Young Advisor Helen’s experience
The European Network of Ombudspersons for Children (ENOC) is a network which includes Children’s Commissioners, who all promote and protect children’s rights as laid out in the UNCRC. There are representatives from 34 member countries who regularly come together to share information and discuss plans.
As a member of the Network we take part in an annual programme that includes seminars, an annual conference, position papers and participation. Our Young Advisors have a key role in the annual programme.
In 2023 the annual ENOC conference was held in September, in Brussels, Belgium. Our Young Advisor Helen attended and represented Scotland, along with Commissioner Nicola Killean.
Before the conference the Young Advisors in Scotland, then across Europe, worked together and made recommendations to the Commissioners and Ombudspersons on what their work should focus on in the coming year. The conference in Brussels was going to be a good opportunity for the adults and young people to talk and listen to each other.
The two-day conference was held in the Flemish Parliament in the heart of Brussels. Helen loved the building. She marvelled:
‘It was really beautiful. I was like, wow!’
The people attending listened to various talks and attended workshops, all around children’s rights across Europe. However, the main aspect of the second day was the Young Advisors from across Europe sharing their recommendations with the Commissioners and Ombudspersons.
Their key themes covered Visibility, Accessibility, Engagement and Powers. They planned and delivered their presentations or activities on these recommendations in small groups. Each group took a different approach; one group used scenarios to spark discussion, for example.
Helen states the highlight of her whole experience was working on and then delivering her presentation to everyone at the conference:
‘We were talking and getting our ideas together.’
Helen was part of the group working with young people from Jersey, Armenia and Belgium who focused on how important good participation is with children and young people:
‘We were aiming to tell the delegates how children and young people should engage and be part of the process. Adults must engage with us.’
The group used some great interactive activities to get everyone engaged:
‘Our ideas were really creative and out of the box. There was a pledge at the end. ‘I must…’ for the Commissioners and Ombudspersons to commit to what their next actions will be.’
The adults gave excellent feedback on all of the Young Advisors’ presentations and activities and pledged to take things forward in various ways. One pledge made stated:
‘Do more to co-create and co-design projects and research/consultation with children who are seldom heard.’ So, we know the Commissioners and Ombudspersons were listening!
After all the hard work there was some time to see a little of Brussels on a short walking tour. Helen loved the main square:
‘It was really beautiful and full of lots of people from different parts of the world.’ The trip to Brussels would not be complete without sampling some Belgian food. Helen enjoyed the waffles, frites and marvelled:
‘I had a strawberry crepe. I loved it. It was really big!’
What Helen hopes for next from the ENOC conference is that:
‘the adults take action and put things in place, after hearing the recommendations. We should check back in six months!’
After two very busy, productive and fun days it was time to say goodbye to everyone and come home to Scotland. Helen says:
‘I was so, so tired. But it’s a once in a lifetime experience, meeting people from other countries and putting our ideas together to make one beautiful idea.’’