#CovidUnder19: Fulfilling children’s right to be heard and participate in the response to the pandemic
The Office of the SRSG-VAC and CSO partners launched a global consultation to understand children's experiences of the COVID19 pandemic and their views on how to get involved in finding solutions to the worldwide crisis.
Covid-19 is affecting every human being in one way or another and in many fronts, including their health and education, as well as socially and economically. Even though children are not, medically-speaking, amongst the most vulnerable, it is clear that the pandemic is having profound and long-term consequences on children’s lives. Some 90% of the world’s children are out of school. Conditions of confinement and stress exacerbate risks of violence in the home. For households with internet access, the digital environment provides an opportunity to connect with friends and learn, however it also harbours significant risks, such as susceptibility to online abuse.
In 2020, the Office of the Special Representative joined #CovidUnder19, a collective initiative that aimed to bring together children, child human rights activists, experts and other key stakeholders, to work together in understanding what children are experiencing due to Covid-19 and involving children in developing responses to these issues. A goal of #CovidUnder19 is to create spaces for children across the globe to be meaningfully involved in the discussions around issues triggered by the COVID19 pandemic and contribute towards shaping the post-COVID19 world.
On May 2020, CovidUnder19 launched a global consultation to understand children’s experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic and their views on how they wish to get involved. The survey was designed by child rights experts and 270 children from 26 countries, and translated into 25 languages and an easy read version. Children and young people aged between 8 and 17 years old were invited to participate in the survey until 30 July 2020. Child protection practitioners as well as parents and caregivers were encouraged to facilitate the participation of children.
Based on the results of the consultations with children, the initiative will accelerate the design of responses to the pandemic in the short and long term, while increasing opportunities for children to interact with each other to collectively create and innovate.
On 9 December 2020, the results of the global consultation survey #CovidUnder19: Life Under Coronavirus to understand children’s experiences and views during the coronavirus pandemic were presented at a global virtual event featuring children as keynote speakers.
The results cover a wide range of topics related to children’s experiences during the COVID19 crisis, their views about family life, education, safety and violence, representation, participation, information and poverty. "Take young people’s opinion into consideration, because they are also a part of the community and they should have the right to express themselves," said a 17-year-old boy from Lebanon in the #CovidUnder19 survey.
The resusts from the U-Report poll, that used social media to reach-out to respondents, show that children have been using peer-to-peer support as a way to to cope with the challenges posed by the pandemic. 62% of children said that their friends have helped when they needed emotional or personal support and 58% responded that friends have reached out to them more seeking to provide support since the pandemic started.
However, 38% of the young respondents answered that they felt less safe than before and 50.2% did not know where to ask for help if needed. On the questions about violence online, 43% of the children respondent that they had more negative experiences online than before and cyberbullying was chosen noted as the "worst form of violence online" and the one that has increased the most. Almost 90% children expressed concern about their future, mainly in matters related to their education and safety.
When asked about future plans for after the crisis, 46.6% expressed the wish to helping their family and over 21% said that they would like to be involved with groups or communities, showing children’s true commitment and interest in being part of the solution during the recovery period after the pandemic.