What is ProNATs?
ProNATs is a non-profit organisation that promotes the rights of children, in particular working children, worldwide. We maintain contacts with the movements of working children and youth in Africa, Asia and Latin America, support them politically and carry out educational offers on the topics in Europe.
Active for working children since 1997
Under the slogan "Strengthen children's rights instead of demanding bans", employees of child rights organisations, trade unions, "Third World" solidarity groups, educational institutions and universities came together in November 1997 to form a Germany-wide project group which is committed to combating the exploitation of working children and to strengthening their position. The name ProNATs was composed of the Latin preposition "pro" (= for) and the Spanish abbreviation "NATs" ("Niños, Niñas y Adolescentes Trabajadores"), as some of the participants were already closely linked to the Latin American children's movements or worked directly with them. In the course of several large projects, ProNATs took on the legal form of an association in August 2005, and was shortly afterwards granted non-profit status. Today, ProNATs has contacts with organisations of working children in over 50 countries worldwide.
ProNATs opposes stereotypes of working children and "child labour", which are widespread in Europe and have almost exclusively negative connotations. The result: prohibitions and elimination of child labour are demanded from all sides without considering the consequences for the children concerned. Instead of generalisations, we advocate a differentiated assessment of the work of children. We take targeted action against exploitation and violence at the workplace of children and condemn the circumstances and conditions which violate the free will, self-determination and rights of working children. ProNATs therefore advocates the recognition of working children as individuals and as a social group, who also make an important contribution to their families and societies.
ProNATs is networked with organisations such as Christliche Initiative Romero, terre des hommes, Kindernothilfe, Brot für die Welt and Save the Children. We regularly exchange information with other support groups for working children. ProNATs is a member of the Berliner Entwicklungspolitischer Ratschlag (BER) and worked in the former German NGO Forum on Child Labour.
A partner in solidarity from the Global North
ProNATs sees itself as a partner in solidarity with the movements and organisations of working children and youth (NATs/EJT/WCY) in the Global South, with whom it maintains regular contact. We make known the experiences, concerns and demands of the protagonists of these movements in the Global North and contribute to a better understanding of their life realities. We also maintain contact with working children in Europe and occasionally with working children in former Eastern Bloc countries. ProNATs supports the international networking of children's movements, encourages their support and arranges contacts, e.g. with journalists who report on the subject. It also organises specialist conferences, workshops and lectures and responds to numerous enquiries from interested individuals and organisations on the subject of child labour and working children.
One of our most important activities was the organisation of the Second World Meeting of the Movements of Working Children and Youth in Berlin in April and May 2004. It was attended by 30 delegates from 22 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America and three youths from Russia. The aim of the world meeting was to network and discuss common demands. The population of the Global North was to be convinced of the necessity that there must be a right also for children to work. Furthermore, the public should be sensitised to the living situation, interests and demands of working children in the Global South. To date, we support numerous other international meetings of working children through co-organisation and co-financing, and ProNATs members frequently travel to the meetings and provide on-site support.
Emancipatory and rights-based approach
The emancipatory approach advocated by ProNATs aims to grant children autonomy in thinking and social action, to support them in recognising and formulating their own interests, to sensitise them for their rights and to assist them in claiming these rights. In this way we promote the development of self-confident and critical personalities. The empowerment perspective adopted in this process does not focus on the children's weaknesses and dependencies but encourages them to perceive themselves and others in the context of their skills and abilities and to orientate themselves towards their own (and joint) strengths and resources.
The resulting empowerment of children is important in the Global South, but it is equally important for the relationship between adults and children in the Global North. Accepting children as social subjects and supporting them as adults in their actions in a spirit of solidarity and self-reflection are integral parts of our work. A prerequisite for this is the perception of one's own social privileges as an adult as well as the structural discrimination of children ("adultism") - an integral part of societies worldwide.
We carry out political education work in Europe - both for adults and children - and promote children's rights in schools and youth institutions through our own projects.
ProNATs' members, including adults and young people, now exist in several European and non-European countries. Active participation in the ProNATs association is currently exclusively on a voluntary basis. Regular meetings of active members in Berlin (to which interested non-members are also invited) serve to coordinate, exchange information and further develop. A live connection via video conferencing also enables members who are not in Berlin to participate. According to our statutes, a general meeting of members takes place once a year to which non-active members are also invited.
ProNATs convenes working groups at irregular intervals to examine topics in greater detail or to develop projects. In the past, for example, a working group on children's rights has carried out projects with theatrical-pedagogical elements in schools and youth leisure facilities, a working group on school networking has established contact between German school classes and school classes in the Global South, organised exchanges and introduced pupils to topics of global learning, and a working group on girls and housework has researched facts about this informal area of work, which is neglected in many statistics.