Turkish and Syrian children recently came together to exchange their views and experiences at Child Rights Workshops organized in five provinces. The participants were children attending the My Life Safe Space Centres and Al Farah Child and Family Support Centres which UNICEF has established in partnership with the NGOs RET and ASAM, with the financial support of the European Union. At present, there are 11similar service delivery centres in Turkey which have benefitted 239,207 children and families with multi-disciplinary services so far.
The workshops were held in Mardin, Şanlıurfa, Gaziantep, İzmir and Ankara. They aimed to increase the children’s awareness of child rights and to give them an opportunity to express their views about these rights creatively. The morning sessions of these workshops consisted of information building interactive presentations about children rights accompanied by group work activities. During this part of the workshops, children were able to discuss their ideas with each other and to consider their rights from a wider perspective.
Vezire:‘We children must all know the rights we are entitled to’.
When asked about her opinion about the activity, Vezire, who is 17 years old, and lives in Mardin, said: “I come from a family with nine children, so I have always been aware of children’s rights, starting with my own siblings. Today, I have had the opportunity to speak about my ideas in front of an audience for the first time. Perhaps I shared too many thoughts, but I am happy to have had the chance to say everything inside me. We children are actually very powerful and we must all know the rights we are entitled.
Mohamed:‘We all can live in peace’
15 years old Mohammed, who comes from the city of Rakka in Syria, considers the right to live in peace to be the most important of all children’s rights. He continues: “. This world is so big and beautiful. We all can live in peace. I have no idea who benefits from wars, but I know peace is good for all.”
Cevat:‘The more I play, I grow faster’
11 years old Cevat attended the workshop in Gaziantep. Asked what he thinks is the most important child right, he replied “the right to play”. When he was asked why, he raised his head from the drawing book and answered with a smile: “The more I play, the more sport I do, I grow faster.”
Sahed: ‘I have felt that I am not alone’.
At the workshop in Ankara, we meet Sahed an 11 years old girl. When asked about what she thinks about the workshop, she replied “Today, I was very comfortable to express myself here,” “I have felt that I’m not alone. I think all the children have had a happy day here today.” Asked what she considers the most important of children’s rights, she said “the right to education”. She showed us her drawing.” Somebody who knows how to read and write can understand everything,” she explained, “I know what to do and how to protect myself.” When asked what she wants to be in future: “I hadn’t thought much about the future before this activity,” she replies, “but now I want to be a teacher.”
Faryal and İbrahim:‘Listen to children and build a future through education’
Art is a great way of making friends. Workshop participants Faryal and İbrahim are the best possible example. For the last two years, they have been playing musical instruments together in the Kızıltepe (Mardin) Safe Space orchestra. Faryal is 15 years old and comes from Damascus, while 17 years old İbrahim is from Kızıltepe. Both found out about the centre from their friends. As two very good friends, they make their presentation on child rights jointly from their desk. They do not need a translator: Faryal translates what Ibrahim says in Turkish into Arabic for the benefit of the other Syrians. Finally, we ask these bright adolescents what they consider to be the most important child right “In my opinion,” Faryal responds, “the most important right is that adults listen and value to children’s opinions and views.” For İbrahim, “Education is the most important right, since we can be equipped with skills to build our future through education.”
At the end of the workshops, the group of adolescents took photographs together as they post their conclusions about the most important rights of children as high up the wall as possible. During the afternoon session of the workshops, children were asked to convey their thoughts about a right they consider the most important by drawing a picture about it. To help inspire their imagination, each of them was given a set of water colours, pastels, crayons and a drawing book.
About 400 children participated in the child rights workshops organized jointly by UNICEF, ASAM and RET with the support of the European Union. The workshops gave the children the chance to discuss different ideas in a pleasant and supportive environment. They went away with unique experiences and better understanding of their own rights.