Guide for children

As a child, every human right applies to you. In addition to that, the Convention on the Rights of the Child provides specific rights only applicable to children.

The country you live in has the obligation to make sure you enjoy all your rights. Your parents, your teachers, doctors, the members of your community all have a responsibility not only to respect your rights, but also to help you realise them.

If you want to, you can play a big role in making the environment around you respectful of your rights.

Before you start, get familiar with your rights. Many resources exist that can help you understand them better. On the UNICEF Magic website you can find the full text on the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 58 languages.

The role you can play in the realisation of your rights is different depending on the setting (school, home, at the doctors clinic etc). For example the role you can play in your school will be different from the one you can have in your community.

There is a lot you can do. This page gives a few examples and advice but there are many other ways that you can think of. For inspiration, you can read the different sections on this webpage to better understand what you should expect from adults.

At all times and everywhere, you should be treated with respect, you should be consulted on matters that concern you (article 12) and you should never be treated unfairly because of your ethnicity, your gender, your disabilities, your beliefs, your sexual orientation or your transgender status (article 2).

If you want to talk to someone about problems you have at school, in your family, or in your community, you can visit this page to find a helpline in your country.

What should you expect from the government

There are a lot of things that the country you live in should provide you with. The State has the biggest responsibility for the realisation of your rights.

It should provide you with free access to all necessary services such as health, education, leisure centres, legal advise and support.

Your country also has the responsibility to make changes to the laws and some traditions that don't respect your rights as a child and as a human being.

It should make sure that everyone knows about your rights and about the changes that were made in the laws and practices.

The State should give training on children's rights to teachers, parents, doctors, nurses, social workers, lawyers, judges and any other person involved in the realisation of your rights.

An independent person - called ombudsperson - that will have the responsibility to safeguard your rights should be appointed. The main responsibilities of this person should be to receive and investigate complaints and to be an advocate for your rights, including advocating for specific changes to be made.

Your rights in school

At school, you have the right to be heard and your opinion should be taken into consideration. You should not be subjected to any form of violence including physical violence, verbal abuse or bullying (article 19).

Your school should give you the opportunity to elect student councils (article 29). This will allow you to be represented and participate in the school management and planning. This will also allow you to express your concerns as well as any new idea that might make the school a better environment for you. The Convention on the Rights of the Child gives you the right to be heard in matters that concern you (article 12). It also gives you the right to access appropriate information so you can make informed decisions (article 17).

The student’s council can also advocate for your right to a complaints procedure inside the school. This means that your school should have a system that you can go to if you want to complain about any violation of your rights.

You should not be discriminated against at school (article 2). You should not allow for children to be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation, their disability, gender or if they come from a minority group.

The school should be a place where you feel safe and respected, it should be an environment free from violence.

Your rights in your community

You can also have a say in the decisions taken for you in your community. You can try to affect decisions such as building a new playground and giving free access to children to the transport system.

You can form with other children youth clubs or associations to decide together on the different ways in which you can affect decision-making.

Take a look at our list of youth-led organisations worldwide.

Read Iceland: The young people's constitution, interview with Kristinn Johannsson. Kristinn is a member of the municipal youth council in his district.

Your involvement in youth-led organisations can also help you participate in political life. As an organisation or association, you can organise meetings with politicians to try to advocate for your rights. Just try to go to such meetings well prepared (for example, you could have demands or projects prepared to present to the person you're meeting with).

Your rights at home

At home, you should also be able to practice your rights.

You have the right to express your views in matters that affect you. Sometimes, your opinions might be different from those of your parents or guardian (like your political views or simply the way you prefer to wear your hair). Don't hesitate to ask your parents or guardian for guidance, advice and information. They can teach you about their values and help you understand what is right and wrong (article 18). But as you grow, you are entitled to make your own choices and explore your own beliefs.

You can ask to be involved and consulted when it comes to decisions that affect you. For example, you have the right to get involved in education decisions, such as choosing a school with your parents or guardian.

You have the right to access appropriate information. Your parents or guardian can help you there. They can also help you get access to more information in a form more accessible to you.

