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  4. December 2014 - Volume Vol. 78
  5. 20th Anniversary of HURIGHTS OSAKA

 
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FOCUS December 2014 Volume Vol. 78

20th Anniversary of HURIGHTS OSAKA

HURIGHTS OSAKA

HURIGHTS OSAKA’s 20th anniversary celebration in 2014 was set against the context of the persisting and evolving problems facing children and the youth due to the social, economic and cultural conditions of society. Economic downturns affect families that put children and youth in difficult situations. Socio-cultural changes challenge the upbringing and thinking of children and youth, increasing opportunities for abuse against them. Disasters victimize children and youth, and create lifelong impact on survivors.

There are programs and resources, though limited, that address the situation of children and youth including support for the protection and realization of their human rights.

In this light, HURIGHTS OSAKA decided to hold a symposium focusing on these programs and resources for children and youth that uphold human rights. This symposium was part of the 20th anniversary celebration of HURIGHTS OSAKA. The anniversary celebration also included a film festival, and a workshop on human rights centers in the Asia-Pacific.

The Symposium

The symposium was preceded by the keynote speech of the anniversary celebration by the Chairperson of HURIGHTS OSAKA, Professor Kinhide Mushakoji. The symposium consisted of a panel presentation on human rights and the children and youth, and was moderated by the Director of HURIGHTS OSAKA, Osamu Shiraishi.

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Professor Kinhide Mushakoji spoke about the original idea that caused the local human rights movement in Osaka to work for the establishment of HURIGHTS OSAKA in early 1980s. He noted the call on Japan to help promote human rights in the Asia- Pacific in the early 1980s by Yo Kobota, who was then a United Nations official. Professor Mushakoji noted that this call, heeded by both the local human rights movement and the local governments of Osaka, reflected the dream of a 16th century war lord – Toyotomi Hideyoshi – for Naniwa (the old name of Osaka). He explained that Hideyoshi dreamt of having a grand tea ceremony gathering in Naniwa that would have the participation of everyone without distinction. He interpreted this dream as a notion of democracy, of Naniwa/Osaka as a place of democracy.

He saw the establishment of HURIGHTS OSAKA as related to this Naniwa dream.

Professor Mushakoji also briefly reviewed the regional program and domestic activities of HURIGHTS OSAKA.

The theme of the symposium emphasized the importance of given attention to the human rights of the future generations. The symposium featured human rights centers that provided practical measures to children and youth. Two human rights centers in Japan and one from the Philippines presented concrete experiences in providing practical services to children and youth. Representatives of the three human rights centers and one non-governmental organization spoke on the following support programs for children and youth:

  • a. Psychosocial services for children and youth in difficult situations (including children in disaster areas);
  • b. Promotion of right to play of children even when undergoing medical treatment in the hospital;
  • c. Counseling support for children and youth; and d. Promotion of the rights of the child.

The panel speakers emphasized the practical measures of the programs as well as the concrete experiences in implementing them.  They represented the following human rights centers:

  • 1. Yoshie Abe - General Research Institute on the Convention of the Rights of the Child;
  • 2. Agnes Camacho - Psychosocial Support and Children’s Rights Resource Center (PST CRRC); and
  • 3. Hiroko Yamashita - Child Information and Research Center.

A representative of a non- governmental organization (NGO) that provided various services to promote the child’s right to play (Kathy Wong, PlayRight Hong Kong) completed the panel speakers.

Panel Presentations

Ms Abe presented the experience of providing service to children affected by the earthquake-tsunami-nuclear- meltdown in northeast Japan in 2011. She explained that the General Research Institute on the Convention of the Rights of the Child has been doing integrated, inter-disciplinary research on the rights of the child including research on “rights of the child in the community” with the involvement of local governments and NGOs in Japan, and rights of the child in Asia; assessing practices, advocacy campaigns and policies regarding children; and maintaining an archive on materials on the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC). She mentioned the number of children who were affected by the 2011 disaster, the government support for the psychological care of children (support for the visit of emergency counsellors to schools), and the local government assistance programs for such children. She emphasized the importance of ensuring that these support measures for children subscribe to the principles of the CRC, particularly the participation of children in their own rehabilitation and other matters affecting them. She noted the projection of children and youth by the mainstream media before the disaster as juvenile offenders, and the change of image to children and youth helping in the disaster areas. She proceeded to present the results of a research on the role of children in responding to the disaster. She stressed the different types of work they did (cleaning, cooking, and helping smaller children and old people), the appreciation they received from the disaster victims, and the positive effect of the experience on the children and youth (appreciation of their own capacity to provide help to others, their role in society, their realization of the need to document their experience to enable them to tell others about it). The research results proved the validity of the view that children who suffer from disasters do recover and develop through their own participation in the rehabilitation work.

