Nobel Nomination for Children’s Right to Participation

The Concerned for Working Children, an Indian NGO, has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize by three Norwegian parliamentarians. The Nobel Peace Prize 2012 Selection Committee has received 231 nominations for this year’s award. Between 5-20 nominations will be short listed in April 2012 and the  prize is announced in October and awarded in December.

A total of 188 individuals and 43 organisations have been nominated for the 2012 prize, almost as many as the 241 nominations for the 2011 prize, which was finally shared by Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian women’s rights campaigner Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman of Yemen.

One among these 43 organisations is the Concerned for Working Children, nominated by three members of the Norwegian Parliament, Linda Hofstad Helleland, Gunn Karin Gjul and André Oktay Dahlt. In their nomination letter sent to the Nobel Committee, they have written, “Since 1980, Concerned for Working Children (CWC) has contributed to several initiatives with such children’s rights organisations as Bhima Sangha and Makkala Panchayats (children’s councils) in the state of Karnataka in India to strengthen the influence of children. The organisation and its network have been pioneers in children’s participation within research, public planning, youth democracy, media and other areas. Few, if any, other local organisations elsewhere have contributed as much to this work. CWC is also an active contributor in the joint international work for the improvement of children’s participation”.

One of the parliamentarians, Linda Helleland from the county of Trøndelag, told the Norwegian newspaper Adresseavisen: “Child participation is vital for building societies and democracy. Unfortunately we see that child participation and children’s voices are absent in many countries. To award a prize to these organizations which work systematically for children’s right to voice their opinions will put even more force into their work.” Quoting from their formal letter, the nomination by the Norwegian parliamentarians for the Concerned for Working Children, “would greatly contribute to a much-needed increase in the worldwide focus and attention on the children’s right to participation.”

Since the last three decades, Concerned for Working Children has been working in partnership with children from the most marginalised communities, especially working children, to realise their rights, with emphasis on their right to participation in decision making processes. Concerned for Working Children has impacted policies of international and national governments and donor agencies, on a wide variety of issues including child labour, children’s rights, children’s citizenship and education. Concerned for Working Children has always viewed the issue of children’s participation as a fundamental right within the gamut of children’s rights even prior to the drafting and the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Concerned for Working Children believes in children’s right to determine the course of their lives – the present and future – by transforming the past and making choices, essentially the Right to Self-Determination, a principle also expounded by Mahatma Gandhi. For children however, this is barely recognised in letter; while in practice compulsion is often used to make children ‘participate’ in service provision – be it health care or education – without allowing children themselves to determine the nature and quality of these services. Adults by and large, still think that we know what is best for children and that children are incapable of self-determining the course of their lives. In this regard, Concerned for Working Children's nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize is a huge leap for the cause of children's right to participation. The nomination of at least two other organisations, UNICEF and Save the Children, working on child rights issues vests hope that this year the Committee will formally recognise child rights and particularly their right to participate.

Although the Nobel Committee does not reveal who has been nominated, those with nomination rights sometimes announce their selections. Other names put forward this year include Russian human rights activist Svetlana Gannushkina, humanitarian Dr. Hawa Abdi from Somalia, the Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki and former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Many of the nominees this year are repeats from earlier years and there are several new ones as well from all areas of the world.

Over the last century, the rising tide of the women's movement put pressure on national and international governments to recognise and realise the rights of women. Similarly, the Concerned for Working Children hope thats its Nobel nomination with a strong emphasis on children’s rights gives hope that the fundamental right of children to participate can make greater inroads in national and international policymaking.

The credit of CWC's nomination goes to the organisation's primary constituency and partners – working children – and the many battles they have fought in numerous forums at home and around the world for their voices to be heard. Their struggle has always been a peaceful one and now one of patience as they continue their crusade in an environment that not only does not recognise them as workers, but has criminalised their work.

Nandana Reddy
Director – Development
The Concerned for Working Children