Children competent enough?
Children are experts on their own lives from an early age, they express themselves from birth. Through crying the child conveys: "I am thirsty", "I need a fresh nappy" or "I am tired". Over the years, children learn to express themselves more clearly to adults. They acquire skills that enable them to better recognise, articulate and assert their needs and requirements in the world.
From our point of view, it is less about the child's stage of development than about the degree of information and the quality of communication. As a matter of principle, we demand a dialogue between children and adults. A serious dialogue means listening to the child, respecting it and taking its needs and ideas seriously.
To this extent, the participation of children is not dependent on a certain minimum age. Children should be allowed to decide for themselves from when they participate in which decisions. They should have the opportunity to exchange views not only among themselves but also with older and more experienced people. The prerequisite is that facts are explained to them in an age-appropriate manner.
In this way we avoid both the danger of excluding children from participation in society because of their age and the danger of overburdening children with certain decisions.
In other parts of the world, children are often trusted more than in Europe or the Global North. In Peru, for example, twelve-year-olds have become mayors, in Guinea-Bissau there are children's village councils and in India there are children's trade unions.