Ms Camacho presented another experience on assisting children in disaster situation. She reported the case of Dingalan town, Aurora province in northern Philippines that suffered damage from four typhoons that came in succession over a two-week period. She described the implementation of a project using an integrated community- based child-focused disaster management and development framework. The project had several components:

  • a. Community consultations (consisting of psychosocial assessment workshops with adults and children, validation of results and community planning [with adults and children], integrated and participatory monitoring and evaluation of plan implementation, and training on action- planning [including basic financial accounting and reporting]);
  • b. Activities addressing the safety and comfort of children (using creative workshops to process children’s disasterexperience, and referral to professional help for further support and assistance when necessary);
  • c. Promotion of a caring and supportive family and community environment for children, consisting of

    • 1. Training for local government officials [e.g., members of the local disaster coordinating councils], school teachers and community leaders on child rights and child- focused disaster risk reduction;
    • 2. Training for teachers and community caregivers on the provision of psychological first aid to children; and
    • 3. Training on “Children, Health and Rights in Disaster Situations: health and hygiene, herbal garden, composting, waste segregation.”

She stressed the importance of children and youth groups, with guidance from adults, implementing community projects.

Ms Wong introduced Playright Hong Kong and explained that one of its programs was focused on children undergoing medical treatment in hospitals. She further explained that research showed the need to allow children to play while confined in the hospital to create an environment with reduced stress and anxiety (and to aid feelings of normality), to help the children regain confidence and self-esteem, to provide an outlet for feelings of anger and frustration, to help the child understand treatment and illness, and to help children become prepared for hospital procedures and treatment. In addition, play also aided in assessment and diagnosis of the children’s condition, minimized regression, and helped speed up recovery and rehabilitation.

Playright Hong Kong has been implementing the right to play program in five public hospitals in Hong Kong that provide various services to children. She presented several types of play catering to different stages of medical treatment:

  • a. Preparation Play – to prepare children for medical procedures or treatment by making them understand what will happen, what they will feel like and things they can do to help them cope with the situation;
  • b. Distraction Play – to provide support and distraction during medical procedures that enable children to reduce anxiety and pain, by focusing on something other than the medical procedures;
  • c. Medical Play – to make children become familiar, explore and be educated on medical themes and/or the use of medical equipment. For adults, this is meant to allow them to receive information about child’s perception of her/ his psycho-social reactions to the medical experiences;
  • d. Expressive Play – to help children express or deal with the stressful situation by providing an acceptable and safe outlet for anger, frustration and aggression; and
  • e. Developmental Play – to promote normal development and prevent regression (important for long-stay patients).

Ms Wong also mentioned outreach play programs to provide more play opportunities to children with chronic illnesses. And to support the right to play program in hospitals, Playright Hong Kong recruited “Hospital Play Youth Ambassadors” and provided training for doctors and nurses, volunteers and nursing students. It supported the offering of a Certificate Course in Theory and Practice of Hospital Play for individuals intending to become hospital play specialists or those who would like to incorporate the therapeutic play approach in their own profession. Playright Hong Kong has been organizing Happy Bear Hospital Playday and publishing a newsletter to increase public awareness on right to play in hospitals.

Ms Yamashita explained the child abuse situation in Japan. She cited statistics on the increasing number of reported incidents of child abuse since 2004, the different cases of bullying that led to suicide of the bullied children, the use of corporal punishment in schools, child poverty, and school absence. She stressed the need to fully respect the rights of children under the CRC in the Japanese society. She noted that 2014 was the 20th year since the CRC was ratified by Japan,and yet there were still many issues about children that needed resolution, including the acceptance of the rights of the children to develop, be protected from harm and take part in matters affecting them.

She also reported on a recent forum of people who support the CRC in the Kansai region. The Kansai Forum on the Convention on the Rights of the Child 2014, with more than a hundred participants from nineteen local organizations that work on the CRC, discussed the problems caused by a society that

  • • looked down on children and parents who raised children;
  • • saw parents with small children as nuisance, neglected them, or left them behind;
  • • saw bullying as a confrontation between the victim and the perpetrator, and to be solved by adults who did not see children as agents in resolving their own problems;
  • • accepted violence not just in schools, but also in society where it was deeply rooted;
  • • forced on children and parents with children an image of how children should be or should be raised;
  • • made poverty invisible, or have people who tried not to see the poverty;
  • • ignored the rights of children with non- Japanese nationalities and children with disabilities.

The forum participants adopted the stance of facilitating change in society by listening to the voice of the children based on the principles of the CRC. They agreed on the need for a movement that would help realize the rights of the children based on the CRC. She explained that the Child Information and Research Center, as a public interest organization, was working for a society that respected each child or adult.

She emphasized that the work of the Center was being done by people concerned about the human rights of children and also by the children themselves.

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Significance of the Symposium

The keynote speech and the symposium stressed the necessity of re-examining the original inspiration for the establishment of an institution and reviewing the societal context where it operates, and of maximizing existing resources in collaboration with other institutions to pursue common goals.

Indeed, the symposium’s focus on children and youth emphasizes the concern for the future which any institution with public interest character has to deal with within its own unique mandate and limited resources. In celebrating its 20th year of existence, HURIGHTS OSAKA needed to look back at its origin to be inspired again; and look forward to the future to reaffirm its place in the field of human rights.

For further information, please contact HURIGHTS OSAKA.


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