Khadijah Williams-Peters – a member of the 50/50 Youth Cluster – shares with us a little about her current research…
I am currently completing doctoral studies on children and young people’s (CYP) participation rights in Trinidad and Tobago. I have spent over two years observing decision making processes related to the day-to-day lives of children in care. My study also involves reviews of policy making processes affecting them and participation models in several countries including the UK, Sweden, Jamaica and other Caribbean islands, South and West Africa, the US and Ireland so that a broad, cultural understanding can be achieved. Hopefully, an indigenous approach to operationalising children’s participation rights can be understood and applied, starting with the most vulnerable group of CYP.
In addition to being a student and lecturer, I am also a practitioner as you might have read on my profile, which means that I am constantly working to integrate theory and practice. My most recent project has been with the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Trinidad and Tobago (an NGO), where I have developed a training model for mentors working with children in care. The model integrates social pedagogy and children’s participation to build positive adult-child interactions. The children have been instrumental is shaping the mentorship experience by providing feedback on policies and procedures which affect their lives. I have also recently completed work with CYP in care, preparing them to transition from a large-scale institutional setting to a small-scale family environment. The participatory approach I used was useful in helping the CYP to contribute to the living arrangements and organisation of their new space. This is work in progress… In fact, participation work with CYP is always work in progress.
In June 2013, I visited Investing in Children in Durham, UK, one of the leading agencies in the UK which promotes CYP participation, where I was able to get a feel of how CYP participation rights is operationalised. This organisation provides some useful examples of what is needed to make CYP participation really work. For instance, the experience of that organisation demonstrates that the following are needed to support participation work:
- a good understanding of power relations;
- adult willingness and preparedness to share power with children and to discard unhealthy assumptions about children and young people being incompetent; and
- adequate human and financial resources.
Against the background of my ongoing research, I wonder how others view children and youth participation (CYP). So, let me end with a question for reflection:
When we talk about CYP participation, as adults, are we really ready to listen to children and young people, ready to take their views seriously by incorporating their ideas into plans, and to invest the necessary time to ensure that their participation is meaningful and share power with them?