Mtoto News is an online platform on news information and resources on children, established in February 2017. Mtoto News was born out of a need to fill a gap in the reporting of children issues and giving children a platform to voice their concern. As a company, one of our values is child participation. We are dedicated to ensuring that children are involved in discussions on issues affecting them.
Child participation means that children are given the right to not only voice their opinions but also have these opinions taken into consideration when making decisions. The true goal of child participation is to have children’s voices influence policies made for them and on issues that affect them.
Child participation is one of the core principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. As an organisation we are committed to the realisation of the rights of the child not only nationally but globally. Children have the right to participate in every decision-making process that may affect their lives, no matter if it is at national, regional or international level.
The process of child participation requires adequate communication and a safe environment where the children are free to voice their opinions without the fear of being judged or intimidated. It also requires that children are involved regardless of their socioeconomic status. Child participation is important because it encourages self-expression, active citizenship, responsibility, sense of belonging and empowerment in children.
Child participation remains a challenge in our Kenyan context as the child is not seen as a competent contributor to the decision-making process. This is where organisations that promote child participation come in. Mtoto News understands that one of the challenges to child participation in Kenya is the significant lack of skills to effectively voice their opinions and to effectively engage policy makers. Therefore, the goal of our department is to ensure that we equip children with the relevant skills to effectively engage policymakers both in mainstream and digital media.
To ensure children are engaged in the decision making process, we support child participation events such as the Children's Devolution Conference. We provided social media support and streamed all the events to ensure children who were not able to attend the conference were kept informed.
Our commitment to ensuring children are able to be their own advocates started with our work with the Kenya Children's Assembly. We train them on the use of social media as a tool for advocacy which has helped these children effect change in their own communities.
In addition, we conduct a Children Journalism Training, a project we refer to as Sauti Zetu Initiative. The first Sauti Zetu cohort completed a five-day training in April 2019. These children were trained on storytelling, social media, writing, editing videos, advocacy and online safety. The training taught them the basic skills of media as well as a way they can use these to be their own advocates. To ensure that these children to do not become targets because of their online engagement we also trained them on online safety. We believe in what we learn becoming a part of who we are therefore the training did not end on the fifth day.
We are currently providing mentorship to these children in their areas of interest. We are giving them a platform on all our online platforms, where we have child generated content. Our news segments are now done by children and we also given them an opportunity to write their own news items. We will also have articles written by children on our blog on issues chosen by the children.
By doing all these we hope to contribute to child participation by increasing child generated content in all platforms as well as increase self-expression and responsibility in the children. The children journalism training will be held during school holidays, i.e. April, July/August and December.