Small Voices, Big Dreams 2015

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Posted on 11/10/2015

Children should be seen AND heard.

Selene, 10, Mexico

Selene, 10, Mexico

“Sometimes parents don’t feel like they had a chance to be free because they had children. I think that’s one of the reasons they mistreat children.”

These are the words of Selene, a 10-year-old girl from Mexico, who spoke to us for the sixth annual Small Voices, Big Dreams survey. Commissioned by ChildFund Alliance, including its U.S. member, ChildFund International, the poll reached nearly 6,000 children from 44 countries, including the United States. This year, children from both developed and developing nations answered questions about their sense of safety. The survey results are launched each Universal Children’s Day, Nov. 20.

The conversations with children during the survey highlighted their particular insights into why they are unsafe and what it would take to make them safe. In short, we learned this: Children want to be seen and heard — and valued. And they want it to start at home.

“Parents should treat children’s big mistakes as small and their small mistakes as none,” says Van, 11, from Vietnam. Thien, another 11-year-old boy from Vietnam, says, “If it’s the child’s fault, please explain to him. Don’t beat him.”

Thien, 11, Vietnam

Thien, 11, Vietnam

Sometimes the world expects things from children that it shouldn’t. For a family living in extreme poverty, a child may be perceived as a burden, or as a source of free labor, or as a commodity to be married off for a bride price. ChildFund works with parents and communities to transform how they see their children — as learners and contributors, as blessings worthy of care and attention. This idea is, in fact, a central part of our mission: In addition to helping children improve their own lives, we also work to encourage their families, communities and even their governments to circle around and promote “the worth and rights of children.” Not just their rights, but their worth.

That’s exactly what children in both developed and developing countries are asking of adults: to see their value — to listen to them, and to respect them. “We need to educate adults,” says Noelia, age 12, from Bolivia. “There should be stronger laws to protect children. Abusers should go to jail. Otherwise, what does it mean when we say, ‘free from harm’? Our parents should be with us to take care of us.”

Jesuthas, 10, Sri Lanka

Jesuthas, 10, Sri Lanka

Selene’s insight at the beginning of this story, about why adults abuse children, might be unexpected coming from a little girl of 10 who suffers from health problems and learning difficulties. But her wisdom shines forth nevertheless, and this may very well be thanks to her mother’s support at home: “Kids always hit me a lot at school,” Selene says. “Since I have a disease, they make fun of me all the time — they tell me that I’m sick, that I’m really dumb. But as my mom says, they will pay for that, not me.”

The Data Report

In English: Small Voices, Big Dreams 2015
In Spanish: Pequeñas Voces, Grandes Sueños 2015
Small Voices Big Dreams Infographic

Jesuthas, a 10-year-old from Sri Lanka, sums up a key message of Small Voices, Big Dreams: “If we are loved by parents and others, we will do no harm.” And Jesuthas knows about harm. He lost part of his right arm in a shell blast that hit his house during Sri Lanka’s civil war that ended in 2009.

Children should be seen and heard — and known and loved fully. It’s what will keep them safe, and it’s what they’re asking for, again and again, the world over. They have so much to give in return.

Read the Small Voices, Big Dreams 2015 report and learn more about what nearly 6,000 remarkable young people have to say.