Children Instrumental to the Success of the SDGs

November 2015

After taking part in recent events organised by the global movement Action/2015 intended to inform world leaders that people are watching them and holding them accountable over the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals, our intern Klaas decided to explore the work that Child to Child is already involved in, that relates to this global agenda.

By Klaas Feijnenbuik, Communications intern at Child to Child

Last September the world witnessed an historic day as world leaders adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)*, which are recognised as the strongest agenda ever for international development, mostly because of its mantra to ‘leave no one behind.’ That phrase indicates a fundamental shift in the approach to international development, an approach which will influence the work of all government agencies, non-governmental organisations and other development actors. One fundamental consequence is the realisation that children and young people must be involved in all matters which affect them, something achieved in the preliminary phase – the design of the Global Goals – through regional consultations with children worldwide.

Now we are entering the implementation phase and it is crucial decision-makers don’t forget the key role children and young people must play if the world is to achieve the ambitious SDGs by 2030. The meaningful change that the Goals call for can only happen if all stakeholders play a role, and that includes children and young people. They must be involved all steps of the way – policy-making, local implementation, monitoring and evaluation.

Child to Child, which has been advocating this very idea for decades, has seen in its work around the world how much children’s participation can guarantee long-term, sustainable change. Through its recent projects Child to Child has appreciated the importance of children’s participation in reaching three of the goals: good health and well-being, quality education and gender equality.

1. Children need to be involved in their own health and well-being and that of their communities.

Child to Child has been working on this very matter since its inception in many settings around the world. Recently it launched the Pikin To Pikin Tok project in Sierra Leone, which is a child-centred radio programme co-produced with children and young people. It aims to disseminate health and hygiene best practices in order to avoid preventable diseases such as Ebola. As a result children sensitise others about hygiene and the importance of hand washing, through clubs and on the radio. It also helps reduce the stigma still lingering over people affected by and survivors of Ebola.

2. Quality education is only obtainable if children and young people are given more meaningful opportunities to actively participate in their learning.

In Child to Child’s Hearing All Voices (HAV) London project, young people follow six action learning steps: they choose and understand a problem; they find out more about it; they discuss what they have learned; they establish a plan of action to bring about change; they put that plan into action; and finally they evaluate how successful it was and consider how it could be improved the next time. By being engaged in this active learning process, supported by teachers who understand the value of their participation, children improve the quality of their education and develop life skills.

3. Children’s participation is key to making gender equality a reality.

In Sindh Province, Pakistan the Paths to School Success programme has been positively impacting gender relations in the communities where Child to Child is working. By discussing the role of boys and girls in Child to Child clubs, children have acquired an understanding of gender issues. Boys now realise that girls also have a right to education, and that they have a role to play to combat gender stereotypes and ensure girls are considered their equal. One teacher happily commented that, “it is a great change! (for instance) the boys now are taking responsibility for household tasks too.”

Participation is the cornerstone of these successes. Giving children opportunities to contribute, to feel valued and to have their opinions taken seriously, enables them to bring about real change in their communities.

2015 is a pivotal year for the international development sector and the success of the new SDGs is dependent on global cooperation. This cooperation must include children and young people! The development actors must put in place the structures and processes to ensure that children and young people are actively involved in the implementation and monitoring of the Global Goals. If the governments and other agencies do not engage them in these processes, if they do not listen to them and take them seriously, the world cannot possibly hope to achieve their ambitions.

Child to Child has over 35 years experience and expertise of facilitating meaningful engagement of children and young people, which it looks forward to sharing as the international community collectively works towards a world in which no one is left behind.




* On Friday 25 September the Heads of State & government of the 193 United Nations Member States adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), or Global Goals, that aim to eradicate extreme poverty and tackle all inequalities by 2030. They aim to do so through 17 goals which address all world issues holistically – from life below water to economic growth, from gender equality to hunger, from peace and justice to education.