Child Labor in Saudi Arabia
Many know Saudi Arabia as one of the richest countries in the world. With the second largest natural oil reserve underground, Saudi Arabia is rapidly accumulating wealth and political power in international affairs. However, there is a dark side to the flashy urban lights of Saudi Arabia. The wealth gap that exists between the rich and the poor, coupled with the country’s patriarchal tradition and its recent conflict with the Houthi movement in Yemen, puts many Saudi and immigrant children in danger of child labor, violence and economic exploitation. Here are 10 facts about child labor in Saudi Arabia.

10 Facts About Child Labor in Saudi Arabia

  1. Poverty is the main cause of Saudi Arabia’s Child Labor. While Saudi Arabia is famous for its wealth, thanks in large part to the second-largest oil deposits in the world, there is a big economic disparity between the poor and the rich. According to a study that the Saudi Arabian government funded in 2015, 22 percent of families in Saudi Arabia depend on their children’s income.
  2. The minimum employment age is 13. In the royal decree of 1969, Saudi Arabia enacted a law that set the minimum employment age to 13 years old and banned children from working in hazardous conditions. This does not apply to works in the family business, domestic labor and agricultural work. Some employers of Saudi Arabia exploit a loophole in the law. For example, this law does not address the child brides of Saudi Arabia. If a child bride does any house chores or agricultural work for her husband’s family, it will not be a violation of the minimum employment age law.
  3. There are cases of child labor trafficking from neighboring countries. Stemming from Saudi Arabia’s recent conflict with Yemen, which left Yemen devastated, wartorn and practically lawless, some Yemeni parents are seeking illegal agents who will traffick their children to Saudi Arabia. While some Yemeni parents traffick their children to Saudi Arabia to save them from the desperate conditions in Yemen, other parents traffick their children in hopes of economic relief provided by their children’s labor in Saudi Arabia. While deportation is the main concern of many Yemeni parents for their trafficked children, many trafficked Yemeni children are in danger of violence, hunger and sexual abuse.
  4. Child workers usually have parents who have low professional and education level. The low education and professional level of child workers’ parents, coupled with economic disparity, make poverty in Saudi Arabia hereditary. Saudi Arabia is taking steps to ameliorate this issue. In early 2018, the Saudi government declared that it aims to eradicate adult illiteracy by 2024. Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Education established adult education centers across the country and launched the Learning Neighborhood program in 2006 in pursuit of this goal.
  5. Children of migrant workers in Saudi Arabia do not have protection under a law that prohibits forced or compulsory labor. Saudi Arabia’s labor law does prohibit forced labor, however, these measures do not extend to over 12 million migrant workers in the country. Some employers exploit this loophole in the labor laws, which sometimes results in physical, mental and sexual abuse of migrant workers and their children.
  6. Saudi Arabia’s citizenship requirement puts Saudi children in danger of child labor and human trafficking. A Saudi child’s citizenship comes from his or her father. If a child has a citizen mother and a non-citizen father, or from a mother who is not legally married to a citizen father, there is a chance that the country will consider the child a stateless person. As a result of being stateless, Saudi Arabia can deny a child state education, and in certain cases, medical attention. According to the U.S. Department of State, about 5 percent of street begging children in Saudi Arabia are Saudi nationals of unknown parents.
  7. The Saudi government is working with the international community to combat child labor. In 2016, with technical advisory services support from the International Labour Organization (ILO), Saudi Arabia ratified its report for ILO’s Minimum Age Convention of 1973. According to the United Nations’ 2016 report on Saudi Arabia’s adherence to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Saudi Arabia adopted and implemented regulations against child abuse and human trafficking. As part of the new labor reforms and regulations in 2015, for example, the Labor Ministry of Saudi Arabia can impose SR $20,000 ($5,333) on employers who employ children under 15-years old.
  8. In 2014, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Women’s World Summit Foundation (WWSF) launched a campaign against child labor in Saudi Arabia. For 19-days, WWSF campaigned to raise awareness for child labor, abuse and violence against children and youth. The National Family Safety Program of Saudi Arabia also launched its four-day program which raised awareness for economic exploitation and abuse of children in Saudi Arabia. Through these campaigns, both WWSF and the Saudi government aimed to reduce child labor in Saudi Arabia by highlighting that child labor contributes to the abuse of children by harming children’s health, physical development, psychological health and access to education.
  9. UNICEF and the Saudi Ministry of Social Affairs opened a reception center for trafficked Yemeni children. Many trafficked Yemeni children end up in the streets of Saudi Arabian cities as beggars or street vendors. In the worst cases, these trafficked children are under severe danger of exploitation and abuse. When the Saudi authorities detained them, these Yemeni children usually went to prison or open-air enclosures with adult deportees. The center provides shelter for these children.
  10. Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 aims to address the country’s poverty. Launched in April 2016, the Saudi government plans to address the country’s poverty by improving state education and empowering nonprofit organizations. These improvements can lead to making more opportunities available for the children and parents of poor economic background, potentially reducing child labor in Saudi Arabia. In this pursuit, the Saudi government granted $51 billion to the education sector. The Ministry of education established educational centers all around the country to improve adult literacy and theories determine that this improvement in adult literacy will also improve child literacy.

