A European Union delegation on Wednesday visited a commune pilot project to empower youths and children to voice their concerns to authorities in Prey Veng province’s Preah Sdach district.
The EU project urges authorities to include children in decision making processes, and empowers children to raise their own voices and demand what they need from their government, communities and families.
The Children Club project in Lovea commune is facilitated by NGO Save the Children to provide a more meaningful space for collaborative and child-led participation in commune affairs.
Youth representatives are accepted as members in groups such as commune committees for women and children and commune planning and budgeting committees.
The project has strengthened the capacity of local authorities to recognise and uphold children’s rights, and commune councils are progressively dedicating more budget toward addressing children’s recommendations and proposals.
Veng Phai, 18, Lovea commune club spokesperson, said that the programme has made children more courageous and confident to air their concerns to local authorities to create a better community.
“By joining the club, we can bring up issues to the commune office,” she said. “For instance, normally public toilets for men and women are built next to each other so we have discussed the possibility of building them further apart.”
“During our discussions with the authorities, the district and commune chiefs praise us for raising important issues, because I provide detailed and clear information for them to act. Sometimes, they don’t believe what we tell them and they go out and check for themselves,” she added.
Ms Phai noted that issues raised so far were on alcohol and drug use among minors.
“We were trained by Save the Children on how to express ourselves and share ideas through debates,” she noted. “We have regular monthly meetings to go over what issues need to be discussed with the commune authority.”
Chan Chhum, deputy chief of Lovea commune, said that he welcomes input from the children and expressed admiration for their bravery in voicing out their concerns.
“Their participation is good for the commune and we never expected children to regularly voice out issues affecting the community,” he said. “When they report something, we send officials to check it out.”
“One of the issues raised by the Children Club was about two children who drank alcohol and we took action by educating their parents on how to keep an eye on their children,” Mr Chhum added.
Naung Yarida, a project manager, said that youth participation has contributed significantly to authorities’ efforts to provide better services to the community.
“We really admire the children for their confidence in seeking intervention from authorities and understanding their rights so that they can raise problems for action to be taken,” she said.