Three young people from across Cork took to the virtual stage recently as participants in the third annual Child Talks event.
Child Talks, which is organised by the Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO) to mark World Children’s Day, is a Ted Talks-style event that aims to elevate the voices of children and young people and provide a unique platform for them to share their stories and vision.
An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin and the Ombudsman for Children, Dr. Niall Muldoon joined speakers from across Ireland aged 8 to 18 years as they took to the virtual stage to cover a range of topics including mental health, individuality at school, the environment, living with autism, homelessness, youth activism and cultural identity.
Charlie Kavanagh (8) from Ballinhassig who spoke about how caring for the environment at a local level is vital to all our lives.
Cuan O’Neill (10) from Blackrock was diagnosed with autism as a young boy. In his short video, narrated by Cuan and created with the help of his father Eamonn, he presented a series of drawings that explains the exercises and tools he uses to meet the challenges he faces.
Evan O’Connell (18) from Ballincollig, spoke about activism, a subject he was introduced to just two years ago. Evan wants to empower young people to build their own activism toolbox from scratch and to stand up for the issues they believe in.
“The stories and experiences of the participants of Child Talks 2020 illustrate how children and young people are often leaders in times of change and challenge," Mr Martin said. "I appreciate how difficult the past few months have been for young people, how much they have missed out on, and I understand that they are worried about their families and friends. I also know how resilient and strong young people are and how supportive they are of each other.
“Be proud of all the things you have already achieved, bring the learnings and experiences of the last eight months with you into the future, and make your family, your society and the world a better place.”
Due to Covid-19 restrictions Child Talks, which normally takes place as a live event, was moved entirely online. Each of the speakers and the hosts, under the guidance of the OCO Child Talks team, recorded their story from their own homes all over Ireland.
Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration, and Youth Roderic O’ Gorman congratulated 'all the participants who I know went to a huge effort to create the programme'.
"World Children’s Day is an opportunity for us to advocate, celebrate and promote children’s rights it is therefore truly inspiring to see how these children and young people are so capable of advocating for themselves, their families and their communities," he said.
“The format for Child Talks 2020 may have changed quite dramatically but the stories and experiences are more powerful than ever," Dr Muldoon said.
Child Talks 2020 is testament to both the resilience and enterprising nature of young people during the Covid- 19 pandemic. I want to thank them all for stepping up and sharing their stories.”
Child Talks 2020 took place on Friday November 20. It was broadcast on RTÉ News Now and can be watched back on the OCO website https www.oco.ie