Child labor in Saudi Arabia is both a local and international issue. While the stateless and poor children of Saudi Arabia turn to street vending and begging to support their families, many trafficked Yemeni children in the country are under constant threat of violence and exploitation. These 10 facts about child labor in Saudi Arabia show that with the help of the international community and the Saudi government’s increasing awareness of its less fortunate populace, a better future awaits for the children of Saudi Arabia.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

7 facts about poverty in KabulKabul is the capital of Afghanistan with a population of 37 million people. Although there are efforts for improvements, Afghanistan still suffers from high rates of poverty. Here are seven facts about poverty in Kabul.

7 Facts About Poverty in Kabul

  1. Education: According to UNICEF, 3.7 million children in Afghanistan are out of school, 60 percent of which are girls. A few reasons for the low enrollment rates include poor sanitation systems in schools. Another reason is the lack of female teachers, particularly in rural areas. Female teachers are required for some because it is not allowed for male teachers to teach young girls. In addition, inadequate transportation in certain areas of the country makes it difficult for children to attend school.
  2. Child Labor: About a quarter of children in Afghanistan between the ages of five and 14 work or help their families. Many children are employed in jobs that can lead to an illness, injury or death due to dangerous working conditions and improper enforcement of safety and health standards. Children hold jobs in metal industries, agriculture, shoe shiners, and in the streets as vendors. Unfortunately, some children are forced to take on the pressures of going to school and work while others must quit school completely. In addition, children work long hours with little pay to no pay. However, UNICEF is supporting the National Strategy for Children at Risk, a strategy designed by the Ministry of Martyrs, Disabled and Social Affairs and partnered with UNICEF and other organizations that will help vulnerable families protect and care for their children. The main goal of this plan is for children to be protected from abuse, exploitation or violence in Afghanistan. In addition, the strategy will offer support to communities and vulnerable families. Another policy is the National Strategy for Street Working Children, which provides interventions such as family and community-based support systems for street children and their families to protect, prevent and decrease the number of children that work in the streets.
  3. Sex Trafficking: According to the USAID, Afghanistan happens to be a source, transit and destination country for forced labor and sex trafficking among men, women and children. However, efforts are being made to tackle this issue through the Combating Human Trafficking in Afghanistan project. This project is a collaboration of USAID and the International Organization for Migration that prepares the Afghanistan government institutions to contribute in the prevention of trafficking, prosecution of traffickers, victim protection and to enhance regional coordination in the fight against cross border trafficking.
  4. Literacy Rates: According to UNESCO, in Kabul, the highest female literacy rate is 34.7 percent and males at 68 percent. The difference in rates is due to a few factors such as women not being allowed to attend school, unsafe to travel to school and cultural norms. In addition, rates in urban and rural areas differ to due lack of schools in remote areas and extensive distances to travel for school. However, UNESCO has implemented a project called the which is a national program of the Ministry of Education that helps improve literacy and numeracy skills of the adult population in 34 provinces. The ELA Programme began in 2008 and since its launching, it has increased the literacy for over 600,000 adults and over 60 percent of them are women.
  5. Water: In Afghanistan, 79 percent of the population live in rural areas and only 27 percent have access to upgraded water sources. In Kabul, about 80 percent of people do not have access to safe drinking water. In addition, 95 percent do not have access to proper sanitation facilities. Due to lack of access to sanitation, about 20 percent of the population excretes in public.
  6. Health: According to the World Health Organization, Afghanistan has the second-highest maternal mortality rate in the world. Approximately half of children under the age of five are stunted due to chronic malnutrition and 10 percent have chronic malnutrition. Over 60 percent of all childhood deaths and disabilities in Afghanistan are due to respiratory infections, diarrhea and deaths that could’ve been prevented though vaccines such as measles.
    Despite these statistics, USAID has partnered with the Ministry of Public Health of Afghanistan to make healthcare services more accessible to all. During October 2017 and September 2018, USAID delivered more than 900,000 institutionalized deliveries at public health facilities. In addition, over 1.4 million children were given PENTA3 vaccinations. Furthermore, with the financial help of USAID and other international donors, the World Bank supported more than 2400 public health facilities and 94 percent of the facilities have at least 1 female health care provider.
  7. Child marriages: In Afghanistan, 35 percent of girls are married before they turn 18 and 9 percent are married before their 15th birthday. Child marriages occur due to various factors such as family practices, traditional customs and level of education. However, there are several organizations dedicated to ending child marriages such as Girls Not Brides. This organization is a global partnership of over 1000 civil organizations from more than 95 countries. It was founded in 2011 by a group of independent global leaders called The Elders that aims to raise awareness on child marriages, facilitate open conversations and provide support for victims. In addition, the organization works closely with girls to help build skills, empower them and developing support networks.

