Home > Feature > The Contribution of Religious Leaders and Faith Groups to the CRC

To mark Human Rights Day on the 10th December, Misean Cara Project Officer for Human Rights Eamonn Casey highlights the contribution of religious leaders and faith groups on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

As Human Rights Day comes around, Misean Cara reflects on this year being the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child – the most ratified international text in the world today, although far from honoured universally.

The UN Convention includes 41 articles, each detailing a different type of right – all of which are of equal importance and interact with each other to form one integrated set of rights. A common approach is to group these articles together under the themes:

  • Survival rights: around the rights to life, nutrition, shelter, medicine and living standards.
  • Development rights: include the rights to education, play, leisure, cultural activities, information, freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
  • Protection rights: safeguarding against all forms of abuse, neglect and exploitation, including special care for children in certain defined circumstances (children in the asylum, refugee or criminal justice systems; in employment; or those who have suffered exploitation or abuse of any kind.)
  • Participation rights: encompass children’s freedom to express opinions, to have a say in matters affecting their own lives, to join associations and to assemble peacefully.

Child rights is the second largest by funding proportion (after governance, civil society and peacebuilding) of the five sub-sectors that Misean Cara supports within its particularly human rights-focused projects. In these initiatives, it helps raise awareness of children’s rights and enable the mobilisation of young people to vindicate their rights. Human rights projects also challenge duty bearers, and help build capacity among them, to protect, fulfil and promote children’s rights – from local to national and international levels, as circumstances and project resources allow.

In addition, Misean Cara supports members who are working to uphold rights to access quality education, health, clean water and sanitation, and sustainable livelihoods. 

A recent example of the local-to-global initiatives mentioned above is provided by a project in India that supports vulnerable children to understand and realise their rights. PRATYeK | NINEISMINE, a child – led advocacy organisation celebrated Child Rights week 2019 with a series of events marking the importance of child participation in India, interacting with members of Delhi Legislative Assembly on the 14th November. The ‘kidizens’ from NINEISMINE made a series of recommendations for a manifesto for the state election in January 2020.

On the 18th November, young advocates from the NINEISMINE campaign engaged with Dr. Yasmin Ali Haque, the UNICEF Representative in India and Miss Bidisha Pillai, a panellist from Save the Children, marking the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) at UNICEF headquarters in New Delhi. The theme of the interaction was ‘Children as Defenders of Child Rights’. Children spoke about why there is a need for them to be defenders of their own rights and the challenges and hurdles faced in the implementation of child rights.

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), a government body functioning under the Ministry of Women and Child Development in the Government of India invited children to directly engage with the Chairman of NCPCR Mr. Yashwant Jain and discuss the challenges and issues which the children of India are currently witnessing.

The experience of Misean Cara members supports the findings, just released to coincide with Human Rights Day, of a multi-religious study of the important role played by diverse religious communities in advancing the well-being of children over the 30-year lifespan of the Convention on the Rights of the Child – and the important role they will continue to have to play (particularly with greater understanding and use of the CRC) in vindicating children’s rights in the years to come. 

The study Faith and Children’s Rights: A Multi-religious Study on the Convention on the Rights of the Child’ by organisations including Child Rights Connect (with Misean Cara members) examines the CRC from the perspective of seven major religions; identifies the important role played by religious communities in advancing children’s rights over the past 30 years; and promotes continued action by religious communities to further implement the CRC in the future.

The research shows the far-reaching positive effect of religious leaders and faith-based organisations when their influence is used progressively for children rights, such as in addressing sensitive social norms that deny children their rights: ending child marriage; tackling gender bias in education; working to eliminate the harmful practice of female genital mutilation.

To mark the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and in partnership with UNICEF, the former Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Violence against Children, the Global Network of Religions for Children (GNRC) and with the support of partners, the International Dialogue Center (KAICIID) and World Vision International, Arigatou International has developed Faith and Children’s Rights: A Multi-religious Study on the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

This study examines the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) from the perspective of seven major religions, identifies the important role played by religious communities in advancing the rights and well-being of children over the past 30 years, seeks to identify the common values shared among different religions and the CRC and promotes continued action by religious communities to further implement the CRC in the future.

Among the positives, the study notes how faith groups and religious leaders can serve as role models of compassion, solidarity and justice. Frequently, they help to bridge differences, foster dialogue, and influence positive social and behavioural change. The trust placed in religious leaders by individuals, families and communities positions them to promote respect for the dignity and rights of the child, and to make clear that no religious teaching or tradition condones or justifies any form of violence against children.

An important message from the study, and one that Misean Cara’s child rights projects really strive to live is that honouring the agency and dignity of children by according them meaningful participation is a vital way to show children they are valued and their human rights are respected.

Photo caption: Children from Nine is Mine and Pratyek pictured with the Vice-president of India Mr Venkaiah Naidu  (wearing the black jumper) at the national summit for every child.