On June 15, 2018, Gerison Lansdown, Chair of our Board of Trustees, received an honourary doctorate from Carleton University in Canada “in recognition of extraordinary leadership in advocating for children’s rights.”
During her illustrious career, Gerison has played a leading role in supporting the Committee on the Rights of the Child to develop general comments regarding the right of children to be heard and to play, and on the rights of children during adolescence. As Chair of Child to Child, she has played a key role in highlighting how children’s participation provides access to the range of human rights to which they are entitled.
In her convocation address, Gerison drew upon the example of Pikin to Pikin Tok, our radio for education programme in Sierra Leone, to show how listening to children and young people is central to upholding the “values of justice, dignity, equity and accountability.”
She spoke specifically of the programmes “Under the Mango Tree,” in which children addressed the challenges they saw around them in the wake of the Ebola crisis. Children used this space to tackle serious and often taboo issues like the exponential rise in sexual violence, in communities weakened by conflict and disaster. In one particularly powerful programme, the Young Journalists interviewed politicians and demanded action to improve protection systems.
The programme had a transformative effect on the Young Journalists as well as the Young Listeners, with ripple effects throughout their communities. To quote Gerison, the power of participation was such that:
“It provides children with knowledge that they have a right to protection from violence. It empowers them to speak out about the violations of that right. It equips them with skills and confidence…It demonstrates to local community members, as well as politicians, that children have important and unique knowledge of their own lives that must be listened to if adults are to provide meaningful protection. It builds solidarity.
And most of all, it enables children to hold those adults to account in fulfilling their obligations, encouraging them to believe that they can make a difference, can make things better.”
We are privileged to have Gerison as our champion and spokesperson. With her support, we hope to continue to ensure that children are given the space and tools to work together, and change their world.