"The Village Children Forum gave me the opportunity to express my opinion about my life and other children' lives. I am grateful to be able to participate in the village development planning meeting and to convey the voices of children so that policymakers can hear them." Shared Sibyan, 15 years old, head of the Village Children’s Forum in Lombok, Indonesia.
“After school, I used to work with my parents in the fields, this was what most of the children in my village did. Since the age of 8, I would help my parents by working during the harvest to ease their burden. Now I am in the first grade of senior high school.”
Village Children’s Forum
In Indonesia, Village Children Forums are providing a space for children to express their opinions on areas in village life which affects them, such as education, after-school activities, access to decent work, and ways in which child labour can be fought. These forums were originally part of a government programme introduced in 2010 to amplify children’s voices and increase the commitment of village heads, community members, and any private sector actors working in concerned areas to contibute to making rural villages a safer place for children to grow up.
For children like Sibyan, they now have a safe space to express their concerns and learn new skills. “Since I joined the forum a little over a year ago there have been many activities both in person and online during the pandemic. There has been leadership training, national children day commemoration, district children forum's activities, various webinars and village development planning deliberation, and much more.”
Child participation to fight child labour
“Like many other children in my village, I was working in the fields after school and late into the night. Since becoming part of the Village Children’s Forum I worked less and less. Now, as part of the Forum, we are taught to channel our creativity by taking part in social-cultural activities.”
Providing children with a space to play and learn through after-school activities keeps them away from dangerous work in the fields. The Forum does just this and goes a step further by including children in village decision making processes to make sure their needs are concerns are being met.
“One of the most valuable activities has been my participation in the village development planning deliberations. I think it is an important opportunity for the children to their needs to the village officials.”
A brighter future for children like Sibyan
When decisions makers become aware of the some of the drivers of child labour, and the children’s perspective of the nature of the work they are asked to carry out, they can develop plans which are more likely to improve children’s lives and provide them with a brighter future.
For Sibyan the chidren’s Forum has given him the motivation to pursue his dream. “This experience so far has encouraged me to achieve my dream of becoming a lawyer. I want to help the children to speak for their interests.”