Child Rights, Participation and the Reality

The Convention on the Rights of the Child is foreign to many Thais and expatriates in Bangkok. Marginalised children wander the back lanes, the small roads near the shopping malls and in public parks. They are homeless, stateless, poor and young people who have been ostracised by a status-conscience society. They live in a world built on the tears of inequality.

A couple of focus group discussions with 17 marginalised children and young people living in slums, with the help of an extremely patient interpreter, revealed that young people want to be involved in decision-making process, particularly on issues affecting their lives ~ Quite a common expression from marginalised children in countries I have visited.

Often society offers tokenism to children when it comes to participation. Facilitating opportunities for children to become partners in solving societal issues is seen as odd by many adult Thais. Regardless of their rationale, adults prefer the ancient value that children are seen but not heard. These adults show such immaturity that leads to a devolution of their own principles.

Stigma of being poor, living at the bottom of a social pyramid, is common in this predominately Buddhist city. Children who are poor are expected to stay poor. Their future is set to serve the social elites, who only care about maintaining their strangle-hold of society's misery... and their positions.

Young urban people struggle against a realm of debts, intolerance and prejudice. Its only expected that marginalised children place a higher priority in livelihood within the informal sector, though many can't balance their personal lives with the gruelling responsibility of work.

Even with a diploma, poor young people find difficulty in securing jobs that fit their expertise and dreams. Corporations pick and choose the people that want, that fits their standards of a "vibrant, professional" employee. The poor do not fit in this category.

NGOs, businesses, religious groups, think tanks, political parties and government agencies need not deliberate further on what constitutes child rights. Expert opinions usually leave a distasteful after-effect to the minds of marginalised young people; its the same bullshit of talk, talk, talk but no sustainable development, no action.

Adults, whether parents, policy-makers, politicians, child rights activists or wannabes, have sufficient experience and exposure to the realities of urban poverty or social stigmatisation. Positive behavioural change must start from those who claim to be adults.

Without actionism, equality and respect, the rights of children will always be an illusion. And when children become adults, they will emulate our ill-advised vision, and impose it on their children. This cycle sends society further into the cesspool of devolution, a damned existence without a future.

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