK, Ireland, Greece, Poland and Bulgaria) which focuses on promoting children’s rights.  Eurochild led the two year project ‘Speak up!’ with funding from the European Commission’s Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Program.  The ‘Speak up!’ project’s central aim was to investigate how children view their own rights, how these rights can be protected and how children think they are reflected in national and European policy.

child speaking up

The project

The ‘Speak up!’ project involved each Eurochild partner holding focus groups with children aged 12-15.  The focus groups explored how aware the children appeared to be about their rights and what they believed to be the four most important rights for them.  Some of the focus groups involved vulnerable children from particularly challenging backgrounds, such as those living in youth institutions or asylum seeker centres, or who are hard-of hearing or deaf.  There were also ‘control groups’ organised with school children allowing for comparisons to be made across the groups.

Findings and recommendations

Children (especially those who are at risk and living in vulnerable circumstances) are not adequately aware of what rights they have

The ‘Speak Up!’ project it identified gaps in current European policies and practice regarding protecting children’s rights. Eurochild recommends a European-wide awareness campaign for children, young people and adults to become increasingly aware of children’s rights and for their voices to be valued.  This campaign would aim to engage European and Member State non-governmental organisations, and would lead on from previous work done by the Council of Europe and the European Commission.

Eurochild wishes to ensure that children are very visible within this European Year of Citizens 2013 and will also support a European Year which focuses on children’s rights.

Children are facing high levels of discrimination

This might be due to disability, ethnic or religious backgrounds, sexuality, being socially disadvantaged, or just because they are under the age of 18. Eurochild believes that it is a matter of urgency that policies and practices within member states are addressed so that they no longer directly or indirectly discriminated against children.

Eurochild believes an assessment of how EU regulation can protect children in the future increase awareness regarding age-discrimination and children’s rights should be undertaken.  Children’s rights regarding non-discrimination need to be clarified in national and European institutions so children secure access to healthcare, education, housing and special care.

Children are rarely addressed or their opinions are rarely listened to

Children seemed unwilling to share their opinions as they thought them of little value, and have are given few opportunities in which to express them.  Children who are discriminated against experience internalised oppression which can affect their confidence and self-esteem.  A great deal more can be done to encourage children and young people to participate in children’s councils and self-advocacy groups.  Recent actions identified by the Council of Europe in their ‘Recommendation on the participation of children and young people under the age of 18’ need to be implemented without delay.

Eurochild emphasises the importance of training professionals so they will recognise internalised oppression, and select the most effective methodologies when working with vulnerable children.  It is also clear that organisations and professionals need to be made more aware of good practice in children’s participation.  By being more aware organisations can be helped  to strengthen their approaches to participation by using indicators and benchmarks.

More information and main outputs of the ‘Speak up!’ project (final report, closing seminar, toolkit, partners etc.) can be found at