Press release – new book: Children as Citizens? International Voices

What about the Children? Participation, Provision, Protection

Title: Children as Citizens?
Subtitle: International Voices
In store from: March 2009. RRP: $45.00. ISBN 978 1 877372-62-9

Otago University Press
New Zealand

The 20th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child falls in November 2009. As a result, the rights of children as citizens will become an increasing focus of international attention this year.
New Zealand researchers Anne B. Smith and Nicola Taylor have participated in a collaborative international study about the meaning of citizenship to children – how they view their status and membership in society through notions of identity, rights and responsibilities. They have edited the resulting book, Children as Citizens?, which explores how children (8-9 years) and young people (14-15 years) from six countries (Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, Norway, Palestine and South Africa) understand and experience citizenship.
The study found young people actively making sense of the world,constructing an identity in the process, and grappling with problems. Key components of citizenship for children include entitlement to recognitionand respect, opportunities for meaningful participation, the right to express opinions and have them considered, and the fulfilment of duties to others.
A Norwegian child emphasized that citizenship increased the need ‘to decide fairly, and in a way that other people are fine, not just you.’
Some other general features shared by children everywhere were found. While the family is the most powerful and pervasive context for children’s lives, they also spend time in early childhood centres, schools, and hospitals. They are affected by legal, health, educational, welfare, housing and other social policies. As the editors point out, features that were not shared were due, in part, to ‘the very different social and political contexts framing children and young people’s developing understanding of citizenship…’ In Brazil young people living in poverty talked about prejudice and discrimination as a daily occurrence, while in Palestine children talked about their lack of freedom and experience of injustice:
‘Are not we children like other children in the world? We deserve to have a homeland and independent country so we can play and go to school without fear.’
The research that informs this book was conducted under the auspices of the Childwatch International Research Network – a global, non-profit, non-governmental network of institutions engaged in research for children. With an international line-up of contributors, Children as Citizens? is a comprehensive,authoritative, and timely contribution to the ongoing debate about the status and rights of children. It will be essential reading for anyone working in social policy, the law, health or education.
Dr Nicola Taylor is a Senior Research Fellow with the Children’s Issues Centre, University of Otago and chaired the Childwatch
International Citizenship Study Group which carried out this research.
Emeritus Professor Anne Smith was Director of the Children’s Issues Centre at the University of Otago from 1995 to 2006. She is
a joint editor of Advocating for Children: International Perspectives on Children’s Rights (2000) and, with Nicola Taylor and Megan
Gollop, Children’s Voices: Research, Policy and Practice (2000).

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