Sharon Cilia, 16, a member of the Young Persons’ Council within the Malta Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society, is an activist for children’s rights.
Does having rights give you power? Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Although policy on paper is essential, it does not effectively protect members of society if it is not backed up in practice. When rights appear only as a hazy idea on a page, they do not properly tackle the problems faced by vulnerable groups which require concrete solutions.
This can be applied to children’s rights. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child exists as a guideline for the state. Yet, a piece of legislation which simply ‘exists’ is not enough to safeguard the wellbeing of children. Children’s Rights must go further than existing; they must thrive.
An appropriate mechanism must be in place to monitor the issues hindering young people. More importantly, such a system must also ensure that the results are acted upon and that the solutions provided are not abandoned after they are printed into yearly reports. Rather, they must be shaped into a working structure, which is in turn followed up and its progress overseen.
This is why I have faith in the Children’s Rights Observatory Malta, CROM, which has just been launched by the Malta Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society (MFWS) and the University of Malta. This observatory will be a hub for all projects relating to children, connecting research with practice, and innovation with procedure. Acting as a watchdog, CROM will also uphold children’s rights and their application in social institutions.
Another exciting aspect to CROM is that it will document the thoughts of young people, uniting their ideas with the those of academics. In this sense, young experts who bring forward injustices they have faced or witnessed may play a part in addressing these issues. Their voice will be transformed into tangible strides forward.
Through CROM, a hopeful dream begins to unfold into reality. Perhaps this system may revive children’s rights after the glum of the pandemic. Perhaps it may help in putting children’s rights not only on the map, but in our culture, in the hearts of the people who give Malta its vigour. In time and with dedication, CROM may become a champion for children’s rights, leading to a child-friendly country.