I recently met with Child Human Rights Defenders (CHRDs) and Youth Human Rights Defenders from Moldova: Anastasya Suslov, Andreea Cazacu, Elvira Drangoi, Gheorghe Galbura, Natalia Pîrciu, and Vasile Cocîrla. They represented a broader group of defenders from Platforma Copiilor, which unites CHRDs across the country. We were also joined by Cristina Leu and Rodica Caimac, Young Women Human Rights Defenders from the Child Rights Information Centre Moldova supporting CHRDs.
Like their peers worldwide, Moldovan CHRDs promote a wide array of human rights, such as environmental rights, rights of Roma children, women, persons with disabilities, LGBTQ people, and other vulnerable groups. In addition, they monitor human rights in education, they work against bullying, they promote sexuality education, and even advocate for road safety outside their school.
It was fascinating to hear how different paths led them to human rights work. Some participants learned about human rights through school subjects and were encouraged by their teachers. Others discovered human rights through after-school activities. Several CHRDs had suffered from bullying and used their personal experience to help others.
Their stories clearly demonstrate how important it is to give space at school to teach about human rights, whether during or after class, and to have supportive teachers. It is also essential, of course, to have platforms like Platforma Copiilor that give children a space to reflect on human rights and exchange ideas.
The participants told me about the main challenges CHRDs face in Moldova, both in schools and universities and outside them. They emphasised the pressing need to protect CHRDs, especially girls, from any form of violence and the invasion of their privacy online and offline. Considering that schools are often the first place for CHRDs to express their human rights ideas, it is also crucial that they are not punished through deliberately lowered grades or other disciplinary measures.
CHRDs need to participate in the decisions that will shape the world today and their future. In my mandate’s daily work, I see numerous violations of the right to freedom of expression of Human Rights Defenders regardless of their age. However, for CHRDs, even more effort is needed to ensure that their ideas are not dismissed as “not serious” or mere “complaints against the adults”. State authorities, journalists, and teachers need to have relevant training to encourage the participation of youths and children, and to incorporate their recommendations.
Finally, the participants informed me about Moldova’s draft law on the Human Rights Defenders. They stressed the importance of including the chapter that defines CHRDs and stipulates additional empowerment and protection measures for them.
I was truly inspired by the meeting and will take into account the participants’ inputs and recommendations in my subsequent work on protecting and supporting CHRDs in Moldova and worldwide.