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The Kinder- en Jongerenrechtswinkel stands up for children's rights

22 March 2024

Once a year, in November, the council chamber in The Hague City Hall fills with children instead of council members. High school students from The Hague then debate with each other on current issues related to the rights of children and young people. The 'Children's Rights Debate' is organized every year by the Kinder- en Jongerenrechtswinkel (Children's and Youth Rights Center) around November 20th, the World Children's Day. The Kinder- en Jongerenrechtswinkel is an organization that provides legal advice to children and young people. They do this through consultation hours and by giving guest lectures in schools, among other things. The goal? To explain to children and young people what their rights are. In doing so, the Kinder- en Jongerenrechtswinkel contributes to SDG 16: peace, justice and strong public services. And in particular SDG 16.3 equal access to the legal system for all.

Free legal advice

"The name is a bit misleading," says Aline Brendel, director of the Kinder- en Jongerenrechtswinkel. "It is the only store in The Hague where everything is free!". Indeed, at the Kinder- en Jongerenrechtswinkel, people can get free legal advice on all topics related to children and young people from 0 to 27 years of age. "Our youngest client had not yet been born. We once received a question from a pregnant lady about her unborn child." Not only children and youth can turn to the Kinder- en Jongerenrechtswinkel. Parents and guardians are also welcome. "We also give advice in English so we can advise expats as well," she said.

With a relatively small team, the organization delivers a lot of work. Every year they receive about 550 inquiries. What are these questions about? "That varies a lot," says Aline. "For example, about parents' divorce, problems with an employer, an inheritance, encounter with the police, about the Certificate of Conduct, about renting or what rights you have as a consumer." The only thing they do no offer is business advice. Besides answering questions, they can also help their clients write an official letter to an institution, landlord, agency or employer. They can also read along with you on various contracts. The Kinder- en Jongerenrechtswinkel employs advanced law students. "It's a win-win situation. This way we can give free advice, and the students can put their knowledge to practical use," Aline explains.

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Children have rights too

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child sets out the rights of children up to age 18. These 54 agreements are mainly about what is good for the child's well-being. For example, the right to have contact with both parents, the right to privacy or not to be discriminated against. However, many young people are not aware of these rights. "We find that children and young people are not well informed about the rights they have. Whereas sometimes that can actually help them a lot," Aline explains. "By knowing their rights, children learn that they can often improve their own situation themselves."

Building trust

For this work, it is essential to build trust. That is why the Kinder- en Jongerenrechtswinkel considers it important to be in the heart of communities. Aline Brendel: "We find that many people get to know us through word of mouth. That is why we have walk-in consultation hours at various locations in the city. People only come to us if they trust us".

The employees and volunteers at the Kinder- en Jongerenrechtswinkel must have thick skin. "The questions we get are often about very personal situations and sometimes we hear intense stories," says Aline. All questions are therefore treated confidentially. "We are not social workers but in very serious situations we do work closely with various professionals". When asked about a highlight of their work, Aline does not have to think for long: "Once we helped prevent a child from being placed out of its home. Some time later we received a handwritten thank you note from the child".

The future

"Our goal is to make children and young people aware of what rights they have. Therefore, we are always looking for new ways to reach more children. We are now also active on TikTok, for example. And we also work a lot with schools and other organizations," says Aline.

Want to know more?

Walk-in consultation hours are every Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoon. In addition, the Kinder- en Jongerenrechtswinkel can also be reached by phone, email or WhatsApp. There are also walk-in hours in Zoetermeer. For more information, visit www.gratisrechtshulp.nl