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Children given a voice through RISE Dreaming activity in Fiji

20 November 2017

Children's drawing from Suva

Universal Children’s Day was established by the United Nations over 50 years ago to highlight the rights of the child and improve their welfare. The date also marks the UN General Assembly’s adoption of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959 and subsequent adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989.

50 of the 230 indicators for the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) directly relate to children, and can only be achieved when children are given a voice. Global Goal 3 – Good Health and Well-being – seeks to improve the survival rate of children under 5, highlighting illness resulting from a lack of safe water, sanitation and hygiene.

A team of global, interdisciplinary researchers are seeking to address this challenge through the Revitalising Informal Settlements and their Environments (RISE) program. RISE is providing unprecedented insight into a more environmentally friendly, water sensitive solution to water management, aiming to improve the health and well-being of people across 24 informal settlements in Makassar, Indonesia and Suva, Fiji.

The program is community-led and socially inclusive, applying a community co-design process for each site. Monash Art Design and Architecture (MADA) is leading program design and engagement, recently implementing co-design workshops in Suva alongside MSDI and the CRC for Water Sensitive Cities with assistance from University of the South Pacific (USP).

RISE Research Fellow, Dr Michaela Prescott explained how the workshop involved a range of participatory tools developed and adapted for different groups within the community, such as children.

“Children are greatly impacted by neighbourhood conditions however there is little information on children’s use of space as they are rarely given opportunity to voice their needs and aspirations,” said Dr Prescott.

“To give children this voice, we ran a children’s Dreaming activity during the co-design. We asked the children, who were between three and fifteen years of age, to draw either their favourite place in their neighbourhood or how they would like the neighbourhood to look. One child illustrated their desire for clean water in the community, and more trees. Many drew playground facilities and sporting grounds. One expressed the need for more appropriate waste disposal by drawing a rubbish bin.”

USP Lecturer from the School of Geography, Earth Science and Environment, Ms Camari Koto highlighted the significance of the Dreaming activity, not only to make the children feel part of the co-design process, but also to articulate their specific concerns to be addressed.

“On Universal Children’s Day we must pause and reflect on our work and how we can ensure children have a voice in the development of their communities. Empowering children in this way is of utmost importance especially in Pacific Island communities where the children’s voices are largely suppressed or ignored,” said Ms Koto.

“I’m proud of the work of the USP students and RISE in involving children in the co-design process. The success of RISE will be measured by its impact on children, which is why we must ensure they are involved in every aspect, right from the start.”

Authored by Michaela Prescott, RISE Research Fellow at Monash University and Camari Koto, Lecturer in the School of Geography, Earth Science and Environment at The University of the South Pacific.