On July 1st, 2019, 18 leaders and representatives from leading child protection organizations in 16 countries across Asia, Africa, and Europe gathered at Beijing Children’s Legal Aid and Research Center to attend the Global Leadership Seminar on Child Protection (the Seminar). The Seminar is a 14-day workshop aiming at building a platform for international collaboration in the field of child rights and protection. Today, participants passionately shared their experiences of promoting and protecting child rights in their home countries.
In the morning, Director Tong delivered a warm welcome speech to all seminar participants, introduced the history of Zhicheng Public Interest Lawyers, the largest public interest legal service organization in China, and shared Zhicheng’s motivations behind hosting this Seminar. He especially emphasized the necessity of a global cooperative network among child rights advocates in today’s interconnected and interdependent world, echoing with the theme of this year’s Seminar – Building a Dynamic Cooperative Platform for Global Child Protection.
After a round of ice-breaking activities, every participant shared with the rest of the group their “best practices” when spearheading their respective organization. Among them, Deepika Murali, the leader of DM Law Chamber in Chennai, India, reflected on India’s limited state funding for public interest legal services and the consequent scarce legal resources that children whose rights are infringed have access to. Then, she shared her unique experience of actively engaging in pro bono services for child rights protection as a commercial lawyer.
Empathizing with Deepika on her home country’s insufficient legal framework on child rights protection, Jin-hye Lee from Migrants Center Friend introduced the lack of legal mechanisms on addressing the abuse of undocumented children in South Korea. She then elaborated on her organization’s approach of building up on the current “Prevention, protection and follow-up” legal model to assist the children of migrant workers.
Besides representing children in legal settings, the expertise of the participants also spans across a wide range of fields. For instance, Sabrina Majikataz, the Program Manager at Investing in Children and their Societies, shared her organization’s unique model of “Skillful Parenting Program”. This program includes a 7-module parent education curriculum, which was tailored to the needs of the rural context of her communities and has effectively engaged local fathers in parenting, while traditionally in Kenya mothers are usually the main actors in child rearing.
During the Question & Answer session, participants exchanged their knowledge of existing programs on representing children in conflict with the law in their home countries. Furthermore, they shared effective rehabilitation programs for child perpetrators in their respective context. Specifically, Lopamudra Mulllick from Child in Need Institute in India expressed her view that juveniles in conflict with the law are also a vulnerable group who needs protection and should not be ignored. Moreover, after Sean Sok Phay from Cambodia shared his experience of managing a child rights helpline in a developing country where the room for NGO activities is limited, participants further discussed their nuanced experience of running a helpline or a hotline in both the local and the global context.
In the end, Anna Niu, the Director of the International Department at Zhicheng, shared Beijing Children’s Legal Aid and Research Center’s past efforts to enable minors’ access to justice in China by providing legislation and policy suggestions, advocating for child protection, working with different stakeholders, and conducting empirical research.
In today’s session, although heading from diverse political, social, and cultural background, all participants expressed their common aim to build a better future for children through collaborative actions. Tomorrow, participants will look closely into different countries’ legal framework on child protection.