These seven facts about poverty in Kabul demonstrate major issues that could use improvement. Nonetheless, with the help and support of organizations little by little change will happen.

– Merna Ibrahim
Photo: Flickr

Ending Child MarriagesChild marriage is one of the biggest problems affecting young women in third world countries. Roughly 15 million girls under age 18 are married every year. That translates to around 41,000 girls every day. Child marriage affects young girls throughout third world countries by cutting off their access to education, harming their health and making them more susceptible to cases of domestic and sexual violence. Child marriage also puts a strain on a country’s economy and will end up costing them trillions of dollars over the next 10 years. Though the statistics appear devastating, several organizations are dedicated to ending child marriages in third world countries.

Africa, Asia and the Middle East have the highest percentages of child marriage. Research done by CARE, an organization fighting global poverty, provided the top 26 countries where girls under the age of 18 are more likely to get married rather than enroll in secondary school. The country with the lowest percentage of girls enrolled in secondary school is Niger with only 10 percent. However, 76 percent of girls in Niger are married before age 18. Other countries with significantly low enrollment rates include Somalia, Mozambique and Ethiopia.

Girls Not Brides

Girls Not Brides became an independent charity in 2013. It is an organization committed to ending child marriages. There are 1,300 civil organizations from 100 countries involved in the organization. The sole intention of Girls Not Brides is to end child marriage so girls can live a fulfilling and healthy life. Its main goal is to bring global attention to child marriage and support laws or programs that will protect girls worldwide from the dangers of child marriage.

Girls Not Brides also offers support to those who were already married all over the world. They believe that the minimum age for marriage should be 18 years old for both boys and girls. This is in accordance with the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. Girls Not Brides aims to encourage an open dialogue about the dangers of child marriage, work with other organizations to end child marriage and help to introduce different policies and funding to end child marriage.

In 2016, Girls Not Brides published a strategy set on their plan to tackle child marriage from 2017 until 2020. The plan is an overarching blueprint of what the organization wants to do that is based on their successes in its 2014-2016 plan. Its number one goal is to work with governments to get child marriage legislation passed as well as bring it to the attention of lawmakers. Other goals include globalizing, engaging communities, increasing their funding and donations, using facts and evidence to further their claims about child marriage and setting up partnerships with other organizations.

Other Organizations Fighting Child Marriages

Even though Girls Not Brides is one of the only organization that is dedicated specifically to fighting child marriage, there are other organizations that have made ending child marriages a part of their mission. CARE focuses on ending global poverty through women’s empowerment. Breakthrough uses more artistic and creative means to fight for social justice, which includes children’s rights. Humanim is an NGO fighting for children’s rights and protections.

On a more local level, some organizations focus nationally. In Egypt, the Egyptian Foundation for the Advancement of Childhood Conditions works under the Childs Rights International Network to protect the basic human rights of children. Seya, in Yemen, is a children’s rights organization that puts protecting children as its most important mission. Vasavya Mahila Mandali, which is one of two organizations based in India that believes in empowering women and children.

Child marriage is a huge issue for girls and young women globally. It is one of the top three things holding girls back from obtaining an education and living their lives to the fullest potential. Child marriage violates a young girl’s autonomy and puts her in danger of being seriously injured or, at worst, killed. The existence of Girls Not Brides and the other organizations that are dedicated to ending child marriages and working to educate the public about it are making the world a better place for those who are at risk of becoming a child bride.

Sydney Toy
Photo: Flickr

child marriage in Yemen

Yemen, a Middle Eastern country of just over 26 million people, has many issues to deal with at the moment. The country is currently immersed in a civil war and is politically unstable. However, one issue in Yemen that has not gotten as much attention is the prevalence of child marriage in the country. In Yemen, almost 33 percent of girls are married before the age of 18 and 9 percent are married before the age of 15.

Poverty and Violence

Yemen was already the poorest country in the Middle East before the civil war broke out in 2015 and the conflict has only worsened the situation. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced due to the fighting, losing all of their possessions in the process. As families have become desperate for money, more and more girls are being married off in exchange for financial benefits.

