The workshop came on the heels of a visit to Washington, D.C. by Little Amal, the internationally celebrated 12-foot puppet of a 10-year-old Syrian refugee girl. The collaborative and other partners greeted Little Amal at the U.S. Capitol, where she shared stories of children like her that are on the move to seek safety and protection within and across borders.
Promoting Child-sensitive Policies
In an era marked by escalating global challenges – from violence and climate disasters to poverty and conflict – children are often the ones who bear the brunt of these hardships. There are more children on the move than ever before. Currently, nearly 40 percent of the 100 million displaced persons worldwide are under the age of 18. Yet, their voices and needs are too often overlooked in discussions about migration policy and response.
Planning the workshop exemplified the cooperation needed to address a gap of this magnitude and complexity. Georgetown University’s Collaborative on Global Children’s Issues brought together university colleagues from the Human Rights Institute; Institute for the Study of International Migration; Institute for Women, Peace, and Security; and Laboratory on Global Performance and Politics. Stakeholders from the InterAction Forced Displacement Working Group, International Rescue Committee, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), Save the Children, and UNICEF USA brought the perspectives of practitioners and policymakers.
Together they provided workshop speakers and attendees with the opportunity to consider what child-sensitive policies and responses to children on the move would look like within U.S. foreign and domestic policy contexts. Young people who have experienced displacement, policymakers, practitioners, and researchers engaged with each other through a series of interactive panel discussions, and attendees shared ideas and learned from each other during breakout sessions.
Bringing Young Voices to the Forefront
Collaborative on Global Children’s Issues Executive Director Gillian Huebner welcomed participants and set the stage for a day that was both enlightening and emotionally resonant.
One of the standout moments was the “Lived Experience Is Expertise” panel, which featured young people who have personally experienced displacement, migration, and refugee resettlement. Panelist Jimmi Rios, a young person from El Salvador who has experienced displacement, commented that he appreciated being a part of this workshop because it allowed him to meet other people who have had similar experiences.
“This event gave me the privilege to meet people who I can make connections with and maybe work with in the future to make changes for my community and for the future generation.”
This segment was a powerful reminder that these young voices should be at the forefront of discussions about their own futures. It was opened and closed by poetry performances from panelists Bertha Nibigira and Zahra Wakilzada (SFS’24). Wakilzada, a young person from Afghanistan who has experienced displacement, emphasized the importance of using her voice.
“Having agency over my story and how I say it is not only powerful, but it also brings dignity to me and my people. I have experienced my life, and I take ownership and agency of my story and how I say it."