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Nov 15, 2011

State of Nation Conference for Kids

About four hundred primary school children gathered in Belize City today for day two of what is billed as the first State of the Nation Conference. Organized by the National Committee of Families and Children, the three day event is being held under the theme “Coordinating the Child Protection System: Building Protective Environments.”  On Monday, the conference looked at the exploitation and abuse of children and today the focus shifted to advocacy.  News Five’s Andrea Polanco reports.

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Over three hundred and fifty students from ages ten through to fourteen from across the country gathered at the Belize Elementary Auditorium for the ‘State of the Nation Children’s Conference.’ The aim is to increase awareness and foster a participatory attitude among the children to be advocates of change:

Stephanie Moody, Information, Education & Communication Officer, NCFC

Stephanie Moody

“Today we turn the focus on children to ask them how they can be involved in advocating for their own rights and we also been trying to inspire them to think of themselves as change agents and understanding that they have a role to play also in protecting themselves and in participating in issues that affect them. And so today is an exercise in inspiring them to be more active in their communities, in their homes and in their schools and also a way for NCFC to encourage young people to be advocates. The children love it. One of the things we were keen to make sure was that it wasn’t a day of school. It was a day that they learned but it was interactive and it was fun and it was something that they would remember and be excited about coming back next year.”

Dylan Williams

The NCFC and Youth for the Future will be conducting periodical follow-ups with the students:

Dylan Williams, Monitoring & Evaluation Officer, NCFC

“Yes, what we wanted to do was through a pledge activity in sense that we come to these activities and we leave the children not understanding what’s the next step. So what we created was through the form of a pledge. What these children would then do is that whatever pledge that they believed they could take to their community, to their schools and see what they can realistic for them to achieve in terms of their participation. And within three months time to follow up with them to see how far they got with that. And we know that it’s not necessarily easy when we set goals. It’s not easy to have them achieve within any set time period. But what we want to do is that if they have any challenges that can be linked with youth for the future or any other agencies that is doing something for youths—the scouts, the guides, the duke of Edinburgh program—how they can link other linkages to ensure that their pledges either evolve or other linkages are made into that.”

The participants were gifted with a small bag of educational materials, which Moody says, contains a special little book, called ‘Agenda 2012’

Stephanie Moody

“We gave them a children’s agenda because we felt as young children they needed to know about their rights; it’s like a communication tool to teach children about their rights. And it is also a fun book for them to keep track of how their year is going. We think that children don’t have much to worry about other than just going to school, but they have social lives and they have things that they want to keep track of and it was a cute little book to have them do so. And in it we have messages from some of the leaders that convey certain hopes and inspiration to them. So it was basically a communication tool that we used.”

Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

Day three of the conference has been postponed until the Prime Minister is back in the country.

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