Whether you live in Atlanta, Zambia, or another part of the world, one thing remains the same and can be agreed upon by all governments: children have a specific set of rights that should never be infringed upon, even in times of war. It is our responsibility, as adults and leaders, to do our part in protecting community children and advocating for children’s rights. Let’s take a look at why children’s rights are important and how you can get involved with protecting community children in Atlanta.
Why Children’s Rights Are Important
At the very minimum, children are our future; that fact alone is enough to get most people involved in children’s rights. However, further driving factors include the fact that children have little ability to advocate for themselves. While it may be true that some older children are capable of influencing and driving change, younger children are mostly at the whims of their environment. Regardless, all children have a right to be protected from harm, cared for, and provided with basic needs. If we don’t stand up for them, no one will.
What Are the Children’s Rights?
There are forty-two children’s rights, as laid out by UNICEF; these rights are all outlined for both children and adults on UNICEF’s website, but we’ll cover them quickly here.
Definition, Discrimination, Interests, and Enforcement
The first four sections of the children’s rights include defining a child as an individual under the age of 18. There should be no discrimination against children based on gender, socioeconomic status, race, disability, family status, or any other reason. As adults, it is our responsibility to make decisions in a child’s best interest; it is up to us to ensure that these rights are being followed and respected.
Guidance, Survival, Development, Name, and Nationality
When a child is born, they have a right to a name and a place within a country – their nationality. It’s best for a child to have a defined nationality that matches their parents so that they can be raised and cared for by them. Every child has a right to live and be supported by their family. It is adults’ and the government’s job to support this right.
Identity, Family, and Contact
Children have a right to their own personal identity, setting them apart from others. This includes legal documentation and record-keeping at the government level. Young kids also have a right to stay in touch with and in contact with their family members, even across countries. Children should not be removed from their families for any reason except neglect or abuse. Children whose parents are separated also have a right to contact both parents unless this contact might endanger the child.
Children should not be removed from their homes unless by government agencies that have determined an environment to be neglectful or abusive. Children should not be taken from their country of nationality unless the parents have initiated this. Governments can get involved when the removal of a child from their country is against the parent’s will.
Respecting Thoughts, Views, Religions, and Privacy
Children often speak up about things that affect them; these views and thoughts should be respected and taken seriously every time. Children also have a right to their own thoughts and ideas about religion, even if this goes against the family’s ideas. Adults have a responsibility to raise children with direction and openness. Children also have a right to privacy within their family unit. Governments and adults are responsible for protecting this privacy unless it will cause the family harm.
And Much More
Children have the following rights as well:
- Access to information
- Protection from exploitation, sexual abuse, harmful drugs, harmful work, and violence
- Access to healthcare, water, food, clothing, education, and a safe environment
- Review of placement if within a foster environment
- Access to rest, play, culture, and art
- Prevention of sale and trafficking
- Protection during war
- Fair treatment if they break the law
- Recovery and reintegration after a war
- Right to use and express their minority culture, language, and religion
Protecting Community Children in Atlanta
Furthermore, everyone should know the list of children’s rights and do their best to uphold and enforce them for the good of the child. All communities contain and are home to numerous children. Unfortunately, there is a tendency to forget about how important children are for the next generation. As you and your families volunteer within and donate to local organizations like the ZLA Foundation, think about how your time and money are influencing the local children; after all, they are our future.