Children’s Rights Take Center Stage: Symposium on Human Rights in Croatia

CroMSICs Symposium on Human Rights is organized annually in Zagreb, Croatia, with a different Human Rights-related topic highlighted each year. In December 2015, The Convention on the Rights of the Child celebrated its 25 years of existence, which gave us the perfect opportunity to get involved and to learn more about Childrens Rights.

With The Convention, the world made a promise to children to protect their rights to survive and thrive, to play and learn, to make their voices heard, and to give them the strength to develop and reach their full potential. However, in spite all progress, there are many children around the world today who still do not enjoy their rights. When thinking about all the different things we as medical students can do, and all the opportunities we have to make an impact, we decided to organize a Symposium, through which we were able to engage many students and provide them with information on various topics of childrens rights.

Approximately 70 participants gathered one sunny weekend at the Andrija tampar School of Public Health in Zagreb, dedicating their time to learn about the worlds youngest citizens and their rights. Topics covered during the lectures and workshops were: right to education, violence in the family, child labor, right to health with various specific subtopics and childrens rights in general. Everything was organized in 3 days full of lectures and workshops held by medical doctors and professors from the University of Zagreb, psychologists, social workers and medical students.


Since childrens right to health is something we, as future health professionals, will have direct impact on, this was one of the major topics during the Symposium. At the start of our program, we had an opening lecture about vaccination by an epidemiologist and a pediatrician from the Zagreb Medical School. Apart from learning about the importance of vaccination programs and importance of educating parents and the general population, we closed with a lively debate on the same topic. Health-related topics were discussed during two more workshops held by our professors. One was on How to resuscitate a child, where participants had an opportunity to learn about life-threatening situations for a child and practice their skills in pediatric CPR. In the second workshop, participants learned about an innovative approach to childrens mental health and how is it affected by the childs surroundings.

Violence in the family and the repercussions it has on children was another lecture conducted by a psychologist who specializes in the area. Dynamics of families and the specific position of adopted children and orphans in institutions was a lecture, emphasizing legal systems that shape childrens right to family life. Lastly, there was a lecture that required a lot of emotional engagement from the participants, on the influence of a childs death on medical staff.

In addition, there were workshops conducted by medical students, with an emphasis on discussions and examples of situations we may encounter in our future work. One was the introduction to human rights with a special focus on childrens rights. Another topic was child labor and why children still serve as a workforce in some areas of the world. The importance of international agreements and laws, and their role in childrens rights were some of the discussion points in the workshop about The Convention on the Rights of the Child.

By the end of the Symposium participants had the opportunity to actively engage and gain knowledge, tools and skills on several important topics relating to childrens rights and health. Topics that often are set aside in our medical curriculum.

Our efforts to improve the state of childrens rights begin with small steps, and most importantly with our education. By educating ourselves, we will be able to serve as the leading voices that will protect the welfare of the world’s youngest citizens.

Ema Causic,

* The Universal Children’s Day takes place on November 20th, can be observed as a day of activity devoted to promoting the welfare of the children of the world. This blog is a part of the IFMSA Childrens Day campaign 2016, to increase capacity & raise awareness on topics relating to this international day, in connection to the IFMSA program on Children Health & Rights.

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