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By Mia Von Scha, Transformational Coach, motivational speaker, children’s author, student to two Zen Masters (aka kids), avid cloud watcher and lover of life

Thanks to Mr. Madiba, we have one of the most progressive constitutions in the world but its one thing to write down some ideals and another to have all the people of a country actually living them.

The true character of society is revealed in how it treats its children. (Nelson Mandela, 27 September 1997)

I feel that the place where we are most failing in this regard is with the children of our beautiful country. We’re failing in terms of gross human rights violations (a huge number of children in this country don’t even have food, shelter or protection from extreme violence), but we’re also failing in smaller, more personal ways even in affluent communities.

We need some advocates, like Mandela, who will fight for the right of children to be seen as fully human and fully deserving of our respect, kindness and protection. We, the parents, are those advocates. The change starts at home.

photo credit: https://www.goodthingsguy.com/people/nelson-mandela-childrens-hospital-trust-bring-state-art-healthcare-children-africa/

So here is my constitution on the rights of the child which I understand may be idealistic, so that the right to eat assumes that there is food to be eaten and the right to pursue your interests may require more than what a parent may be able to provide… But I think it is a good starting point for us, as parents, to begin thinking about children as full humans and not halflings.  If we can’t get this right, how are we to expect anyone else to stand up for our kids out in the world?

The Rights Of The Child

  • The right to be treated as a full human being with needs, desires and beliefs that may be different from our caregiver’s.
  • The right to eat when hungry and drink when thirsty. And where possible, the right to choose what to eat.
  • The right to perform bodily functions without having to ask permission.
  • The right to free speech – the right to speak for themselves and voice opinions without undue criticism, even if these are different from the views of their caregivers.
  • The right to be educated in a manner that suits the child’s natural learning style.
  • The right to pursue their interests.
  • The right to have a say in all matters that affect them.
  • The right to choose what to wear.
  • The right to question the authority of their caregivers.
  • The right to express their emotions without fear of shame or punishment.
  • The right to freedom of movement – the right to get up and move their bodies when needed.
  • The right to associate with friends of their own choosing.
  • The right to sleep when tired and to wake after having had sufficient sleep.
  • The right to not be medicated unless it is absolutely necessary.
  • The right to be engaged in meaningful work.
  • The right to play.
  • The right to be spoken to and about with respect.
  • The right to refuse bodily contact including hugs, kisses and touches from other people including members of the family.
  • The right to say “no”.
  • The right to choose their sexual orientation or gender orientation without shame or criticism.
  • The right to choose and/or change their own name.
  • The right to have no physical harm done to them.

I’m sure there are more that can be added to this list. It could be a great exercise to do with your kids – to create your own family list of human rights that everyone in the family gets to enjoy.

Click here to find a list of children’s charities that need your help in Gauteng and here in KZN

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