Your parents or guardian can tell you more about where you come from (for example if you come from a minority group, if you were adopted, have lost your parents or if you are a refugee).

Your home should be a place where you feel safe from violence and abuse (article 19). If you don't, you should say that to someone you trust.

If you want to talk to someone about problems you have, you can visit this page to find a helpline in your country.

The same rights apply to you if people other than your parents are taking care of you (a guardian, a care centre, an orphanage, etc). You should be kept together with your siblings and you should be given every opportunity to maintain contact with your family and community. You should be provided with appropriate care (health, nutritional, emotional, safety care). You should also be able to participate in decision-making around your own care arrangements.

Your rights at the health clinic, doctor’s office

You have the right to life (article 6) and to the best possible health, and access to the best possible health care services (article 24).

More so, at the health clinic or at the hospital, all measures should be taken to respect and protect all your rights.

In order for you to receive the best possible health care, health staff, your parents and children should be aware and respectful of the rights involved.

  • You have the right to be listened to and have your views taken seriously.
  • You have the right to be given information that will help you understand your treatment.
  • You have the right to ask for advice, information and support.
  • You have the right to be asked before anyone touches you.
  • Your privacy should be respected.
  • You have an equal right to treatment and care, regardless of your sex, abilities or disabilities, colour, race or religion.
  • You have the right not to be hurt or humiliated.
  • You have the right to the best possible treatment and care.

If you feel that your rights are not being respected, you should think of ways to change that. One very important thing is to always tell your parents, guardian or anyone else that you trust if anything or anyone made you feel uncomfortable during a visit to a health clinic or hospital.

You can try to engage with an NGO or a child-led organisation to campaign for the necessary changes that need to be done.

You can make a list of the changes that you want to see. You can advocate, for example, to make the time you spend in the waiting area more pleasant (more toys, magazines, posters or leaflets with information about treatments or health care in general, written in wording accessible to you). You can also advocate getting access to education while staying at the hospital.

Your rights in court

Whenever you are in contact with the justice system, it should be a system that understands and respects your rights and your unique needs.

Sending reports to the United Nations

A committee exists at the United Nations (UN) that has the responsibility to look at how much the Convention on the Rights of the Child is respected in the countries that have accepted to be bound by the convention (all countries in the word have accepted that besides the US and Somalia).

The committee is called the Committee on the Rights of the Child and it is a group of 18 people selected from all over the world. Each country that agreed to be bound by the convention (ratified the convention) has to send a report to the committee every 5 years. The report should explain the steps that the country took to better respect the rights of children. The committee can give advice and criticism in the form of recommendations. NGOs can also report to the committee and in many cases children were involved in writing NGO reports.

Children's involvement in writing those reports is very important. The committee receives a lot of reports from adults and doesn't hear enough from children. This is your chance to tell the world how much you feel your rights are being respected and protected. Child Rights Connect, the NGO group for the Convention on the Rights of the Child can help you find an NGO in your country that involves children in reporting to the Committee on the Rights of the Child. You can decide to report on specific issues or on the situation of children's rights in general.

There are many ways in which you can participate in reporting to the committee. You can take part in the research and collecting the information (doing interviews, surveys, finding documents), analysing the information or even writing the report itself. You can also work on the application of the recommendations that the committee gives to the country you live in in the form of "concluding observations". You can also go to the session during which the committee is reviewing the country you live in.

Read Guidelines for child participation in CRC reporting for different ways you can get involved in reporting to the committee.

Download a Guide to CRC reporting.

What can NGOs do?

Children should be involved in our work. They have the right to participate in aspects of our work from planning to implementation. They can be our partners in all the work we do and help shape our programs and activities.

While doing's so, we should of course take into account all children's rights including: their right to non discrimination (article 2), their best interest (article 3), their right to express their opinion freely and to have that opinion taken into account (article 12), the right to express their views and obtain information (article 13), their freedom of thought, conscience and religion (article14), their freedom of association (article 15), their right to access appropriate information (article 17), their right to be protected from violence, abuse, neglect and all forms of exploitation (article 19, 34 and 36).