II International Seminar: Children and
Young People: Citizen Participation,
Public Policy and New Paradigms
Many thanks to the CIESPI team for hosting and organising the II International
Seminar. Special thanks to Kay Tisdall, Udi Butler, Irene Rizzini and Marcelo
Princeswal for making my participation in this seminar possible. This series of
international seminars is being funded by the Leverhulme Trust, UK as part of the
Academic Collaboration International Network.
For further information about this Network, see:
The II International Seminar Children and Young People: Citizen Participation, Public
Policy and New Paradigms took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in April 2010. The
seminar was organised by the International Centre for Research and Policy on
Childhood (CIESPI), in collaboration with The Social Work Department at the
Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio) and The Centre for
Research on Families and Relationships (CRFR – University of Edinburgh, UK). This
seminar is part of a series, being organised as part of an Academic Collaboration –
International Network funded by the Leverhulme Trust. This network aims to foster
cross-country and interdisciplinary dialogue to critically consider theoretical
frameworks to conceptualise children and young people’s participation.
During the seminar, participants from Brazil, India, South Africa and the UK, together
with Brazilian scholars, students and activists, had the opportunity to exchange
views on children’s and young people’s participation, discussing how it is being
developed and operationalised within their respective historical, socio-economic and
Some of the themes emerging during the discussions, such as the impact of religion
and spirituality on children’s and young people’s engagement with the public sphere
and the use of ‘creative methodologies’ in facilitating this participation, highlight
areas where further research is required. These shall be further considered during
the third and final seminar in this series to be taking place in India.
Acknowledgements .............................................................................................................................. 2
Abstract .................................................................................................................................................. 3
Leverhulme Network Seminar ............................................................................................................ 5
II International Seminar Children and Young People: Citizen Participation, Public Policy
and New Paradigms......................................................................................................................... 7
Discussion ........................................................................................................................................... 14
Conclusions ......................................................................................................................................... 15
On the 15th of April 2010 The II International Seminar Children and Young People:
Citizen Participation, Public Policy and New Paradigms took place in Rio de Janeiro,
Brazil. The seminar was organised by the International Centre for Research and
Policy on Childhood (CIESPI), in collaboration with The Social Work Department at
the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio), and The Centre for
Research on Families and Relationships (CRFR – University of Edinburgh, UK).
This seminar is part of an on-going programme on theorising children and young
people’s participation. It builds on the productive UK seminar 'Theorising Children's
Participation: international and interdisciplinary perspectives', held in Edinburgh in
2006. Further funding was obtained through the Leverhulme Trust Academic
Collaboration – International Networks, for further exchange and collaborative
working between experts in Brazil, India, South Africa and the UK. A further
exchange took place in Cape Town, South Africa in 2009. The last seminar is
planned for Delhi at the end of 2010.
Overall, this programme of work aims to
Map out the different theoretical approaches to participation from relevant
disciplines as developed in their country contexts; explore their strengths
and weaknesses; explore their usefulness in relation to children’s
Interrogate the notion of the ‘international’ and how children’s participation
can be understood locally, regionally and internationally and how
theorisation can be developed that encapsulates these differentiations.
Develop advanced theoretical frameworks within which to conceptualise
For further information about this programme of work, see
Leverhulme Network Seminar
Sessions were divided into: discussions where participants had the opportunity to
develop further some of ideas which emerged during the first seminar in South
Africa; workshops where country participants and Brazilian scholars and activists
presented some of their views on children’s participation; and the public seminar
being organised in collaboration with PUC-Rio.
The network members also had the opportunity to visit the Centro de Educação
Lúdico da Rocinha, a project where young people from the Rocinha community are
engaging with older members of the community in order to recover and record some
of the ways in which children used to play before the advent of computer games.
These games are then taken back to children from the community and further afield,
who are encouraged to play and transform these games themselves. Through this
process the project aims to rescue some of the history of the community, and to
strengthen the links between younger and older generations.
