Highlights from Children as Actors for Transforming Society 2018
Children as Actors for Transforming Society (CATS) came together for the sixth edition of the CATS Forum, bringing together some 300 adults and children from 46 countries for a full week of sharing and learning. Participants returned down the mountain full of new ideas, new knowledge and new friends. Every year the forum addresses themes and issues that affect children, and that young people and adults can face together. This year’s focus was ‘Safe Together: working to end violence against children’.
CATS approached the theme through the ‘Protective Environment Framework’ (PEF) developed by UNICEF, which offers eight key focuses for ending all violence against all children. CATS displayed these eight areas as sections of a colourful umbrella. If one part of the umbrella is not working, the rain will get through and the child will not be protected.
The framework was used in workshops, group activities and social times throughout the week. There was one workshop for each section of the umbrella, allowing smaller groups to discuss the topic, delve into personal issues and come up with solutions. Parallel arts and skills workshops aimed to help participants put what they learnt in the PEF workshops into practice. These included sessions on dance, poetry and on helping children speak out. Lauriann from the UK said, ‘I have learnt so much from the workshops. I can take ideas to help me with my job. They also helped me understand more about other cultures.’
A series of Together Times for the whole forum built community and allowed children and adults to work together. One of the highlights was the Human Library, in which participants volunteer to share their stories of combatting violence against children with small groups. Many hard-hitting and inspirational stories were shared, from overcoming bullying to supporting victims of violence in different countries.
British Member of the European Parliament, Julie Ward, gave the keynote speech. She told how she uses her position to introduce passionate young people to government officials and others who can help them make a difference. Children, she said, are not only the future, but the present: ‘You are the only experts of your own experience.’
Sessions such as Open Space and Project Matching offered a pathway for participants to take skills and connections back into their own lives at home. They were encouraged to present ideas, challenges and workshops related to the theme and to work together once they leave the forum. One group want to carry on the conversation on ‘how we, as society, stop violence against children’. In another group, a child asked the experts at the forum, ‘How can I help children in my class who have learning difficulties?’ ‘People were so supportive and were signing up to help us from all over the world,’ said a participant from Canada.
Many participants shared their gratitude towards the organizing partners, CATS and their fellow participants for their experience at the forum. ‘I have found friendships and inner peace at CATS that I will take with me back home,’ said one participant in his twenties.
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