The foundations for an observatory championing children’s rights were cemented on Thursday through an agreement signed between the university and the Malta Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society (MFWS).

The Children’s Rights Observatory Malta (CROM) will identify gaps and priority areas in implementing children’s rights, advocate for change, and bring together lived experiences, academic, interdisciplinary and cross-sector contributions, to advance the implementation of these rights.

Its vision is that all children - regardless of background, age, gender, ethnicity, and religion - have a fundamental right to have their voices heard, and their views freely expressed and given due weight.

Addressing a news conference, MFWS chair Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca said the observatory will serve as a watchdog for children’s rights.

“Together with the university’s academics, we can drive change and influence policymakers through further research and data,” she said.

University rector Alfred Vella added that studying the human rights of children using an evidence-based approach is something that should be prioritised. 

The observatory stems from two, in-depth research projects the MFWS had embarked on focusing on child participation - the Child Participation Assessment Tool developed by the Council of Europe and carried out with the Family Ministry, and the DG Just study on child participation in political and democratic life. 

Both studies exposed the numerous stumbling blocks children faced to have their voice heard and their opinions and wishes listened to.

The qualitative research shed light on situations where children’s right to take decisions impacting their future - such as what language to study at school, or what sport to pursue, and musical instrument to play - were all decided by their parents.

The children discussed two opposing realities within families that impeded their voice from being heard: parents’ protectiveness and total control, which instilled fear in going against their wishes; and, on the flip side, children living with uncaring parents in difficult households, who were less likely to be supported.

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