Tuesday, 15 September 2015 07:22

SOUTH AFRICA: The policy of children’s well-being

Editorial, 9 September 2015 – More than 200 delegates participated in the 5th Conference of the International Society for Child Indicators, that was held on 2-4 September 2015 in the University of Cape Town. Researchers, practitioners, policy makers and child advocates from across the world have gathered for 3 days to share and discuss the latest child indicator research and implications for policy and interventions. The conference was emulated by high-profile key speakers, including Dawit Mezmur, Chair of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Asher Ben-Arieh and colleagues presented the main results of the Children’s worlds study on children’s subjective well-being, analysing the data collected, in several phases, with altogether 90.000 children from 21 countries. They used satisfaction scales, agreement scales and socio-demographic characteristics to understand how children’s subjective well-being is related to social, economic, political, religious and cultural factors at country level. Despite the rich information gathered, the problem is that there are very few sources of indicators covering all the countries. The diversity of indicators (about a hundred) makes international comparisons difficult. On the other side, reduction of the complexity through some major socio-economic indicators end in "rather bizarre" explanations like Jonathan Bradshaw highlighted when showing the positive link between inflation and well-being.

A reasonable level of multivariate analysis shows however, and surprisingly, that there is no clear association between national-level monetary indicators of material well-being and children’s subjective well-being, as was stressed by Gill Main and others. This confirms the importance of indicators of child poverty which relate to children’s direct experience and the need for a child-centred tool useful for international comparisons. The sample should also be more representative, as the present ones only include schooled children. As many have suggested, there is more to know on cultural factors. Ferran Casas suggested that correlations might be context and language specific.

Some insightful ideas emerged from the panel on methodological issues in undertaking multinational qualitative research on children’s understanding of well-being, organized by Susann Fegter, Tobia Fattore & Christine Hunner-Kriesel. The importance of children’s agency, their freedom to chose and their relationships have been underlined in many instances throughout the conference sessions. Among others, Gerry Redmond called for more study on how discourses and institutions exclude people or reduces the possibility of their experiences to be told. Getting closer to children’s experiences in research is also respectful of the children’s right to be heard (art. 12 UNCRC). Implementation of the UNCRC is certainly part of how worldwide, as South African Shirley Pendlebury underlined, "well-being is politically shaped".

by Daniel Stoecklin
Source: Institut International des Droits de l’Enfant (IDE)

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