Härryda municipality and Homa Bay County in Kenya have partnered up to further the rights of children and youths based on the UN Convention of rights of the Child. Their partnership has developed local structures to increase the opportunities for young people to engage with their local democracy.
The UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) was enacted as Swedish law on January 1st 2020. This means that municipalities and regions now are legally obliged to live up to the articles of the CRC. However, according to the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SKR), most Swedish municipalities are lacking a strategy for how to involve young people in the local democracy. One way to develop local tools to strengthen the rights of children is by learning from the experiences of others through a municipal partnership. Härryda municipality in Västra Götaland County and Homa Bay County in Kenya have had success cooperating on the CRC for several years.
A municipal partnership allows a municipality or region in Sweden to be granted financing from ICLD to deep dive into an important local challenge for two or three years alongside an international partner, in order to develop new solutions. Even though Härryda and Homa Bay operate in different contexts, they discovered through ICLD that they shared common challenges to open up their local democratic institutions to allow children and youth to gain influence in the local democracy.
We both faced the challenge that we needed to get better at bringing young people into the democratic process. We could see from early on in the partnership that we potentially could develop new solutions together and learn a lot by comparing our strengths and weaknesses, says Patrik Linde, politician from Härryda and member of the steering group for the partnership.
The CRC sets out rights for children and youths to express their views and have those weighed into decisions that affect them. But sufficient knowledge about how to work with the CRC was lacking among employees in Homa Bay and Härryda. To adress this, they applied to ICLD to get funding for a partnership based around a three year project to develop institutional tools for stronger participation and inclusion of youths. Their mutual exchange of experiences and methods provided the basis for a partnership in which they could learn from each other’s strengths.
Through funding from ICLD, the partners organized mutual study trips, lectures on the CRC and workshops on the rights of children and youths. This enabled them to find out how the CRC could best be fitted to their local contexts. Härryda was inspired by Homa Bay’s methods to use debates as an educational tool and used this to develop their own youth forum.
As a former teacher myself, I was inspired by the schools in Homa Bay that allowed young people to learn by debating important issues as a part of their classes. It gives the young people an opportunity to early on be included in the democratic process, which is an important part of their rights in accordance with the CRC, says Patrik Linde.
The forum in Härryda provides a platform to promote democratic discussion among youths. Härryda also hired a coordinator for the democratic mission of schools and pre-schools. Homa Bay, on the other hand, learnt from Härryda’s methods to include young people in community planning.
The cooperation between Härryda and Homa Bay is an example of how municipalities can use partnerships as a springboard for implementing the CRC locally.
Mutual benefits are the be-all and end-all for ICLD’s municipal partnerships. That’s why its such an inspiration to see how Härryda and Homa Bay have managed to achieve positive, durable results through their partnership. Their success also provides a roadmap going forward for other municipalities on how they can use a partnership to implement the CRC, says Johan Lilja, Secretary General for ICLD.