Being all ears: Right of Children to be heard

  • Palak Chaudhary, Agrasar

Her radiant eyes dimmed, her smile faded, and her voice trembled. Tears flowed down her cheeks as her
heart overflowed with emotions. With incredible courage, she openly shared her feelings with at least 15
people. This remarkable 17-year-old girl showed us the power of embracing vulnerability and courage

During a life timeline activity session using the Child-And Youth-Friendly Participatory Action Research
Toolkit,1 children shared the highs and lows of their lives through ascending and descending lines. The
session became emotional and interactive. The 17-year-old girl’s story stood out and it deeply impacted
me. She began with a smile but soon tears welled up as she shared her biggest hurdle: failing her
mathematics board exam. What hit her harder was her parents’ constant comparisons to her sister, who
excelled in her exams. As she spoke, our eyes locked, and she silently sought my go-ahead to release her
emotions. With a nod, she continued.

I wondered why a girl facing difficulties would open up to a room of 15 people. Then it struck me, she felt
safe in a space where people listened without interrupting or judging. This setting fostered an
atmosphere where every child felt free to openly express themselves. It was a powerful reminder that just by being there to listen, without offering solutions, can ease burdens and make someone feel valued. Being “all ears” holds tremendous power. Conversely, neglect can leave them feeling unappreciated and hesitant to share their thoughts. This session marked the beginning of a good connection between me, and the children and it taught me to stay focused and patient while they share.

Listening to children and creating spaces for them to speak freely is not only an important skill but also a
right of every child as stated in Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
(UNCRC), “The right of the child to be heard” and in Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution of India which
guarantees the “Right to freedom of speech and expression” to all citizens.

On this note, a boy studying in 12th class, shared “No one in our school listens to us, just like you do.” On
sharing this thought, I questioned him “How does that make you feel?” to which he replied “it feels
ignored and sad”. Another girl remarked at the end of the session, “Talking to you felt good.”

Even adults feel sad when they are left neglected hence, children are no exception. Can we be better
listeners, create safer spaces for children, and treat them as we want to be treated? I wonder.    

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