The war has also disrupted the operations of social services in Yemen and made it harder for aid organizations to assist children and prevent them from being married off against their wills. Additionally, the conflict has allowed for the rise of armed groups within Yemen. A number of girls have been forcibly married to armed militia members for sexual exploitation. Much of this activity can be attributed to Ansar-al-Sharia, which is an offshoot of Al-Qaeda.

Cultural Norms

The prevalence of child marriage in Yemen is prompted in some cases by cultural norms and expected gender roles. The culture in Yemen tends to be patriarchal and male-dominated. For instance, Article 40 of the Personal Status Law says that women must obey their husbands, including asking his permission to leave the house. This legislation and culture it has helped create are not conducive to granting young girls rights with regards to who they marry; as such, there needs to be a cultural shift in the country to improve conditions for women and girls.

Effects of Child Marriage

Early marriage forces girls into harmful sexual relationships and often results in young girls undergoing dangerous pregnancies, a big reason why maternal and child mortality rates are high in Yemen. Child marriage also means many girls are denied an education, as they usually drop out of school to become wives. In some cases, parents take their daughters out of school even earlier because they believe that it is a waste of time to send their daughters to school at all when they plan to marry them off into a different family in the near future.

Improvement Efforts

Recently, the government of Yemen has taken some positive steps towards improving the issue of child marriage in the country. In 2015, for example, Yemen signed on to the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s), which included a target of pursuing gender equality and reducing the number of child and forced marriages around the world. Yemen’s government also recently passed an amendment to their constitution that legally prohibits marriage before the age of 18; however, as documented above, this provision has not been adhered to over the last 4 years due to the challenges presented by the Yemen Civil War.

Various groups are also working to combat child marriage in Yemen. For instance, the Expanded Service Delivery (ESD) Project, a nonprofit affiliated with USAID, is working on the “Safe Age of Marriage” intervention. This program seeks to alter social norms and cultural attitudes which allow for child marriage. Additionally, the program seeks to encourage girls’ education and protect girls’ rights. It has already been run as a trial program in the Al-Sawd and Al-Soodeh districts, which are two regions where only 8 percent of girls ages 15-17 are in school. The program ran for a year in these districts and after this time surveys showed that 95 percent of community members acknowledged the benefits of delaying marriage to adulthood, which was an increase of 18 percent from the onset of the program. In the future, the ESD Project will look to expand their work to other districts in Yemen.

Conclusion

While child marriage in Yemen is a major problem at this point in time, there is hope for the future. If the Yemen government can provide support for girls’ rights and help to enforce the constitutional amendment that was passed in 2015, then the situation should improve. In addition, it is important for NGOs around the world to continue funding efforts to help protect young children in Yemen from being married against their will.

– Clarissa Cooney
Photo: Flickr

terminating child marriage
Child marriage and its confining consequences affect 650 million women across the world and violate human rights. Some of these are access to health care and economic opportunity. While UNICEF databases indicate that the prevalence of child marriage has considerably decreased by at least 6 percent since 1995, child marriage rates remain urgent and concerning; 12 million girls under 18 enter a marriage or early union globally each year.

The persistence of child marriage in a globalized age remains a barrier that obstructs the world from achieving international social justice. Aims to discover the key to terminating child marriage is only a modern development, as child marriage had been the norm virtually everywhere up until the 20th century. In the 21st century, the practice conflicts with a number of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the U.N. in 2015, such as gender equality, no poverty and decent work and economic growth.

The U.N. Sustainable Development Goals

  1. Gender equality: Women make up the vast majority of child marriage victims, largely lacking the necessary empowerment from their communities to escape such conditions. Often feeling as though they lack any other choice, they enter the immobilizing hands of long-held social norms and thus continuing gender inequalities. Subsequently, they are unable to escape their impoverished conditions.
  2. No poverty: Just as poverty is a consequence of child marriage, it too serves as a driving cause. In rural regions where large family sizes and poverty commonly go hand in hand, families send off young daughters in arranged marriages as an attempt to reduce their financial burden. The attempt largely fails, however, and the cycle of poverty for these families and girls continues.
  3. Decent work and economic growth: Barred from freedom and choice in major life decisions, it is no surprise that these 15 million child victims entering marriage each year lack economic independence. Not only do these conditions mean the disabling of girls from unlocking their potential, but according to Economic Impacts of Child Marriage research, it also restrains countries, where child marriage is most prominent, from achieving significant and otherwise attainable economic growth.

Other SDGs that clash with child marriage include quality education and reduced inequalities. Given the prevalence and urgency of this human rights issue, to make true progress within the variety of goals, the U.N. set Target 5.3 of the SDGs to “eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.”

