THE CHILDREN DO NOT KNOW THEIR RIGHTS
Interview: Dragi Zmijanac M.A., Director and Founder of the First Children’s Embassy in the World Megjashi
THE CHILDREN DO NOT KNOW THEIR RIGHTS
Mr. Zmijanac, out from your lengthy experience, what are your views in respect to the awareness of the children of their right?
Most of the children do not know their rights. If the children know and understand their rights, they would have had an opportunity to grow up into responsible people that know how to respect the other people’s rights and to fight for achieving theirs. Even though this year there will 22 years from the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), still over 70% of the children in the Republic of Macedonia at school age, do not know their rights. This was shown in the survey conveyed by the First Children Embassy Megjasi among 2,234 pupils, between 10 and 18 years, in 41 primary schools and 34 secondary schools, in 7 cities in Macedonia. Following the results of the survey, conveyed last year, a group of children, members of the Children’s Embassy Megjasi, prepared the Alternative Report on children rights in Macedonia. There we can see the opinions and views on several issues: how much are the children aware of their rights and the Convention, how much is the children’s opinion respected, how much is the violence against children and among themselves present, the issue of discrimination, how much are the institutions that protect children’s rights aware of the actual situation, what is the quality of life, as well as the recommendations on improving the situation as per the rights in the Republic of Macedonia.
Some of the conclusions are the following:
• 3/4 of the children do not know their rights,
• The right of equality (without discrimination) is one of the least familiar rights (2%),
• 1/3 of children claim that the professors (teachers) do not respect their rights,
• 1/2 of the children say that there is violence in their schools.
What are the mayor appeals that the Children’s Embassy is receiving?
Unfortunately, every year the number of citizens that are reporting different kind of children rights violation is increasing. The First Children Embassy Megjasi has established the first SOS telephone number in the Republic of Macedonia (0800 1 2222) for children and youngsters, that is continuously in operation, ever since 1993. On this number, there is direct service for assisting and support, that gives a possibility to the children and the youngsters, with only one telephone call to get aid, advise, psycho-social support, to discuss the problems that they are facing in this transition times, when the parents have less and less time to speak to their children. Since the opening of the SOS telephone line, we have received 18,000 registered reports on different types of problems with which the children and the youngsters are facing on daily basis.Most of these appeals refer to the violence and the maltreatment against the children including physical and physiological, but also sexual violence, which in increasing. The second highest problem upon we are receive complaints are the divorce procedures, i.e. questions related with custody, decision acts on taking/visiting children, the problems connected with fulfilling the parents’ right, fulfilling the rights of alimony and similar. The children rights are violated very frequently when the parents are divorcing, when the centres for social work do not respect the opinion of the children when deciding for the custody. The child older than 10, must be consulted on questions related with her/his life.At the SOS telephone number, in the last two to three years, we have recorded increasing number of cases referring to violence at the educational-upbringing, particularly among schools located in the rural areas in the Republic of Macedonia. In all these cases, when the callers at the SOS telephone number reported the cases they have, they were seeking legal advice, psychological assistance and support, information on finding a way to help the children, which institution to address when witnessing the violation of children rights and to express their dissatisfaction from the work of the state institutions, in cases when the children interest are neglected.Within the Children Embassy Megjashi and in close cooperation with the SOS service that offers psychological assistance and support, we have established free legal service that gives legal advices and advices on acts when the children rights are violated.Upon receiving a call at the SOS telephone number for children and youngsters, the free legal service, apart from the legal advices for the citizen, reacts with written notifications, addressed to relevant state and social institutions, whenever needed.Up to now, we have sent over 200 petitions in front of the relevant institutions in order to check the reported cases and take over relevant measures and activities, in order to resolve the problem sooner. Depending on the type of problem, most of the time we cooperate with: the Centres for social work, relevant Ministries, the Ombudsman, the Public prosecutors, the police and the schools.During this procedure, we always ask the relevant institutions to inform us on the measures and the activities that will be taken over by their side, so that we can actively follow the case and react again if needed, and if it was not acted in the best interest for the child.In this manner the Children Embassy Megjashi monitors the institutions, so that they participate more actively, by seeking fast reaction in resolving the problem, all for the purpose of protecting the children in the best possible way.
How much are the legal regulatives sufficient for real-substantial protection of the children rights?
In spite of the turmoil legal reforms and policies writing, the children and their families, particularly the poor children and the poor families, miss the basic rights: the right for quality health protection, the right for education, participation and inclusion. The level of attention of the children rights in one state depends from all its citizens, from all institutions, the citizens’ organisations, the media and the social-corporate sector. Macedonia can do much more for its children! More attention towards children and strategic action in resolving the ardent issues, which by all means could not be resolved over night, is needed. They need to be approached thoroughly and will result in fruitful solution.The protection of the children’s rights is complex and responsible process that must be posted on more segments, among which I would like to emphasize: legal norms, i.e mechanism on establishing and protecting the right, appropriate informing of the children and the adults on the children rights, as participation of the children and the adults.The Children’s rights convention is obliging the states signatories to guarantee the children’s right, to fully implement them, to respect and to promote them. It is true that the responsibility of the parents or the guardians is key in the children’s development, but the state is the one that has an obligation to create legal and other preconditions to assist the parents in achieving the rights of their children.However, the concept of the children’s right is specific in respect to the adults’ rights, because of the characteristics of the population of the children and the youngsters, as well as the characteristics of the Children right convention itself. For example, when the adults are complaining on violation of their rights, this usually refers to the Government bodies, whereas it is different with the children’s rights. Their rights have to be protected when the parents, the guardians, the families and the institutions are violating them.Most frequently, the flaw in the children’s rights protection occurs even during the law implementation, and in certain cases this occurs due to legal gap and inappropriate regulating of certain questions. For example, there are laws where the children rights are regulated, but it is not specified how the child can achieve this right, in which procedure, in front of which body and in accordance to which law. This type of legal solutions are not applicable in practice and instead of representing promotion of the children rights, they represent additional obstacle.It is necessary to amend and change the existing legal acts that are regulating the children rights, such as the need to amend and change the Family law, the Law on social protection, the Law on children protection and few others. The establishing of Children Ombudsman, as a separate institution that will be fully dedicated to protect children’s rights, would be a necessity.
What is the level of respecting the international conventions in the Republic of Macedonia that are relevant for the children rights?
The Convention on the Rights of the Child is one type of frame for minimal standards that needs to be respected by each country. The international convention should be used to complete the overall legal frame in the Republic of Macedonia. The International conventions should be used as a tool to completing the overall legal frame in the country, through which measures that will not leave gaps in respect of tolerating the violation of the children’s rights will be designed. I have to emphasize that the state bodies, during their work, appeal or even use the Convention on the Rights of the Child, by explaining that it could not be directly implemented, even though in cases of collision, the international conventions are in a superior position in respect to the national laws. The state is more focused towards the legal changes and what are the legal norms, by paying less or no attention how these legal acts are implemented in practice. There is no established system in following the laws’ implementation, nor information that there is conveyed appropriate analysis on the funds needed to implement the laws.
Newspaper of the OMBUDSMAN No.3
Journailst Marija Lazarova Mojsilovic