My Voice Matters Too

Thursday 2 November 2017

The Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Save the Children bring children and decision-makers together in “My Voice Matters Too” national event

The Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Save the Children have organised “My Voice Matters Too” seminar in Beirut on 31 October 2017.

The seminar, held under the patronage of His Excellency the Minister of Social Affairs Pierre Bou Assi, brought together an array of participants, including children, ministers and representatives from the Lebanese and Swedish governments, international NGOs and diplomats.

The event highlighted the struggle of children in Lebanon in times of unprecedented conflicts, with participation from Lebanese as well as Palestinian, and Syrian refugee children who discussed a range of issues that affect their lives? and the communities they live in.

During the event, children and representatives from a range of ministries and humanitarian agencies also took part in panel discussions on three main topics: Children’s Right to Be Heard and Participate, Children’s Right to Protection, and Children’s Right to Education. Children shared their experiences and concerns from their daily life and debated directly with influencers and key decision-makers in government and humanitarian agencies.

The main aim of the meeting was to raise awareness on child rights and renew a call to listen to children’s concerns. Save the Children and the present civil society partners discussed ways to identify influencers and officials to continue the discussion and follow up on future opportunities that will help turn children’s recommendations into actions. Lebanon was chosen by the Swedish Minister for Children and Armed Conflict Gufran al-Nadaf as a destination to open a conversation on the topic, as Sweden prepares to chair the United Nations Security Council with children in armed conflict topping the list of urgent priorities.

Marwa, 16, who took part in the Education discussion said, “We cannot overlook the fact that more than half a million children in Lebanon are currently out of school. Children are at risk of child labour or joining armed groups. They are the makers of tomorrow.”

“Violence at school can lead to more drop-outs. We have seen and heard that violence at schools have left damaging impact on children’s psychological well-being. I hope there will be more awareness-raising among school teachers. It can help everyone make the most of the learning process.’’

Lebanese Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pierre Bou Assi, said, ”Armed conflict is the moment when a human leaves their humanity behind, and children are always the first victims affected.’’

“Children’s protection starts within the family, ensuring their physical and psychological well-being. Education is another essential factor that can save children’s personality [during conflict].’’

Gufran Al-Nadaf, Swedish Ambassador for Children and Armed Conflict said, “Sweden is strongly committed to children affected by armed conflict. Our international efforts are based on the protection of children, respect for international humanitarian law and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. We are working to ensure that the United Nations Security Council hears your voices and shares in your thoughts, your stories and your experiences.”

“During the two years Sweden has been given the privilege of chairing the Security Council Working Group for Children and Armed Conflict, we have identified four areas we will focus on: the implementation of the UN’s Children and Armed Conflict Agenda; children’s right to be heard; children’s right to education; and children’s right to health, including mental health.”

Save the Children’s Country Director in Lebanon Allison Zelkowitz said, “At Save the Children, we place a great value on child participation. We strongly believe that children should have a say in every decision that will shape their future – this is their right.”

“By engaging and listening to children we assure their rights and that’s why we are here. Sweden now holds a seat on the Security Council from 2017 through 2018. Sweden also chairs the working group on children and armed conflict. Sweden has a unique opportunity to put children high up on the political agenda in the United Nations. They have an opportunity to make sure that children´s voices matters.”

 Children's recommendations: 

On Education:

 Setting and implementing a child protection policy to protect children from all forms of abuse at school, to be signed by all teachers and school personnel.

On Child Protection:

 Awareness raising with the children on their rights and how to protect themselves from abuse including abuse while using social media

On Participation: 

Raise awareness among all vulnerable and marginalised children on their right to participation and expressing their views.