Schiltigheim (67): the oldest municipal children’s council
Le Magazine Du Centre National De La Fonction Publique Territoriale – N° 44 – Juin 2021
Centre National de la Fonction Publique Territoriale (CNFPT)
Schiltigheim was the first town to set up a Children’s Municipal Council in 1979 (International Year of the Child), then a Youth Municipal Council in 1989, and has been an active member of the National Association of Children’s and Youth Councils since its creation in 1991. The areas of intervention of the CME and CMJ touch various fields of local life such as: children’s rights, solidarity, road safety, the environment, respect for differences, disabilities, discovery of the city, health, intercultural and intergenerational knowledge… The CME of Schiltigheim was the first mechanism for children’s participation in the life of the city, whose experience has radiated and is still radiating throughout France.
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In 1979, the UN inaugurated the first international year of children’s rights. The team of Alfred Muller, mayor of Schiltigheim, wanted to mark the occasion: a municipal children’s council (CME) was created. Initially temporary, it was maintained. « The children did not want it to end, so we listened to them, » explains Joëlle Gerber, head of the children and youth department. Schiltigheim became the first French town to have a permanent CME.
In the age of the Internet, when there are other tools for taking the child’s point of view into account, some people question the need for it. « It may no longer be the only tool, but it is irreplaceable, » notes Joëlle Gerber. In Schiltigheim, everyone is aware of the loss that this would cause. « The CME « radiates » over the whole of municipal life. The children make the elected representatives see things differently. They bring a fresh perspective and have an unparalleled ability to act positively. The children have thus initiated « gardeners of the heart », solidarity fairs, a treasure hunt to identify all the problems of accessibility in the city, etc. Always generous projects…
« All the generations of children who have been part of the children’s municipal council have been marked for life by this experience. It gave them self-confidence and awakened their altruistic potential. As adults, some of them have turned to voluntary work, while others have become involved in public life: one of the deputy mayors, Sophie Mehmanpazir, was part of the first CME. This adventure helps them to think « collectively », to connect with public issues, to understand the constraints of projects, both budgetary and regulatory, etc. This connection to the city, in concrete aspects, in active mode, is very important. We see this with the health crisis: children suffer from too much digital, they want something else, to be actors in a real world. This pandemic makes us aware of the importance of this type of approach. »
Joëlle Gerber, Head of the Children and Youth Department.