Malta through the Malta Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society was one of the first three countries to establish a NEF – National Eurochild Forum, an initiative of Eurochild, which is a pan European network of organisations that work with and for children, from 37 countries in Europe
The National Eurochild Forums (NEFs) are groups of children from diverse backgrounds who come together to discuss different themes at a local level. NEFs offer a platform for children to discuss issues of concern in their country and to bring this to the attention of European and national policy makers.
The first activity designed by the children members of the National Eurochild Forum in Malta (NEFs) aimed at reaching children through a National Consultation. The main focus aimed at finding what makes children feel heard and what stops them from being heard, focusing on Article 12 of the UNCRC.
It was agreed that the National Consultation process would focus on school children through an open invitation to all schools in Malta and Gozo. The members of the Children’s Council came up with the title ‘You Matter No Matter What’ because to them all children in the world matter, no matter their race, gender, age, status, sexuality, or religious beliefs.
A proposal was sent to Eurochild and was approved.
This initiative was aimed to instil a deeper understanding of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC). The objective of this activity focused on giving children the opportunity to share how effectively they are being heard in today’s society. The key question asked to the children during this project pointed at; ‘What makes you feel heard and what stops you from being heard’. The data from this consultation fed into Eurochild’s child participation strategy to identify appropriate measures for increasing the participation of children and young people both on a National and European level.
The activity launched on the 16th November 2017 and marked the Anniversary of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child. An invitation was sent to all schools in Malta and Gozo through the Ministry for Education and Employment. The launch commenced with a very interesting video on children’s rights followed by a very heightened discussion with the children. The children responded with very interesting questions, their experiences and understanding of the UNCRC in their individual context.
Each school was later provided with a resource pack that included two T-shirts, a set of acrylic paints and informative material about children’s rights. The children were asked to return to their school to discuss with other students in their class or school about the main theme including, ’what makes them feel heard and what stops them from being heard’.
Students were asked to design the T-shirts with the outcomes from these discussions and finally present the designed T-shirts on the second part of the activity. Schools were encouraged to allow as many children as possible to participate. 31 educational institutions including state, private and church schools participated in this first activity.
The Children’s Hub Team also organised school visits in various schools around Malta and Gozo. During these visits the team met with large groups of children and the educators. The school visits were amazingly well attended. The school visit always followed a similar programme; video and presentation about the UNCRC followed by a colourful discussion with the participating audience. Something worth mentioning is the fact that during the discussion about children’s rights, the participating audience included the children present as well as the educators. During the discussion, the children focused more on the importance to know their rights, whilst the general comment/s from the educators focused on “teaching the children rights with a main emphasis on the responsibilities”.
Schools were given the freedom to work on this initiative in the way they deemed fit for their particular schools. We had schools where a couple of classes were joined to work on this project and other schools who involved all the students in their school.
The second part of the activity was held on the 11th of December 2017 at San Anton Palace where children representing their school presented the final version of the designed T-shirt. Since some of the schools could not attend the presentation, a third session was held on the 1st March 2018 in order to give the children the opportunity to present their T-shirts and share the outcomes.
Forty-two schools across Malta, involving an estimate of 2,400 children took part in this initiative, resulting in the creation of 80 t-shirts containing messages from the children on what makes them feel heard and what stops them from being heard.
During the outreach programme we met children whose passion and enthusiasm for the subject stood out. During and after this project, a number of the participating children approached the Foundation showing interest in committing to similar process as the You Matter No Matter What project under the Children’s Council. Today, these children are active members of the children councils within the Foundation.
When all the T-shirts designed with the children’s messages were collected, the next phase focused on the data collection. All the t-shirts were thoroughly documented in detail in the creation of a document together with photos. The data was transferred to a database that was specifically created for the project.
After the documentation phase, in collaboration with Eurochild, the Foundation focused on getting the children’s message to a wider audience, hence an exhibition.
The first audience this exhibition needed to reach focused on policy makers. Therefore, the idea was to go the central political hub in Europe; the European Parliament in, Brussels.
The exhibition was fully supported by the European Parliament Intergroup on Children’s Rights. Member of the European Parliament and co-chair of the Intergroup, Dr. Caterina Chinnici launched and hosted the exhibition. The Exhibition was launched on the 26th of June 2018.
The exhibition stand included, 30 t-shirts chosen by the children, members of the Council, and posters including narratives and photos of close-ups of the t-shirts.
Two members of the Children’s Council travelled to Brussels for the launch and opening of the exhibition. Their speeches of welcome to those present turned into a beautiful explanation of the process lived from creation the creation to the exhibition phase of You Matter No Matter What. They also shared and emphasised the importance such an exhibition carries and the need for politicians and decision makers to listen to the views and opinions of children. The children had the opportunity to meet various MEP’s including the Maltese MEP’s who were present at the launch.
The Exhibition was also displayed during other international and national events including conferences such as Children as Actors Transforming Society (CATS) in Switzerland and at the United Nations Headquarters in Geneva.
A report highlighting the views and opinions of children was drafted.