Last Friday, 200 children met at Leeds Metropolitan University to share their views on the social and environmental issues that most concerned them.
The event was the culmination of Go-Givers Make a Difference Challenge in Leeds, and took place in the university’s Great Hall.
In the audience was the Chief Executive of Leeds City Council and the Voice and Influence Coordinator from Children’s Services who are both passionate about listening to children’s opinions and giving them an opportunity to influence decisions as Leeds works towards becoming a Child Friendly City.
The Children’s Mayor took to the stage first, in full regalia, and read out his manifesto outlining what he would like to do to improve life for people living in Leeds. Then pupils from Colton Primary School eloquently and powerfully demonstrated how people with a disability are sometimes treated and made a passionate plea for attitudes to change.
Templenewsam Halton Primary School introduced the audience to some unfamiliar and exotic animals, before explaining that these creatures, like many other species, were now extinct as a result of hunting and habitat loss. The children also spoke about the plight of children in Syria, child soldiers all over the world, the need to reverse the decline in the bee population, road safety and dangerous parking outside schools, street crime and children with cancer.
While the topics chosen by the children were diverse, and ranged from local problems to global concerns, their desire to speak out and have a voice was the same. As I passed the microphone from one child to the next, I was struck (not for the first time in this job) by the contrast between how small the children looked on stage, and how big their capacity for empathy and understanding was. As adults, it’s our responsibility to facilitate this; and to listen.