Amongst the participants of these events were:
Udi Butler Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology,
University of Oxford and CIESPI
Paulo Carrano Education Department, Federal Fluminense
Andressa Gadda Social Work Department, University of Edinburgh
Patricia Henderson Social Anthropology Department and the
Children’s Institute, University of Cape Town
Zubai Meenai Social Work Department, Central University, New
Mariana Neumann CIESPI
Marcelo Princeswal CIESPI
Irene Rizzini Social Work Department, PUC-Rio and CIESPI
Lilian Saback Social Communication Department, PUC-Rio
Alexandre Soares CIESPI
Kelly Teamey Education Department, University of Bath
Kay Tisdall The Centre for Research on Families and
Relationships, University of Edinburgh
Firmino Centro de Educação Lúdico da Rocinha
The following section summarises the presentations that took place during the public
seminar and then consider some of themes that have emerged during the workshops
and network’s meetings
II International Seminar Children and Young People: Citizen Participation, Public
Policy and New Paradigms
This session was open to students and staff at PUC-Rio, as well as other guests,
providing an opportunity for all to learn about the different contexts in which children
and young people’s participation is being pursued. The session started with an
introduction by Louiza Helena, Director of Social Services Deparment, PUC-Rio and
Irene Rizzini, Professor at the Social Work Department, PUC-Rio and President of
CIESPI. This was followed by five presentations from three members of the
Leverhulme Trust Academic Network and two Brazilian academics representing a
variety of disciplines and perspectives. Each presentation was followed by a Q&A
Kay Tisdall: ‘Children and Young people’s participation: from fashion
accessory to part of the fabric?’
Kay argues that ‘participation’ has come to encompass a wide range of activities
ranging from the more ‘passive’ to the more ‘active’ types of engagement.
Thus it is important for us to consider what is defined as children’s and young
people’s participation and whether this has impact on decision-making. In Scotland
for example, there has been a noticeable change in the awareness of, and
compliance with, children’s rights to participate. It has become increasingly common
to see children and young people being invited to take part in all sorts of
consultations and projects being organised by governmental and non-governmental
agencies. This has certainly been an improvement in the way in which children and
young people participate in the public sphere or engage with political action.
However, there is some uneasiness about the real scope for change and there has
been a mounting criticism against those activities which are simply seen as
One example of participatory practice which has been increasingly under scrutiny is
the student councils. Student councils have been introduced in the UK as a way in
which to foster pupils’ participation in schools’ affairs. There is great variation across
the UK on whether these councils are an obligatory feature of schools’ decision
making processes or not: so while in Scotland there is no statutory obligation, in
Wales all schools have to have such a council. Some have argued that participation
in these councils is tokenistic and simply replicates the adult system with its many
flaws. School councils fail to provide an arena for political mobilisation and
emancipation and do not challenge the status quo. Thus, although it is often reported
in the literature that children and young people participating in these types of
activities enjoy them, it is not so clear whether this amounts to substantial changes in
children and young people’s ability to influence the decision making process.
Patricia Henderson: ‘Shifting the Parameters of Child Participation in South
Patricia explains how historically in the South African context children have occupied
a central role in the public sphere. Children and young people had a very active role
in the struggle against apartheid and large parts of the jail population during this
period were young people under the age of 18.
More recently however children’s and young people’s role in the public arena has
been diminished through a number of policies implemented since the fall of the
Apartheid regime. Thus, since the late 1990’s there has been a ‘return to childhood’
and a moral regeneration of children as innocent and in need of protection. This is a
problematic development as it excludes children and young people from political
engagement. Children have rights to participate; however not everyone is aware of
these rights. There is a disparity between policy and practice. This disparity can be
partly explained by the constraints everyday practices impinge on children and
young people’s participation. For example, hierarchical relationships in South Africa
dictate that the opinion of some (i.e.: elders) will be more valid than that of others
As an example of young people’s participation in South Africa, Patricia read a poem
written by a young person from the Kasi group, a youth project which she has
worked closely with. The poem questions the events that took place in South Africa
in 2008 when xenophobic attacks against immigrants from other African countries
resulted in 40 people being killed and many more being displaced by the violent
riots. The young person questions the logic of these events since South Africans
were in a similar situation not long ago, refugees in other African nations due to the
difficulties in their own country. She wonders how people who were persecuted and
oppressed before could now be doing the same to others, as if they had forgotten
The child who was shot dead by soldiers in Nyanga
By Ingrid Jonker
The child is not dead; the child lifts his fists against his mother, who screams
Africa shouts the scent, of freedom and the veld, in the location of the cordoned
The child lifts his fists against his father, in the march of the generations, who
are shouting Africa shout the scent, of righteousness and blood, in the street of
his warrior pride
The child is not dead, not at Langa at Nyanga, not at Orlando not at Sharpville,
not at the police station in Philippi where he lies with a bullet through his brain
The child is the shadow of the soldiers, on guard with rifles Saracens and
batons, the child is present at all gatherings and law-giving, the child peers
through house windows and into the hearts of mothers, the child who wanted
just to play in the sun at Nyanga is, everywhere
The child grown to a man treks all over Africa, the child grown to a giant travels
through the whole world, without a pass
Performed by the Kasi Group, young people from the African suburb of
Khayelitsha in Cape Town, South Africa
I am black, My skin in the same as yours, My colour is the same as yours, My
genes are African, nothing but African. When your leaders were beaten by
whites, I was there to shelter them. Although I am not South African, I was
patient. I offered them food, shelter. Most of all I offered them protection. I
might be a South African, I can’t speak Zulu, because I am from Venda, I can’t
speak Zulu, because I am Shangaan, I don’t know how to say ‘elbow’ in Zulu.
