«Trust children’s abilities more»

04.09.2018 - 07:50 | Christian Possa

Wendy grew up in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. Thanks to a Pestalozzi Children’s Foundation partner organisation, she encountered the concept of child rights early on – an encounter that eventually led her to Switzerland.

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Caux, above Lake Geneva. At the end of July, 162 children from across the world met at the Children as Actors for Transforming Society (CATS) forum to discuss how to prevent violence against children. Alongside Bolivia and Uruguay, Honduras completed the Latin American presence at the forum. Its representative: 17-year-old Wendy. «It was only when I arrived in Geneva that I realised we’re really part of CATS and they want to hear what we have to say», she recalls.

«Children are well aware of their reality. They have ideas and, with the support of adults, they are able to implement them.»

Moving encounters

«It was incredibly rewarding to be able to exchange experiences with people from different countries, cultures and social classes», says Wendy. At the same time, she was shocked by the stories the Palestinian youth, for example, had to share. «I’ll never forget how, despite the violence that they face every day, they still had a smile to share with the world.»

Wendy grew up in very modest circumstances: her mother has worked at the market since she was 18 and her father transports coconuts from a small town in the north of Honduras to the capital city. When Wendy was six, she joined the Alternativas y Opportunidades programme, a local Pestalozzi Children’s Foundation partner organisation. The things she learned there over the years changed her for good. «It's about how to stand up for your rights as a child – not only at school, but in life more generally.»

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Raising awareness

The 17-year-old left Geneva full of enthusiasm and plans to engage even more closely with ways in which adults and children can work together to support the Convention on the Rights of the Child in future. She believes that adults will come to recognise children’s potential. «However, it’s difficult when the adults are the ones making all the decisions.»

Wendy is convinced that a more thorough knowledge of child rights can help. «These rights guarantee our protection. If all children were aware of their rights, they wouldn’t face violence on the scale that they do today.» If the young Honduran gets her way, every child in her country will have the opportunity to receive an education and to learn, as well as to discuss their problems and talk about society. «Children can only be protected from violence», Wendy continues, «if we create spaces where they can truly participate.»

She knows that her home country still has some catching up to do when it comes to child rights. However, her main focus is on getting adults to change their patterns of behaviour. «They need to trust children’s abilities more. Children are well aware of their reality. They have ideas and, with the support of adults, they are able to implement them.»

Wendy will soon finish high school. In future, she wants to participate even more actively in Alternativas y Opportunidades and to share her own experiences with other children. And she wants to go to university – to study interior design, law or social work. Although this may not be financially possible right now, the 17-year-old remains optimistic and hopes that things will work out next spring.

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