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Working alongside children to make lasting change

Our country director from Paraguay explains why we encourage young people to use their voice to change their future

By Jorge Méndez-Rheineck, country director, Paraguay

During the Presidential election period in Paraguay earlier this year, children and youth leaders gathered to reflect on and discuss their challenges and dreams for the future. They had a clear objective in mind: to influence their next national government’s agenda.

These young leaders are representatives of the National Network of Childhood and Adolescence, a coalition of children-led organizations and networks from across the country.

They discussed violence, poverty, inequality, poor education and health services they experienced as well as exclusion from decisions that affect them.

After three days of debate, they personally handed the two Presidential candidates recommendations to enhance child rights. In doing that, they had an open, frank conversation with the candidates.

You might wonder how this level of child participation is possible. Let me explain.

The Front for Childhood and Adolescence, a coalition of more than 20 well-known child- focused civil-society organizations, incorporated the National Network of Childhood and Adolescence as a member organization.

The goal of the coalition was to persuade the next President of the nation to sign 20 commitments in favour of childhood and adolescence. That’s exactly what incoming President Mario Abdo Benitez did in a widely-publicized event attended by children and adults from The Front.

This couldn’t have happened if the coalition hadn’t supported children and youth, providing them with the financial and technical guidance to meaningfully participate in making positive change in their government.

And, I’m proud Christian Children’s Fund of Canada plays a leading role in the Front, was instrumental in the signing of the 20 commitments and takes pride in nurturing confidence in children and youth to advocate for their present and future.

These young voices strengthen the legitimacy of the 20 commitments, and Presidential candidates trust them as authentic and consensual.

This participation is not an isolated case. Children and youth also took part in the organization and realization of a recent international seminar in Asuncion, Paraguay (above).

The international event closed with the signing of a statement to promote child protection and participation in the America region. It was exciting to see children and youth contributing to preparations for the event, participating in it and signing a statement along with leaders of other civil-society organizations and Paraguay government authorities. By signing the statement they agreed to continue working through regional networks to end violence against children with the active participation of young people. (Read more about the seminar in our CEO’s blog.)

Working alongside children really makes the difference in creating positive change.

The potential social impact of the 20 commitments as well as the international statement promoted by coalitions and global partnerships — advocated for and with children and youth — transcends what any international civil-society organization can do by itself, in any country or region.

To learn more about how you can support youth leadership, visit our gift catalogue.

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About Christian Children’s Fund of Canada:

Christian Children’s Fund of Canada (CCFC) is a child-centred international development organization and a member of ChildFund Alliance. For nearly 60 years, CCFC has worked with children, communities, donors and other partners — changing lives through improved health, education and clean water. CCFC works in 12 countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas, to support more than 700,000 children, youth and community members.