Most of all, it is not my language.
Since when was Zulu the only South African language? Yes, I am not from
Gauteng (Johannesburg). I was not born here, But I am South African. Where
should I go if you beat me? I am not beating your father, your mother, your
brother…I am not calling them Makwerekwere (a term used to refer to refugees
from other African countries), Though they can’t speak my language.
I might be dark in complexion, I might be dark with a foreign look, I might have
a foreign body structure. Now instead of going to the only place I call home. I
am scared of walking down the street without my I.D.
Whites taught me to do that, centuries ago, But now my black brother is acting
white, Why should black South African’s do this to me?..
If I have to go back to Venda, Let all the Pedis go back to Pediland, Let all the
Sothos go back to Lesotho, Let all the Tswanas go back to Botswana, Let all
the Xhosas go back to the Eastern Cape, And let all the Ndebeles go back to
KwaNdebele. Is this not ignorance?
Your unemployment is your responsibility. You, with intellect, get up and work,
Let education empower you…
Before 1994 you were blaming whites, Now you are blaming me, Who are you
going to blame after chasing me away? Who are you going to blame after
killing me? All we need is peace, unity and rights.
Zubair Meenai: ‘Children’s Participation in India’
Zubair introduces some facts about India which can help one understand how
children’s and young people’s participation has evolved.
India has 440 million children, of which 44 million live in difficult situations.
India is a multi-cultural, pluralist society.
There are three main religions: Hindu, Islam and Christianity. Hindu is the
main religion (followed by over 80% of the population). Dharma philosophy, of
which the caste system is an integral part, is heavily ingrained in social
organisation, maintaining and reproducing social stratification.
Islam is the second most important religion in India. Islam recognises child
rights but by the time children reach puberty they become autonomous adults.
The main language spoken is Hindi, with another 14 languages being officially
Politically, India is a neo-liberal democracy. The state has minimal
responsibility for the individual. The state has paternalistic relationship with
The Indian context hinders change and social mobility. Hierarchical and
patriarchal relationships prevail – there is a premium on age and experience.
The Indian constitution was established in 1950, guaranteeing fundamental rights,
such as human rights. This is not a static document and there have been many
amendments to it over the years. Some of the basic rights now guaranteed by the
1) Right to work – every family has the right to work at least 30 days in a year.
2) Right to education – parents are penalised if their children do not frequent
school regularly. However, Zubair questions whether this is the best approach
as penalising poor parents for being unable to send their children to school
may not be the best way forward.
The Indian Constitution also recognises children as persons with fundamental rights.
India ratified the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1992
and established a national commission for the protection of children. In recent years
there have been a number of developments leading to a greater preoccupation with
the protection of children’s rights:
There are a number of non-governmental organisations in India focusing
on children and children’s rights such as: Protect the Childhood
Movement, Concerned for Working Children, Child Right Trust. These
organisations, as well as other pro-rights New Social Movements, have
been gaining popularity and the government is more willing to listen to
some of their requests. It is still the case however that these organisations
and movements mainly follow an adult agenda and children and young
people are still excluded from the decision making process.
The National and State Commissions on Children’s Rights have been
established. Some caution needs to be taken however not to assume that
this is a great leap forward as children’s rights are still seen as an add-on
rather than an essential feature of national policies.
The provision of micro-credits mainly to women have empowered them,
bringing great benefits to the family and pushing forward a child-centred
Village councils are now required to include children.
There have also been a number of recent developments in India which are resulting
in a more open society, such as the introduction of Freedom of Information
In general participation is not alien to Indian’s context but it is not fully accepted. As a
hierarchical society some people’s views carry a greater weight than others.
