Expert highlights importance of involving children in decision making

It’s vital we involve children and young people in decision making to make a fairer, more progressive society. This was the message of a rights and sustainability expert who gave a public lecture in Inverness last night (Thursday 27 April).

Vicky Johnson is a geographer with research interests in supporting marginalised communities. The University of the Highlands and Islands academic, who was recently awarded the title of Professor of Childhood, Youth and Sustainability and heads up the Centre for Living Sustainability at UHI Inverness, delivered her talk to over 130 attendees in Inverness and online. The audience included people from as far afield as Australia and the USA.

Over the course of the evening, Professor Johnson spoke about her career so far, describing projects and programmes she has worked on in in Africa, Asia and Latin America. She gave insights into how she has helped to provide advice to a range of UN and government departments and developed community research programmes with organisations across the UK.

She explained: “Young people are not just becoming adults. They are beings in their own right, with their own voices and their own ways of seeing the world. It is vital we listen to their voices and involve them in decision making.”

“One project I was involved in worked with children to evaluate community water facilities in mountainous regions of Nepal. We asked children about taps as they are the ones who collect water for their families. They explained that they have trouble reaching the taps and proposed a simple solution to add steps to the design to help with this issue. This was then followed in all of the water programmes installed by the Himalayan Community Development Forum.”

Speaking about Professor Johnson’s lecture, Professor Chris O’Neil, Principal of UHI Inverness said: “Tonight is a special event, not just for Vicky, but for UHI Inverness. Becoming a professor is the highest attainment an academic can achieve so it is a significant moment in their career. It is reserved for academics with a distinguished international reputation in their field, so it is a clear indication of the global reach of Vicky’s important work.”

Professor Neil Simco, UHI’s Deputy Principal Academic and Research, added: “Vicky is a fantastic example of an academic who undertakes practical work which solves real-world issues. Her work is truly global and shows the impact UHI has across the Highlands and Islands and beyond.”