Mohammad Naeem from Claremorris shared his experiences in activism and explained why young people should speak up about issues they are passionate about at the recent Child Talks event hosted by the Ombudsman for Children's office at Leinster House.

Mayo teen takes to the stage at Leinster House for Child Talks 2022

Claremorris teenager Mohammad Naeem discussed his experiences in activism at the recent Child Talks event hosted by the Ombudsman for Children’s office at Leinster House.

Now in its fifth year, Child Talks gives children a platform to share their experiences on issues that are important to them.

Inspired by the location, the theme of this year’s Child Talks was ‘If I were Taoiseach for a day…’.

Mohammed (17) explained why he felt young people should speak out on issues they care about: “Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states that children's views must be considered and taken into account in all matters affecting us. I feel many people in power take advantage of this word and do not properly consider our views.

“At 16 years old we can enter a workplace, pay tax and leave school. We can even register to vote, but we cannot actually vote until we’re 18. So If I were Taoiseach for the day I would lower the voting age to 16.”

Mohammad was one of a group of young speakers aged 11 to 17 to address an audience in Leinster House, with Child Talks also live-streamed in classrooms across the country.

Other topics discussed on the day included autism supports, accessibility, rural transport, female empowerment and the Irish language.

Speaking about the event, the Ombudsman for Children, Dr. Niall Muldoon, commented: “It is significant that our fifth Child Talks took place in Leinster House. We wanted those in power, those making decisions that affect children, to hear from them directly so that they can fully consider their views.

“My job is to ensure that the rights of children are promoted and respected. I work hard to represent their views but there is no substitution for hearing from children themselves and supporting them to share their experiences, in their own words.

“The issues raised by the children are topical and relevant; they talked about their personal experience of homelessness, about why they feel supports for children are not good enough, about the constraints they feel the current education system puts on their ability to reach their potential, about equal access for everyone and a lot more.”

Children from across Ireland applied to take part in Child Talks. Some had experience of public speaking and some have never spoken publically before. Over the past three months, the Ombudsman for Children’s Office, with the support of Dublin Story Slam, have worked with the young people involved to help them tell their story.