The UN’s Inter-Agency Program

Latin America and the Caribbean are regions with the highest prevalence of child marriage, following Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. As such, the U.N. made it a priority to target this region to accomplish SDG target 5.3. Specifically, it intended to accomplish this with an inter-agency program covering five countries.

  1. The Dominican Republic, where 36 percent of girls married before 18 in 2017.
  2. Guatemala, where 30 percent of girls married before 18.
  3. Colombia, where 23 percent of girls married before 18.
  4. El Salvador, where 26 percent of girls married before 18.
  5. Mexico, where 26 percent of girls married before 18.

This program involved the uniting of the UNPF, UNICEF and U.N. Women in October 2017 to discuss their shared experiences alongside Latin American inter-institutional actors. Moreover, it was “to identify common challenges and strategies and develop national and regional roadmaps to contribute to compliance with the SDGs” according to UNICEF’s official file.

Those involved included members of civil society and international organizations, government officials and even adolescent girls serving as the program’s youth network representatives. The U.N. uses the power of diversity to effectively analyze, evaluate and prescribe for the pressing matter at hand.

Four Main Program Outcomes

The program ultimately proved that communication and cooperation among these diverse parties are key to terminating child marriage. The first step to progress is to discover and discuss the root causes of the critical issue. Through mutual respect for one another and collective discussion, key causes that participants agreed upon during the program included poverty and inequalities, as well as gender-based violence. With their first-hand experiences, the adolescent representatives disclosed the majority of the drivers discussed. Key causes they shared included school dropout, social harassment and the lack of resources available for pregnant and/or married girls.

Four main outcomes came out of the program, agreed upon by all involved parties as key to terminating child marriage. They were as follows:

  1. Create legal reforms to raise the legal age of marriage in all countries with no exceptions. Participants thoroughly discussed challenges in doing so and in promoting awareness of such legal changes. Since the program, a legislation change that occurred was the Mexico Senate’s approval of a total ban on underage marriage.
  2. Promote policies and services in the areas of health, education and gender equality, among others, and make them far more accessible in all regions. Involved parties agreed that a key means of doing so would require working at the community level and from among civil society, such as teaching males the good of gender equality.
  3. Empower girls in all Latin American and Caribbean countries. This would be accomplished by teaching adolescent girls their sexual rights as well as using social networks to reach and further educate them. This method would be particularly effective since there is a rising amount of internet usage in Latin America.
  4. Create a multilateral platform to maximize efficiency in the fight against child marriage within Latin America and beyond. The collaboration innate to this program would optimistically enter the future with cooperative methods such as pooling resources and advocating for girls’ rights internationally.

Countries should consider each of the four outcomes when implementing future national and international developments and projects meant to end underage marriage. The evident prioritizing of international cooperation is key to terminating child marriage. While the battle in doing so is far from over, the future appears bright as endeavors for correspondence and correlating declines in child marriage rates represent the necessary effort— and potential— for change.

– Breana Stanski
Photo: Flickr

Gender inequality is one of the biggest issues in many African countries. In many regions, women stop attending school when they begin menstruating while others have high rates of child marriage. Many women around the world are also often subject to gender discrimination in the workplace. That said, today, more than ever there are numerous individuals and organizations that have taken a stand to improve women’s rights in Africa.

3 Efforts to Protect Women’s Rights in Africa

  1. Ayisat Yusuf-Aromire and Fellow Female Soccer Players
    In Africa, soccer is seen by many as a man’s profession; as such, female players have an enormous pay gap compared to their male counterparts (female players earn R5,000 (approximately $338) for every game won while men take home R60,000 (around $4,000).Along with a large pay gap, women’s soccer teams also receive less media coverage and funding. Many of these women are also victims of abuse and harassment as a result of being athletes. In response to all of this, many these players have been conducting protests and sit-ins. They have been supported in part by the SheFootball Initiative, a nonprofit organization that aims to empower women by educating and motivating female soccer players in Africa. The founder, Ayisat Yusuf-Aromire (a former soccer player herself), began the organization because she wanted to get rid of the cultural stigma that women should not take part in athletics. So far, Yusuf-Aromire’s work has seemed to pay off, as the organization has become a major voice in women’s soccer in Africa.
  2. Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah
    In many parts of Africa, individuals are not properly educated on safe sex practices, and this can lead to high teen pregnancy and HIV/AIDS rates. To help better educate young people about these issues, Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah, who works as the director of communications for the Association for Women’s Rights in Development, has created a blog called Adventures from the Bedrooms of African Women. The blog aims to provide a safe space where African women can discuss sex and sexuality issues and become educated on safe sex. Resources like these are a great first step towards reducing rates of HIV/AIDS and teen pregnancy in Africa.
  3. Kudirat Abiola, Temitayo Asuni and Susan Ubogu
    Child marriage has become increasingly prevalent in Africa, especially in Nigeria, where roughly 44 percent of girls are married before they turn 18. To combat this, Kudirat Abiola (15), Temitayo Asuni (15) and Susan Ubogu (16) began It’s Never Your Fault, a nonprofit organization that aims to reduce child marriage in Nigeria. The organization has started a petition for the government to raise the minimum age for consent to marriage from age 11 to age 18. To date, the petition has gained more than 130,000 signatures globally.

