Slovenia marks Children's Week for 41st time

Photo: CTK

For decades Slovenia has been designating a week of every year to a campaign that reminds the public of the right of every child - no matter how different - to live a happy and comfortable life, without discrimination. This year was no exception and the 41st campaign organised by Slovenia's Friends of Youth Association was launched on Monday.

Photo: CTK
During this week, children and teenagers were offered various programmes, such as free puppet shows, an art competition and workshops. I talked to Liana Kalcina of the Friends of Youth Association of Slovenia about the situation of children in the country and she said that this year's Children's Week aims to create conditions for applying children's fundamental rights as stated in the Convention on the Rights of the Child:

"The situation is comparable with many other countries, yet the difference between the rights guaranteed and the actual situation of children in their everyday life still exists."

According to Liana Kalcina Slovene and international governmental and non- governmental organizations are trying to confront this problem. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has drafted reports, which the Republic of Slovenia will have to take into greater account when passing legislation and measures connected with children. Unfortunately equality among children is not yet a reality. Liana Kalcina:

"Social differences in Slovenia are increasing and children experience them too. The children of wealthy parents have more opportunities to develop and carry out their interests to satisfy their developmental needs. On the other hand many children from the social edge do not have such possibilities. The differences between cities and villages are growing, too."

It is up to the state to do everything it can to ensure equal opportunities for access to various free time activities, as well as the education of children regardless of the social status of their parents. Liana Kalcina says the state is obliged to guarantee free primary education but unfortunately extra costs for social activities are growing and many parents cannot afford them any more. The children of these parents are stigmatised, socially excluded and sometimes even insulted by their schoolmates. Children who do not belong to the majority Slovene nationality are frequently taunted because of their names or nationalities. Members of the Friends of Youth Association believe that the state should ensure conditions for children, who do not speak Slovene fluently, to learn the language. The association also supports the idea of an ombudsman for children. L. Kalcina:

"Yes, in spite of all hard work, we are still witness to some violations of the rights of children and that is why we insist on establishing the institution of an ombudsman for children in Slovenia"

The Association also operates a children's telephone hot line, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year. The national network includes around 200 volunteer counsellors. Children and teenagers can call and discuss their problems anonymously. The number of calls is increasing: in 2002 there were 16.000 and last year there were over 60,000 calls. The most common reasons for children's calls involve love, sex, friends, family and school, followed by physical and psychological difficulties, abuse, addiction, suicide and social pressures. Abuse in the family is also an issue in Slovenia:

But there are many people in Slovenia trying to help children in need and several regular events to support this work have become well established. During Children's Week the association is collecting and donating funds for socially marginalized families. Another campaign this year made seaside holidays possible for more than 5000 children.