Nonetheless there have been many examples of ‘spontaneous’ actions by children,
often assisted by the availability of new technologies in order to organise
themselves. Care must be taken however in assuming these actions as child-led as
children’s presence does not necessarily equate with ‘children’s actions’. Often,
despite claims of being child-led, these actions are adult-led with children simply
being present – participation as performance.
Lilian Saback: ‘Self Representation of the favelas from the perspective of
Lilian’s research has explored young people’s perceptions of their environment and
life in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. The role of new technologies in allowing
disadvantaged young people to participate has been a key aspect of her research
methodology. She has used an innovative method where young people were asked
to produce short films to tell their own stories. Young people went though the
process of producing a film, from how to use the filming equipment to how to write a
narrative which translates well into the screen.
She argues that the use of new technologies, such as film making, can empower
young people by allowing them to have their voices heard at the same time as
providing them with greater access to knowledge. It is her view that the process of
participation can enhance these young people’s well being, providing them with an
opportunity to learn a new skill as well as providing the space to make their realities
more visible. So while in the past programs to assist disadvantaged youth used to
teach them a trade, now with the use of these new technologies there is an
opportunity to teach them a trade (that of film maker) as well as providing an
opportunity for creative production and giving them the opportunity have their voices
heard. She hopes that by making these realities more visible young people can
bring about positive changes to their communities, as well as within themselves.
Some of these short films will be made available on line.
Paulo Carrano: ‘Contemporary studies in youth participation in Brazil’
He presented the findings of a literature review of quantitative and qualitative studies
which provided some measurement or understandings of young people’s
participation in the public sphere.
Paulo started the discussion by questioning whether the division between the public
and the private sphere is a valid and helpful one. He also questions the meaning of
participation. The term participation (as well as citizenship) is ambiguous as there
are different degrees of participation. Some degree of participation is always
required so what we should be concerned with is the limits each of these types of
With regards to citizenship, there seems to be a moral panic which says that it is in
decline. Many commentators have argued that the democratic system is in crisis due
to the apathy of voters to take part in elections; however people choose (and pay) to
participate in many other ways. What does this has then to say about the
democratic system? Paulo argues that often young people’s actions are
misunderstood. When they do not have the tools to participate in ‘valid’ or legitimate
ways they will find other ways in which to voice their ideas.
The discussions were an opportunity for country participants to explore further
certain themes and ideas that emerged during the first seminar of this series,
Theorizing Children’s Participation: Learning Across Countries and Across
Disciplines. This first seminar was organised by the Children’s Institute of the
University of Cape Town, South Africa in April 2009.
Amongst the themes which were identified as important areas for further
The significance of religion and spirituality in children’s and young people’s
experiences of participation
The use of creative methodologies and its impact on participation (and
New technologies and digital participation
The ‘adult side’
o Public – v – Private
o Informal – v – Formal
o Child – v – Adult
o Good – v – Bad Participation
o Political – v – Cultural
o Diversity – v - Equality
Theorising participation – how to?
Defining terminology, i.e.: participation, citizenship, creative methodology.
Using indigenous terminology; i.e. Tuxaua (BR), Ubuntu (SA)
The relationship between public policy and poverty
Social and cultural capital (From which theoretical perspective though?)
Structural barriers to participation (confinement, isolation and segregation)
Participation and democracy (and the link in Brazil between participation and
Reproduction of structural inequalities and power relationships
Epistemological questions related to the historical context ; i.e. Colonial and
The last seminar of this series will be taking place in India in the end of 2010. This
will be an opportunity for country participants to develop further these ideas and to
look at ways in which to continue the collaborations that have emerged. This will also
be an opportunity for country participants to learn more about children and young
people’s participation in India from local academics, activists and children and young
Being able to travel to each of the members’ countries has provided a unique
opportunity to engage with local researchers and to learn about specific contexts and
the different policy and practices that emerge from these. In Brazil for example, we
learned that children’s and young people’s participation has often been linked with
issues of poverty and citizenship,and that citizenship refers to engagement in
collective action of partisan character and with very narrow aims. As in the previous
network meeting in South Africa it was recognised that, while understandings of
children’s participation had to be grounded on an understanding of the diverse
historical, socio-economic and political contexts of each country, there were enough
commonalities to allow for a coherent discussion to take place. The network hopes to
encapsulate some of these experiences and learning into a book collaboration.