– Chelsea Wolfe
Photo: Flickr

The Importance of Secondary Education
Secondary education is an important segment in every person’s life. It also serves as a means to potentially empower girls, raise a person’s economic status and reduce infant mortality rates as these listed facts will show. Here are the 10 facts about the importance of secondary education.

10 Facts About the Importance of Secondary Education

  1. Child marriage would reduce by 64 percent if all girls received a secondary education. Moreover, early pregnancies would lower by 59 percent.
  2. There are more than 226 million children around the world who do not attend secondary school. If these children were all to go onto secondary education, then the under-five mortality rate would fall by 49 percent. According to Ann M. Veneman, the Executive Director of UNICEF, evidence shows that girls who receive an education are more likely to take better care of their families, and in turn, reduce infant mortality rates.
  3. A person’s earnings should increase by 10 percent on average for each year of school they attend. As a result, education may help boost economies and bring populations out of poverty.
  4. In 29 countries around the world, children must complete secondary school. Some developed and developing countries will even pay for children to attend secondary school.
  5. In just 40 years, a country could raise its Growth Domestic Product (GDP) per capita by 23 percent through equal access to education.
  6. The attendance of all children to school would require $39 billion in funding every year.
  7. Children often start to drop out of school after primary school. The decrease in enrollment is as much as 10 percent worldwide and 34 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa.
  8. In the year 2012, reports stated that there were 168 million child labor workers between the ages of five and 17. This is one of the reasons a child might be unable to attend school.
  9. In most developing countries, public school is not free for children to attend, as they must purchase books, uniforms and other school supplies. Even factoring out the costs of going to school, 67 million children still do not receive the right to attend. As a result, millions of children do not obtain a proper education, making it difficult to find substantial forms of employment. One solution to this has been Child Empowerment International, an organization that works to provide education to children across the world by setting up day schools for children without access to education, such as in refugee camps.
  10. While girls are less likely to be able to attend school in the first place, boys are more likely to repeat grades or drop out of school altogether. This is due to various issues within their countries, such as restrictions on education for women or early marriage.

There are many issues regarding education and while there are many projects working to decrease these issues, the issue is still at large. There is a need for an international presence regarding the importance of secondary education, and education itself.

– Alex Cahill
Photo: Flickr

South Sudanese Children Released from Hostage Situation

On July 23, 2019, 32 South Sudanese children were released from a hostage situation. These children were released to their families and other community members in Leer County, in northern South Sudan. These children were abducted by political opposition groups, with some of the boys abducted as early as 2016. Since the abduction, these 32 children were forced to witness armed conflicts and even participate as child soldiers. Unfortunately, the abduction of these 32 boys is not an uncommon incident; it is a daunting aspect of the South Sudanese civil war.

South Sudan has been in unrest since December 2013, when a civil war was sparked by conflict between the nation’s president and vice president. Supporters for President Salva Kiir were pitted against opposition supporters for Vice President Riek Machar, creating a power struggle over which regime would control the country. This resulted in five years of violence against armed forces and unarmed civilians. The devastation from this civil war has resulted in an estimated 400,000 deaths and has caused nearly 2.5 million refugees to flee the country.

Of the many atrocities committed within this civil war, the recruitment of children into armed forces is one of them. Recruitment, in this case, means the abduction or sale of children. Child abduction across South Sudan has become more frequent due to the nation’s civil war. In 2018, the U.N. last reported that around 19,000 children have been forced into armed groups across South Sudan. Young boys are typically made into child soldiers, while the abducted young girls are made into child brides. It is not uncommon for young girls to be sold into marriage, as the nation’s civil war has economically damaged many communities.

Where these abducted children end up is a mixed bag; some of these children are taken by armed opposition groups, while some of the child soldiers wind up in South Sudanese government forces. For the children integrated into government armed forces, their placement there is not condoned by the nation’s army, South Sudan’s People Defense Force (SPLA). A spokesperson for SPLA, Lul Ruai Koang, publicly stated, “We don’t want child soldiers… We gave their names to UNICEF.” In other words, if there are child soldiers found within SPLA ranks, their information will be given to UNICEF. From there, UNICEF is in charge of what happens to these children.

