Dialogues with children about risk, hazards, vulnerability and resilience

Children’s perception of risk, hazards, vulnerability and resilience have been explored in participatory workshops led by our CUIDAR partner Save the Children, Italy. Now, perhaps more than ever, the perspectives of children on these matters are vital. In total, 649 children and young people have been consulted either in a school or a youth group setting, from the five CUIDAR countries (53 children in Greece, 59 in Italy, 182 in Portugal, 85 in Spain and 270 in the UK).

The children participated from a wide range of cultural and socio economic contexts such as places that experienced or have been affected by disasters; areas of high deprivation; urban, coastal and rural areas with some sites including migrant children from different ethnic groups. Participants with specific known vulnerabilities for example, hard of hearing students and students with low and severe visual impairments were also enabled to take part. The children consulted were mostly aged 9-11 years with young people from 14 to 18 years old.

Facilitated by CUIDAR staff, along with specialists in children’s participation and school staff, the workshops were designed to empower children to realise their right to be heard and to take part in decisions that affect them. The workshops began with games relating to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, with a specific focus on Article 12: ‘children’s participation’.  The majority of children had little knowledge about their rights and the importance of their active participation, associating this mainly with the idea of helping at home, or sharing ideas, participating in leisure activities, volunteering or taking on responsibilities to help younger students. Throughout the CUIDAR workshops other ideas about participation emerged such as ‘expressing opinions’; ‘being people’; ‘having things to tell’; ‘having equal rights’, and ‘boys and girls express themselves differently and this difference has to be taken into account’.

Then the dialogues children held with peers, school staff, parents and the local community in each partner country were used to develop Communication Plans. These aimed to identify ways of communicating what they and others can do to increase resilience and reduce risk within their community. This included how to inform their peers, teachers, community members and practitioners, taking into account the needs of different audiences, for example thinking about those with sensory disabilities and language or literacy problems, using various media such as drama, posters and stories.