We are making children’s rights real

As the amended UNCRC Bill returned to parliament, Cathy took a moment to pen the below for sharing.

When the UNCRC Bill was unanimously passed in parliament this month, I was in Sweden, feeling distant from something that has been my passion and motivation for 30 years. I felt happy it went through, but also apprehensive as I know how far we still have to travel before children’s rights are fully understood and brought to life.

Everyone I meet is exhausted – that we have to continue to fight to have children recognised as valuable, contributing, equal citizens, is exhausting. I’m not the first person to say that in Scotland we have some way to go before we can say we value, rather than tolerate, children and young people.

Everyone I meet is exhausted – that we have to continue to fight to have children recognised as valuable, contributing, equal citizens, is exhausting.

Cathy McCulloch, Director, Children’s Parliament

When people experience rights-based practice they are excited about its impact, but as a relatively new concept, it’s understandable that for many new to this, there is a fear about what it all means. Creating a rights-based culture doesn’t mean children get everything they want, it doesn’t mean children are allowed to behave badly or that the views of adults aren’t valid and important. Children’s rights starts with adults. It means we listen, we try to understand and we make sure we respect every child’s human dignity at all times. It means that we bring children up in an environment of love and understanding – and remember that we are talking about children – people who are growing, developing, learning, making mistakes – who need our love and support to thrive and flourish. It means we acknowledge that a culture based on reward and punishment that focuses on ‘good behaviour’ as an indicator of success is not one that recognises its role as a guide, mentor and enabler of children.

On the day the Bill passed in The Scottish Parliament, Kaukab Stewart MSP and Chair of the Equalities and Human Rights sub-committee read out a poem she wrote for children:

Presiding Officer, once a teacher, always a teacher. In true primary school teacher style, I have penned and dedicated a wee poem for the children who are here today or listening elsewhere.

Laws are like rules that keep things right,

But they’re sometimes slow to take flight.

We say with our voices loud,

To make sure rights reach every crowd.

New plans will come to make things good,

In every home and neighbourhood.

It’s people that make our country tick,

And empowering children will do the trick.

– Kaukab Stewart, MSP

We owe children so much, but, most of all, we owe them a childhood, and that is what the bill helps to enshrine in the very law of our land.

The UNCRC Bill is possibly the most important piece of legislation to pass in our Scottish Parliament. A Finnish Minister of state told a colleague a few years ago, that the way Finland addressed the many issues they were facing was to recognise that to become a healthy and successful country it had decided to ‘put our little people at the heart of all we do’. Next year is the Scottish Parliament’s 25th birthday. What better celebration and aspiration than to assertively place children at the heart of all our thinking and planning? That would be an inspirational step on the journey to making children’s rights real.

Cathy McCulloch, Director, Children’s Parliament

Date: 19th December 2023
Previous Next