As for the South Sudanese children released from their hostage situation on July 23, 2019, UNICEF has enrolled all 32 boys into a three-year integration program. This program will provide for the boys’ basic needs, along with additional educational and psychological programs. As of July 2019, UNICEF has assisted 3,143 children throughout South Sudan after they have been released from armed forces. UNICEF’s reintegration programs have become essential in helping these children cope past their traumas and become functioning members of society.

“These children are deprived of a childhood and have seen things children should never experience,” South Sudanese UNICEF representative Mohamed Ag Ayoya said about the July hostage release. “However, it is not too late to give them a future, and that future started today.”

– Suzette Shultz
Photo: Flickr

Keeping Girls in School ActFor hundreds of years, people have robbing women and young girls of their right to an education. Of the 774 million illiterate people around the globe, two-thirds are female. Without an education, women die at higher rates, have an increased number of child deaths, are more likely to marry young, are less likely to find work and are more likely to receive lower pay. The Keeping Girls in School Act is designed to address the worldwide barriers that currently exclude 130 million school-aged girls from their right to an education. The legislation has the power to cut child deaths by 50 percent and will raise girls’ future wages by $15 to $30 trillion. Here are 10 facts about the Keeping Girls in School Act.

10 Facts About the Keeping Girls in School Act

  1. The bill has bi-partisan Congressional support. On April 9, 2019, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced the Keeping Girls in School Act into the Senate. On that same date, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL), Rep. Susan Brooks (R-PA) and Rep.Nita Lowey (D-NY) introduced the bill into the House. More recently, Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), Rep. Peter J. Visclosky (D-IN), Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) and Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) have also decided to cosponsor the bill, totaling a number of 25 co-sponsors in the House and three in the Senate. With advocates in both the House and the Senate, the Keeping Girls in School Act has garnered the support of not only both legislative bodies but both political parties.

  2. The bill will cut child deaths by 50 percent. Education is one of the most valuable resources when it comes to saving children’s lives. Malnutrition is one of the leading causes of death for children under five largely due to many mothers’ lack of education on proper hygiene, health and nutrition. According to UNESCO, if all women received secondary education, it would cut in half the number of child deaths and save three million lives. When provided with an education, mothers are able to raise their children in a healthier way because they have the knowledge necessary to provide them with a higher quality of life.

  3. The bill focuses on secondary education. The Keeping Girls in School Act focuses on education at the secondary level rather than the primary because girls are at higher risk of dropping out as adolescents. Between the ages of 14 to 18, girls are at the greatest risk of pregnancy, child marriage and genital mutilation. By focusing on girls in this age range, the Keeping Girls in School Act has the power to not only educate young women but to prevent inhumane practices from infiltrating their lives.

  4. The bill will reduce child marriage by 66 percent. Without proper education, people force many young girls into marriage because the girls do not understand that they have the right to refuse it. Education informs young women about their rights and provides them with the tools necessary to challenge the cultural expectations. According to UNESCO, one in seven sub-Saharan African women are married under the age of 18 due to their lack of education. Education is one of the leading factors when it comes to reducing child marriage. If the Keeping Girls in School Act passes, it will play a vital role in eradicating child marriage because it will grant young women the awareness that they have autonomy over their own lives.

  5. The bill is divided into 14 barriers. The Keeping Girls in School Act is divided into 14 sections in an attempt to address all the barriers that prevent women from receiving an education. These include: harmful social norms, lack of safety at or traveling to school, child and forced marriages, distance from and cost of school, the priority of education given to young men, poor nutrition, early pregnancy, HIV, disabilities and racial or religious discrimination. The Keeping Girls in School Act not only outlines these 14 barriers but sets out to challenge them. By individually working to overcome these educational confines, the Keeping Girls in School Act will not only make education more accessible for young women but it will also improve the quality of their lives.

  6. The bill will decrease violent conflict by 37 percent. Lack of education is one of the biggest contributors to violent conflict. Likewise, conflict-affected areas inhibit girls’ access to education greatly. Girls in conflict-affected areas are 90 percent more likely to be uneducated due to the violent reality of their communities. By providing young women with access to education, the violence that keeps thousands of girls from being educated will decrease and the fear that leads their lives will consequently lessen.

  7. The bill will save worldwide governments 5 percent or more on education budgets. With more girls attending school, there will be fewer child marriages, so more women will be able to enter the workforce later on. As a result, they will earn more money and will be able to contribute to their country’s economy in a way they were formerly unable to. An investment in female education is more than a social rights investment because it also houses an economic return. With more economically stable women, more people will be able to purchase products and their countries’ economies will rise as a result. By prioritizing girls’ education, U.S. foreign assistance is not only investing in young women but also investing in themselves.

