Some years ago I was invited to join the WISHES network where we focus on building communities to support health and well-being of children according to needs and rights. WISHES is a professional international network of researchers, teachers, practitioners, policy makers, opinion leaders and other specialists in the areas of health and education.
Elise Sijthoff is the enthusiastic founder of the network and I would like to share one of her newest ventures. When the Netherlands was hosting the EU Presidency in spring 2016 she used the opportunity to start up the Children's International Press Centre in Amsterdam.
Children from primary schools got involved in making news about EU policy and they were invited to the City Hall in Amsterdam and to the European Parliament in Brussels on several occasions to interview politicians and provide information directly to the decision-makers about children's lives which in turn could feed into the process of policy-making at national and European levels.
The initiative is a great example of how child-friendly policies can be developed not only for the children, but with the children. The children are competent to join the process in a professional manner, when they are familiar with the topics and guided by trusted adults around them. The methodology that was used among the children joining the Children's International Press Centre was tapping into the life world of the children and the settings to which they are relating, and in which they are living and learning: home, school, city hall and other special institutions. The children helped to break down the barriers of communication and understanding by explaining themes, processes and procedures in their own words.
Health literacy is a cornerstone in the democratization of health. Being active agents from an early age can strengthen the competencies of the children to become active and engaged citizens also as adults. These kind of initiatives need to receive support and funding to grow and spread across the whole of EU. Children who know how to find, understand, appraise and apply information to manage their health and well-being are assets for all populations, now and in the future.