Children's participation in family decision-making in Ghana: Evidence from the Lawra District
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Knowledge about and analysis of children in their everyday experiences within their immediate environment – families – has received less attention, especially in Ghana. Yet focus has been on rights violations, implementation of the UNCRC, programmes and policies which should not obscure the fact that, outside any attempts by adults to promote respect for article 12 of the UNCRC without first and foremost, taking into consideration the impact of families on children‟s participation in decision-making would not yield much result. It is against this background that I decided to inquire about children‟s participation in family decision-making in the Lawra District of Ghana. My aim in this study was to understand children‟s participation in decision-making processes in their families in relation to some socio-cultural values of „the Ghanaian society‟, and how these relations may affect the implementation of article 12 of the UNCRC and children‟s rights in general. Both qualitative and quantitative data were collected through a semi-structured questionnaire, in-depth interviews, informal observation, and secondary sources, from both adults and children. In all, 300 children responded to the questionnaire, two children took part in the interview and two members of staff of two NGOs were involved in the study. The results revealed that children interviewed in this study were very much aware of their rights but their knowledge of rights was mixed, which can be explained as result of cultural influence. Children participated in their families through the various duties and responsibilities they perform in their families. However, many of them indicated that, they do not take part in the decision-making process, but wished they were given the opportunity to exercise their agency. It was found that cultural values such as respect, obedience and responsibility, influenced children‟s perception of their participation in family decision-making. I therefore conclude that, the participation of children in family decision-making should not be understood in isolation as a matter of right, but rather it should be tackled from a cultural perspective, in which cultural values, norms and practices come into conflict with children‟s desire to exercise their agency. Academics and policy makers must therefore consider seriously how such cultural norms and values, and the interrelationships that exist between parents and children can impact on the implementation of the UNCRC, as well as on children‟s rights in totality.