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Youth Advocacy: Important Imperative at Miracle Foundation

Every child has a right to participate in the decisions taken for them, the decision needs to be in the best interest of the child. Children have the right to participate and discuss it- Brahmadev (Youth Ambassador, Miracle Foundation India)

Brahmadev is a class 10th student, his parents sent him to the CCI for better education, which is a luxury at his place. He is quite a motivated youth and a great advocate of child participation in decision-making.

The quote is shared by one of our Youth Ambassadors which states how child participation is important in decisions that are being made for children and youth. The quote also gives a glimpse of the Right to be Heard (Article 12) and Right to Freedom of Expression (Article 13) given in UNCRC. For the overall growth and development of children, it is very important to provide them with an opportunity to express themselves and to take part in decisions that affect their lives. Participation is very rarely understood in the context of children, as social norms often do not let us see that children have the right to be heard and to have a say in matters that concern them. It is important to allow children to participate in decisions that affect them as it prepares them to be active citizens later in their lives.

At Miracle Foundation, we are committed to empowering children around the world to reach their full potential. Children and youth are the best spokespersons to share their stories and deserve a seat at the table in decisions affecting them. Miracle Foundation wants to ensure that each child has the tools and avenues to affect stakeholders at all levels of the child care system, and become agents of change for themselves and kids around the world. Youth are empowered to actively engage in improvement of the child care and protection system at all levels, with focus on family-based care (FBC) and alternative care. By providing support like coaching, life skills, opportunities to express and present in the CCI and outside world.

This article focuses on our Child Participation and Youth Advocacy program, how we initiated child participation, what all programs we have conducted so far, the implementation framework, achievements of our youth, and the way forward.

At Miracle Foundation India, we make sure children participate at all levels from the very beginning.

In 2019 we initiated the Child Participation and Youth Advocacy (CPYA) program. where 12 Youth Ambassadors (YAs) were selected, out of the 78 applications that we received.

The Child Participation and Youth Advocacy (CPYA) Program strengthens current child participation systems, such as Children’s Committees (CCs), and utilizes external resources so that children are empowered to propose and work towards issues related to children’s rights especially the right to a family at the individual child level as well as within the surrounding community.

CPYA focuses on different components like:

  1. Children’s Committees: Children’s Committees are strengthened, and children as individuals are empowered so that they are actively involved in the decisions affecting their lives both in the CCIs and in family and community.
  2. CCI and Home Management Committee: CCI and Home Management Committee play a crucial role in this entire process in empowering the children. Based on JJA every CCI shall have a management committee for the management of the institution and monitoring the progress of every child. A child representative from each of the children’s committees (on a monthly rotation basis to ensure representation of the children of all age groups) including the FBC committee members to present challenges and discuss ideas with the Home Management Committees to find out better outcomes/solutions to the challenges faced and decisions affecting their lives within CCIs and within their families and community.
  3. Community Mobilization: (e.g. through Bal Panchayat, school organizations, youth groups, civil society groups, other NGOs, etc.) Activating and working with youth that already exists in most of the communities that CCIs are part of. CCs and YAs can either be part of or work together with, these groups towards FBAC as well as issues related to family separation in their community.
  4. Youth Ambassadors: 12 children to increase awareness on the issues that touch most of the children, in the voice of someone directly impacted by these issues. They will not only advocate Miracle Foundation’s work but also be engaged in the strategy and program development process alongside our team members.
  5. Care Leavers: Miracle Foundation continues to maintain contact with the care leavers, provide the required support to care leavers, and get them involved as per their capacity to promote children’s rights and FBC at all levels.

Our journey doesn’t stop here, youth are playing an active role in shaping Miracle’s strategy and we make sure that child participation gets strengthened. Our Youth Ambassadors (YAs) have been participating and sharing their stories, contributing to bringing change, and working in the communities to assess the impact with the help of projects they have taken up.