Implementing children's participation at the community level: the practices of non-governmental organisations
Le Borgne, Carine Hélène Marie-Thérèse
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Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child recognised children’s human right to participate in decisions that affect them. Yet, twenty-five years after ratification, children’s participation remains frequently problematic in practice. This thesis examines the practice of NGOs that have been implementing children’s participation at the community level for more than ten years in two specific settings: Tamil Nadu (in south India) and Scotland (UK). The thesis is an explorative study; it examines the findings through two case studies (one in each country). Each case study involved observations/informal discussions and semi-structured interviews with children and staff members from the NGOs. Relevant documents were obtained and scrutinised. The analysis of the empirical data uses three concepts: competencies, child-adult relationships and influence to illuminate and analyse the implementation of children’s participation within the two case studies. Firstly, the empirical analysis highlights that children within children’s participation projects acquired knowledge and skills and then applied them in particular situations within the participation projects (personal and social competencies). Nevertheless, the two case studies showed that adults’ crucial role in legitimising children’s competencies can either facilitate or block children’s participation. Secondly, the child-staff/adults’ relationships were not enough to be considered as the hierarchy within the organisation’s social order was needed to be analysed to have ‘successful’ participation projects. Thirdly, Lundy (2007) provides a model for how adults can be more accountable to children and enhance children’s influence over decision-making in their communities, but some missing elements can undermine the extent to which children’s views are appropriately acted upon. Based on a modification of Lundy’s model, this thesis proposes a tripartite collaborative and intergenerational framework involving the relationships between children and adults in power facilitated by staff members. The thesis contributes to debates about children’s participation by arguing that implementing children’s participation requires a relational and contextual focus on collaboration and intergenerational dialogue. The thesis makes recommendations for practitioners and decision-makers on how to deploy Lundy’s modified perspective to implement children’s constructive participation at the local level.