  8. The bill will promote gender equality. By advancing girls’ education, the U.S. is taking a global stand against inequality. Worldwide, four million more boys receive education than girls. The Keeping Girls in School Act has the power to bridge the gap. Providing education for young women is not only the acknowledgment that they are equally valuable but it is the recognition that they are undeniably capable. In Pakistan, women with secondary education earn 70 percent of the country’s average male income while their primary school counterparts earn only 51 percent. By advocating for the Keeping Girls in School Act, the U.S. is challenging social norms that have oppressed young women for decades. As a result, the Act also possesses the power to change the way people value women around the globe.

  9. Fifty international nonprofit organizations endorse the bill. The largest global poverty organizations around the world support the Keeping Girls in School Act. Organizations such as UNICEF U.S.A, CARE U.S.A and ADRA International are currently backing the legislation. By supporting this bill, these organizations are not only spreading awareness for the global issue but they are exemplifying the mass of its importance.

  10. The bill will receive updates every five years. Keeping in line with global progression, if enacted into law, the Keeping Girls in School Act promises to keep up. If passed, the Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, the Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues and the Senior Coordinator for International Basic Education Assistance will oversee the bill. This makes sure that the diversity of issues addressed are in line with the reality of the world’s social climate, ensuring that women’s education progresses at the fastest possible rate.

These 10 facts about the Keeping Girls in School Act can spread awareness of a bill that has the power to change the lives of young women around the world. Programs such as CARE’s Keeping Girls at School and funds like UNESCO’s Malala Fund For Girls’ Right to Education are making great progress towards improving the issue. However, with 76 million illiterate female youths worldwide, the Keeping Girls in School Act will help to increase education for women even further.

– Candace Fernandez
Photo: Unsplash

Child Marriage in IndiaChild marriage is any formal or informal marriage of one or both individuals under the age of 18. Not only a human rights violation, child marriage also negatively affects a child’s health, physical growth, mental and emotional development and education opportunities. Some reasons for child marriage are poverty, lack of education, political and financial reasons, gender inequalities and improper implementation of the law. Both girls and boys are affected by child marriages; however, girls are affected at a much higher rate. Of 223 million child brides, 102 million are married before they turn 15. One in three of the world’s child marriages are located in India. Fortunately, these four nonprofit organizations fighting child marriage in India are dedicated to making a change.

4 Nonprofit Organizations Fighting Child Marriage in India

  1. Saarthi Trust: Rehabilitation psychologist Kriti Bhartihe founded Saarthi Trust in 2011. This organization’s main focus is working on the establishment of rights for women and children, child marriage annulment and protection for women and children. Saarthi Trust is the first organization to annul a child marriage in India. Since then, they have successfully annulled 30 marriages and prevented 900. In addition, this organization has rehabilitated 6,000 children and 5,500 women. The Saarthi Trust also offers programs for mental support and education for women and children.  
  2. Aangan Trust: Suparna Gupta founded Aangan Trust in 2002. It works to ensure protection from trafficking, hazardous work, child marriages and violence. This organization trains women to work with child survivors to guarantee that there is no further harm. The women are trained in active listening skills, building empathy and linking children and families to existing services to help reduce risks. This will allow the children to heal, restore their dignity and get back into the community. In addition, these women also build connections with key government agencies, the police and Child Welfare Protection to go through with care plans and to monitor the children’s progress. 
  3. Girls Not Brides: Dedicated to ending child marriages, a group of independent global leaders called The Elders founded the global partnership of Girls Not Brides in 2011. There are members of this organization India, Kenya, Mexico and Senegal. The organization’s main goals are to raise awareness of the negative impact child marriages have through an open, informed and inclusive conversation with communities, facilitate learning with organizations ending child marriages and mobilize policy to end child marriages. The organization works directly with girls by helping them build skills, empowering them and developing support networks. 
  4. Institute of Health Management Pachod (IHMP): Two doctors started IHMP, a nonprofit organization that addresses public health concerns of marginalized groups in India, in 1986. Their main focus is to help vulnerable young girls in rural communities. The IHMP provides life skills and education to these girls in order to make positive life decisions and prevent child marriages. There are several programs offered that support and empower young girls. The institute’s community-based teachers conduct classes that help young girls learn how to negotiate to delay marriage so they can continue their education.

Although child marriages continue to exist, these four nonprofit organizations fighting child marriage in India not only have a positive impact but generate hope for many young boys and girls. 

Merna Ibrahim
Photo: Flickr