On the July 12, the final day of the seminar, Mr. Tong began the morning with a quick speech, rehashing Zhicheng’s aspirations, particularly Director Tong’s hope to collaborate further with Alibaba Group to use their platform as a way to encourage support for public interest initiatives, and to make fundraising simpler. He emphasized the necessity of paying close attention to research regarding child protection online, and brainstorming new ways to use modern technologies to further their work. He also mentioned a new policy that the Ministry of Justice is implementing, which encourages more lawyers throughout China to participate in pro bono work. He also spoke of the difficulties surrounding coordinating international efforts in China, where there is no access to otherwise global platforms like Facebook and Twitter. To do work like this, Director Tong stressed, it is imperative to understand other countries and join forces to start a global push towards safety for children and other underserved populations. Having a diverse perspective is necessary to do this job, and the best way to achieve that perspective is to bring together more people from more places. This includes encouraging more private sector individuals to assist with this work.
After Mr. Tong’s speech, there was a short roundtable discussion on people’s opinions regarding the seminar, and any advice that the participants had for Zhicheng in order to improve the seminar for the following year. The feedback was all extremely positive, and it was wonderful to hear how helpful the seminar was for each of the participants. One common thread, outside of a desire for continued cooperation with Zhicheng and other NGOs here in China, was the desire to push for more comprehensive legislation especially regarding child safety online. Furthermore, many participants, such as Bestone Banda and Maya Rusakova, stressed how refreshing it was to have a seminar that stretched out for an extended period of time. It allowed people to relax and become friends, but also allowed for a much deeper level of professional cooperation that isn’t possible when seminars are crammed into a few days maximum. Most were in agreement that, at the end of the day, the purpose of a seminar is to foster more meaningful relationships, which is much easier when you are given adequate time to do so. Mariya Brestnichka expressed how much she appreciated the vision and passion that existed within Zhicheng, and the participants of the seminar, but she also stressed that it was important to discuss our next steps – when everyone goes home, how exactly would the group maintain the relationships they had forged here?
At the end of the discussion, Hishom Prastyo Akbar summed up what many of us were thinking very well by saying, “I am a lawyer, but I am nothing without you all.” Truly, the work that every single participant does is not possible without a comprehensive support system from all portions of the child rights field. The things that everyone achieves are not possible without cooperation from a wide range of people, and forging new networks is imperative to the work that we all strive to complete. Hishom also encapsulated the group’s appreciation for all of Zhicheng’s hard work these past two weeks by saying “Chen is my hero. [He] is everywhere.”
The morning session wrapped up with a celebratory moment. A Memorandum of Understanding between Beijing Children’s Legal Aid and Research Center and KEAN – Cell of Alternative Youth Activities was signed by Director Tong and Stavros Milionis. The memorandum was drafted in tandem, with the assistance of one of Zhicheng’s interns. The purpose of the memorandum was to foster cooperation between the two organizations and to work in tandem to facilitate the translation, publication, and distribution of KEAN’s comic books about school bullying in China.
The afternoon session moved at a much more leisurely pace, focused on providing each other with future opportunities to participate in children’s rights seminars and training programs all across the world, from the Humphrey Fellowship Program in the United States, to programs with IGNITE Philanthropy, and the Segal Family Foundation. The evening progressed with more advice and programs to attend, but there was an equal amount of cultural exchange and general conversation about the similarities and differences between our countries. It was a wonderful opportunity to focus on one of the main themes of the morning session – fostering meaningful and lasting relationships. The past two weeks have been full of these kinds of more casual conversations capture the ethos of the seminar – thoughtful and productive content with a familial, inclusive atmosphere. As a result, people have not only fostered wonderful personal relationships, but have also opened new doors in the children’s advocacy field.