Picture by Anxious Katuruza, from the forthcoming book, FLOURISHING SPRING: Enhancing Children and Youth Participation and Leadership.
Written by Lightwell Mpofu, Africa Community Publishing and Development Trust
Children and youth are still in shackles if we still need to worry that we might have to make a choice between being heard and being loved – being heard and being cared for and ultimately being heard and not being hated for the truth we speak. A recent baseline survey with 330 children and youth aged 8 to 24, revealed that over 80 percent of respondents long to be heard and long for their feelings to be respected by parents, caregivers and even teachers and other adults… The youngest children said they feared being beaten, starved, thrown out of their homes or even killed if they expressed themselves freely!
One young primary school writer actually writes: “Silence is a crime. If we children keep quiet about violence and abuse, no one is going to help us, but if we speak up, all the doors will open.”
Being Heard is more than just being listened to. It is more than just being given the microphone or the megaphone but it has more to do with what happens to the voice of the children after they have voiced out their concern. Is their voice shunned as mere bollocks lacking the sense and wisdom of age? Is it taken to be nothing further from fairy tales and wishful fantasies? Nothing can be further from the truth.
It certainly must evolve beyond this! Beyond the disease of only hearing the youth and children on special occasions like a superficial expensive suit or shoes that are only worn to weddings to impress the crowd yet too tight for comfort. The illusionary image that portrays children and youth as those fit only to be seen and not be heard is horrible to say the least.
The only way in which societies in the world over can sustainably be violence-free is through the respect of children and youth’s voices. The only way for us to overcome the epidemic of sexual violence and the scourge of all manner of violence and abuse against children is by the world taking time to clean its ears. It is time to swallow our pride and erroneous thoughts that make us think that mere old age is synonymous to knowledge about what all children and youth need. Nothing about children and youth can be decided without their involvement.
It is time that our minds open with a desire not just to hear for response but to fully understand the plight that children and youth face. It is such a time to empower and amplify their voice and ensure that they are heard.
True disability is a choice. It is to have perfectly functional eyes yet they do everything but see the plight of the oppressed. It is to have perfectly functional ears yet they are deaf to the blood-curdling screams of help-seekers. It is to have perfectly functional limbs yet with the inability to come to the aid of those who need help.
Dear reader…it is time to pay attention. To hear the voice that has always longed for our attention. That is the first step to a violence free world. That is the first step to being heard.
It begins with you!
Being Heard is one of the themes of the Sexual Violence Research Initiative Forum we have been honored to attend in Rio, Brazil from the 18th to the 21st of September and more information on this will be covered in my next blog.
Below is a poem that I wrote to reflect the essence of being heard:
Being heard is more than a sojourning voice seeking for home in an ear
It is more than an individual pilgrimage
More than a soul’s longing for acceptance
It is a youth revolution
A desire not just for an ear to listen
But for hands and hearts as they’re moved by compassion
to spring to actio
It is about solidarity
The beauty of a unified voice
Magnified for change
It is about tenacity
The strength of a fearless voice
Strengthened by vision
It’s about courage
The passionate boldness of changing bad to good
Motivated by a love for peace
It’s about resilience
The will to stand despite odds
Driven by the desire to see dreams come true
It’s about youth empowerment and involvement in improving youths’ lives
It is not just flying with them in a talon grasp
But a release as we give them the ability to soar in uncharted skies…