“The main principle — do no harm”. “Man and the Law” has held a seminar on the rights of the child for the heads of NGOs

9 April 2021

From March 12 to 14, in St. Petersburg, the organization “Man and Law” held a seminar for the heads of non-profit organizations on the protection of children’s rights. The participants discussed the basic rights of the child, how to observe and defend them, how to interact with partner organizations, authorities and the media, what forms and methods to use in their work, and how to achieve the planned goals and objectives. Read more in the article. 


This is not the first and not the last educational event of NGO “Man and Law” within the framework of the project “Different children — equal rights!”, which the organization implements together with the European Union and the organization “Pro NGO!” from Germany. At the end of January, a similar seminar was held, but for journalists, we wrote about it in detail. 


On 14-16 May, in the city of Svetlogorsk, the Kaliningrad Region, another seminar on these topics will be held for managers and leaders of NGOs and initiative groups working with vulnerable groups of children and families in the Northwestern Federal District and the Volga Federal District.

Children’s rights and State responsibilities 


On the first day, the participants talked about the basic concepts of child rights protection; they got acquainted with the main documents of Russian and international legislation related to children’s rights. 


There are positive and negative rights. The positive ones are those that the state must ensure: the right to education, to legal protection and other effective forms of protection, to decent living, and others. Negative rights include the non-interference of the State with the freedoms of the child and the family unless absolutely necessary. There is freedom from humiliation — do not humiliate, freedom of private life — do not interfere, freedom of assembly — do not disperse.


For visual perception, we conducted the exercise “Live scheme”. A team of several people creates a schematic representation of a concept on a poster. The seminar focused on four terms: the child, child rights, child human dignity, and prohibition of discrimination. It immediately becomes clear what people’s ideas, knowledge and perception are. Based on this exercise, we can continue to talk about the topic of children’s rights, norms and standards, and how all this is spelled out in laws and international documents.

In the evening, the participants watched the film “Hello, Baby!” with Alexey Maklakov in the title role. The film tells the story of a 40-year-old man with the consciousness of a 10-year-old child. Because of this, the hero could not live alone. But he was sent to certain death, where he met with children who lived on the street. The film was released in 2001. It evoked a lively response from the participants and a discussion of the changes that have taken place in our society over the past 20 years. Despite the fact that there are problems with children’s rights, their level is now significantly less than before. Using the example of the film, we saw significant changes, talked about the role of society in these changes and what else needs to be improved.

Coordinator of the initiative group “Involvement” (Kaliningrad) Natalia Lazareva:


— For me, the most important thing was live communication, acquaintance. This consolidated our coalition and contacts with organizations from other regions. 


The most interesting part for me was joint practical tasks. There was a lot of new and useful information about the protection of children’s rights, advocacy, etc. Already at the end of the seminar, I had a question: would there be another seminar? I think such events are necessary since the results of the interaction are already visible, and the knowledge gained is being implemented in our work.


Tools for protecting children’s rights


The second day was devoted to specific tools of the NGO’s work in promoting the interests of children. These tools are similar both in Europe and in Russia: actions, petitions, letters, and others. The most effective tools, in our opinion, are legal protection, public control and legal education. Most of the time was devoted to them. If all NGOs are engaged in legal education, then only a few are engaged in legal protection and monitoring, and these methods of work aroused the keen interest of the participants.

Interaction with the media is an important part of protecting the rights of the child, as well as human rights in general. The participants were divided into groups and conducted a practical lesson. They chose a topic or issue to be covered in the media, and chose a form for this: a press release, a press conference, an interview, etc.


It turned out that NGOs do not understand very well what the media needs, how to attract them and how to give the product that the media will definitely take. There were also questions about the risks of submitting information. The topic of children’s rights is very sensitive. All participants said that they would think about interacting with the press. 

On the one hand, the promotion of the topic in the media is important, on the other – you need to be careful to maintain the principle of “do no harm”. The same issue was discussed in detail at a seminar for journalists in January.

By the way, now “Man and Law” is holding a competition of journalistic works on the topic of children’s rights. The application can be submitted until 11 May, 2021. For more information, follow the link.


Many journalists try to follow this principle and make their materials as correct as possible. But, nevertheless, the staff of NGOs should not give everything to the media, because not every media knows well enough how to write on sensitive topics related to children’s problems. NGOs should themselves control information and how to submit it to the media, so as not to harm the child. 


Journalists are engaged only in informing the population. They can influence change and they can educate, their role is very important — it is a tool for change. But the media can also be harmful.

NGOs, in turn, are initiative groups created solely to promote the public interest of a group of individuals or even a single person. NGOs and the media can be partners, and then the work can be very effective.

It is particularly difficult to work with vulnerable groups. There was a separate section about this at the seminar for NGOs. We gave participants different situations and asked the groups to predict their actions to help with specific cases. Someone helped through legal protection, someone – through public control, and someone – through education. For example, if parents are against having a child with a disability in the classroom, you need to educate them. If the child is not accepted to school — use the legal tools. And if we assume a systemic problem, then we monitor and find out how systemic it is, what the causes are, and then we negotiate and think through a strategy for changes. 

Working together


The seminar was attended by our partner NGOs, which received mini-grants within the framework of the project “Different children-equal rights!”. These are 27 NGOs from 16 regions of Russia. The organizations provide assistance to foster and substitute families, children with mental disabilities, women and children affected by violence, migrant children, children living in orphanages and graduates of orphanages. The grants will be implemented to support and help different categories of children.


The participants discussed the possibilities of interaction with each other and with foreign NGOs. First of all, these are organizations from Germany. 


“Germany has developed a unique experience of interaction between NGOs and the authorities,” explained Irina Protasova, chairwoman of NGO “Man and Law”. — The state has given all social services there either to NGOs or to businesses. It is interesting. Germany is a very social state. And it is very great for us that a German organization has agreed to be a partner of Russian NGOs.”

In the block of mini-grant exercises, participants better understood what success indicators can be, and how they can be evaluated and “touched”. 


“As a rule, organizations manage to achieve the specific goals specified in the applications,” says Irina Protasova. — But more globally, achieving the human rights goals is a very long way to go, and it is not immediately visible. This is measured in years. 


Now when our organization has passed 20 years of the way, we see that there are changes in the field of protection of children’s rights, and they are significant. We saw this when we watched the movie: how it was and how it became is a big difference. And all this is not without the participation of NGOs. 


We see current problems all the time, but we rarely analyze what we have already achieved. Maybe that’s our mistake. We must show what NGOs have done in 20 years. Otherwise, the government takes all the credit for itself. But without NGOs, the state itself would not have changed anything. The authorities do not need anything without the participation of society. Indicators just help you see success. For example, the number of people who received assistance, the number of children who left state institutions for a family, the number of specialists who appeared, etc.”

Head of the Association of Foster Families (Nizhny Novgorod) Tatiana Falina:


— The program of the seminar was very dense and rich, and at the same time there was not a single superfluous or passing event. Everything was very relevant, important and interesting. The high professionalism of both the organizers and the participants allowed us to spend this time with great benefit and get a serious impetus for further work.

picture picture