By Dr. Solmaz Rezaei
Head of research and consulting department
One of the most important characteristics of a desirable urban space, beyond its physical role, is the ability to create active participation areas and the formation of social interactions among citizens with different age and social conditions, and today this issue is considered as one of the signs of urban development. In this context, children as the most sensitive and vulnerable members of the society, which pass on beliefs, cultures and identities of society from one generation to the next, and in comparison with other age groups, are mostly affected by their surroundings, need the social conditions and architecture of urban spaces to match their particular needs.
Legally, in accordance with the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989, the child is any humankind under the age of eighteen unless, according to the law governing the country in which he lives, a lower age for his maturity is stipulated. Also, according to Article 1210 of the Civil Code of the Islamic Consultative Assembly in 1981, the age of maturity is fifteen years for girls, but not for boys. According to psychologists, childhood is the most important period for pre-puberty personality transformations, in which the individual’s psychological needs are much more complicated than his physical needs, such that Erikson believes that sense of security, identity, creativity, and self-reliance are organized and institutionalized in the stages of child growth. In this regard, Piaget sees the environmental experience as the most important factor in the growth of children, and believes that children see the world different than adults, because adults understand the environment through the form, but it is important for children to change the environment based on the various uses they make. Children interact with their surroundings, and healthy interactions are created when their needs are met in the growth process. The desirable atmosphere for children addresses them and challenges the ability to attract attention for observation and education.
Cities are often designed and made to meet the needs of adults and are not considered to be a good place to actively engage children in urban spaces, which is an important barrier to the development of children’s social character. The importance of this issue is to the extent that experts believe that the social participation of children is the key to the development of societies, and if the pattern of child participation in the urban community changes, the participatory model of the community will evolve.
For the first time in the 1970s, the subject of children’s participation in urban design was raised by the urban planner and American author Kevin Lynch. He believed that children would learn from the community more than they would learn at school; the education which has been neglected in many cities. Such ideas led to the emergence of a new concept called “Child Friendly City” (CFC) in the 1980s, and this issue was increasingly sought after by urban scholars. In 2000, the World Secretariat of Children’s Cities convened to conduct field research and innovation by local governments to promote the rights of children, to develop a network based on children’s information to reach their ideal city and to support the development of child-friendly cities. In line with the Universal Declaration of the Child and the Declaration of Human Rights, a child-friendly city should have the right conditions for such matters as: the right to comment on a desirable city, the right to participate in urban decisions, the right to receive health and education, the right to access safe water, stay safe from violence, be immune from exploitation and sexual abuse, have the right to live in a clean environment, participate in cultural events, the possibility of safe transport in the passageways, the use of appropriate play grounds and the availability of suitable green space to children. Based on these criteria, for the first time in 2007, the city of “Bendigo” in Australia was introduced as a child friendly city that has addressed all aspects and metrics of such a city. Also, “Oz” city, 340 kilometers south-east of Shiraz city, was selected as a child friendly city for the first time in the country in 2010. This was the result of various activities undertaken by the UNICEF-affiliated institution since 2005.
In our country, in the 191th session of the Islamic Council of Tehran in 2009, the first steps were taken to create the legal framework for the achievement of a child friendly city, which based on that the municipality is required to take the necessary measures to motivate citizens to participate in children protection, implementation of urban and architectural projects to provide children’s playgrounds in residential complexes, create urban pavements for children, and organize public spaces and standardize urban furniture, especially for children.