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Getting ready for UNCRC implementation in Shetland

Shetland MSYPs holding up a Shetland flag against a SYP pop-up banner
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By Joe Smith and Bertie Summers, MSYPs for Shetland Islands

We both recently had the enormous pleasure of being elected to serve as the next Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP) for Shetland. As part of this, we were invited to attend an event in the Town Hall in Lerwick, Shetland’s largest urban area.

The event was held to look forward to the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). The aim was about expanding and protecting the rights and welfare of children and young people all across Scotland.

Attendees were split up into four different groups, based on the colour of the star or the circle we had chosen. The groups were introduced to four different organisations who are all determined to improve the lives of all young people right across Scotland:

  • My Rights, My Say who provide support to young people aged 12-15 with additional support needs to exercise their rights to be involved in decisions about their support in school.
  • Together, the Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights, whose mission is to ensure that all babies, children and young people should be able to enjoy all their human rights all of the time.
  • Children’s Parliament outlined their promises to children and aim to start making children’s rights real.
  • The Scottish Youth Parliament, the democratically elected voice of Scotland’s young people, was represented by Head of Participation and Programmes, Rosy Burgess, who was visiting the Shetland Islands, to provide us with induction training to start our new roles.

Throughout the evening, event attendees listened to members of staff from these different organisations to talk to us about what they stand for, as well as what they are hoping to achieve in the future.

Unfortunately, the only downside was the ferocious and merciless windy weather, which is all too common in Shetland. Sadly, one of the scheduled speakers was forced to deliver their remarks online remotely from Edinburgh.

At the end of the evening, we were both invited to make short speeches as the elected members tasked with representing local young people in the Youth Parliament. It was a truly incredible experience, and we would both like to sincerely thank everybody who was involved in it.

Events such as these are exceptionally important. There is so much that needs to improve in the lives of young people throughout Scotland with the multiple challenges they are facing. One challenge emphasised on the evening is how more and more children leave school at the end of the day to return to a cold home with no food or nowhere to sleep comfortably.

Despite all the high hopes, today’s generation of Scottish youngsters are doing no better (or even worse) than their parents in some aspects. There are mountains to climb in terms of achieving economic success, as well as declining standards in education. This absolutely needs to change, and we are both confident that we can be the voices for bringing that about.

It is imperative that nobody loses hope in a better future. Through valuing and respecting the views of young people today, we can all look forward to a better tomorrow.

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