An Interview with Gerison Lansdown

I had the pleasure of interviewing Gerison Lansdown on her experience in children’s rights. As an international children’s rights advocate, Gerison spent the first eight years assisting in the development of the Children’s Rights Development Unit. This was to promote the implementation of children’s rights throughout the UK. Throughout the interview, it became clear that Gerison’s career in social work had helped shape her passion for children’s advocacy.

The journey into Children’s Rights…

Beginning her career as a social worker, Gerison became increasingly frustrated with the wider issues children and families faced. The issues were more often than not centred around poor housing, poverty and unemployment. Recognising the recurring issues, she started to become interested in policy. Working with non-governmental organisations and teaching social work, Gerison managed to secure a directors job for the Children’s Rights Development Unit. The children’s advocates most recent work has been within the Middle East to try and implement a children’s rights approach to education:

“Until professionals understand what children’s rights are, then we won’t shift the culture towards respect for children’s rights”.
 
How the UK can help parents understand Children’s Rights...
It becomes clear that the UK needs to create further strategies in order to educate parents on what children’s rights are and how they should be used. Gerison states that “the information just isn’t there”, and calls for action to be taken. This ranges from leaflets in the supermarket and public spaces, to meetings at schools with teachers informing parents and even parents receiving information at the hospital after childbirth.
 
The most important dimension to creating an enabling environment for younger children…
Gerison lists five dimensions that are highly important in order to create an enabling environment. Amongst these, she believes that the most important is to address the social norms within a culture, suggesting that adults act more as facilitators rather than leading young children. Examples can be noted with creations of children’s committees in nurseries, where they can decide on the food they eat and the types of play they enjoy the most. This creates a greater responsibility for younger children to act as contributors to their education rather than passive recipients as it is thought that children between the ages of zero to eight are often less likely to be listened to. This fact was first highlighted in Gerison’s work in ‘Promoting Children’s Participation in Democratic Decision-Making’, a paper published by UNICEF in 2001.     
 
It becomes clear that although progress has been made within the UK with the adoption and promotion of children’s rights, there is still a long way to go. From training all professionals and advising parents, to allowing children of all ages to have their voices heard in education. Despite the hurdles and barriers throughout this journey, it becomes clear that the progress which has been made would not have been the same without the extensive work of Gerison Lansdown.

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Author and Interviewer

My name is Mikki and I am 30 years old. I am interested in research methods involving children's participation and working towards children's voices having a greater impact on political and education decisions both nationally and internationally. I am also interested in the application of critical discourse analysis to highlight discrepancies and inequalities amongst the current education framework for young children, particularly mental health. I commence my postgraduate studies in Education (Research, Design and Methodology), at the University of Oxford in October 2021. I hope to be able to work within the civil service, specifically in the education sector to make a positive change to education practices for primary school children to promote a more inclusive education.