Ambiguities in children´s citizenship: a dialogue between theory and children´s voices
Instituto de Estudos da Criança Universidade do Minho Braga, Portugal
The debate about children´s participation as well as their citizenship have been rhetorically invoked in recent times, wasting itself in prescriptive legal pronouncements of an adult oriented education for citizenship, or in social practices oriented in function of adult interests, where children have no place.
The demands for the construction of a distinct reality where children can be understood as a citizens of rights, with agency over their daily life, requires a reflexive attitude and an openness to change the socializing contexts of children, or in other words, a redefinition of what Flekkoy (1997: 109), calls democracy workshops. Traditional perspectives regarding parentality and the models influencing the professional practices as children remain to a large extent depending on the perspectives that see children as essentially incompetent, subjected to social regulating norms administrated exclusively by adults, even when they act in the child´s best interest.
There is a clear need to reflect critically about the social norms and the prevailing assumptions about who the child is, about the paradoxes, dilemmas and implicit contradictions in the policies and practices of children´s participation, so that it can be possible to overcome situations that involve children engaging with social norms that perpetuate deeply unequal social relations between adults and children.
Considering these assumptions, we tried to understand with children the meaning that this (non) image of citizen assumes for them, mainly from their self representations as subjects of rights and participation, as well as the legitimacy and visibility that they assume in their daily life.