7 FundDavid Beckham is a father, former professional soccer player, a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) ambassador and a philanthropist. While Beckham played for the Manchester United Football Club he was also supporting UNICEF. In 2005, Beckham was appointed as the new ambassador for UNICEF. The former soccer player is supporting and advocating for the well-being of children globally. In 2015, to commemorate 10 years of supporting UNICEF, UNICEF and Beckham partnered to start the 7 Fund.

The 7 Fund

The 7 Fund aims to empower vulnerable children in nations across the world, including Indonesia, Nepal, Uganda and El Salvador, by addressing issues such as “bullying, violence, child marriage and missed education.” Within the initial three years of its establishment, the 7 Fund had already made a significant difference in children’s lives.

Child Marriage in Nepal

According to the 7 Fund, “Nepal has one of the highest rates of child marriage in Asia.” Girls who marry young often drop out of school, leaving them uneducated and unable to break cycles of poverty. The 7 Fund tackles child marriage in Nepal by ensuring that girls receive the support needed to stay in school or return to school to fulfill their full potential. In addition to helping “build life skills” for both boys and girls, the organization also supports the provision of mental health services for these children. Importantly, the 7 Fund educates parents and communities at large on the detrimental impacts of child marriage in order to reduce its prevalence.

The Story of Rashida Khatun

On its website, the 7 Fund showcases the inspiring story of Rashida Khatun, a 14-year-old girl in Nepal. Child marriage is common in Khatun’s community. Despite her yearning to receive an education, she could not due to her family’s impoverished circumstances. Her parents prioritized the education of her three brothers while she and her sisters had to shoulder household chores. Her four older sisters were “married as teenagers” and she was next in line.

Khatun’s world changed when she joined a “UNICEF-supported non-formal education program for girls” in her area, with permission from her father. The nine-month-long Girls’ Access to Education (GATE) program focused on empowering “out-of-school adolescent girls by giving them basic numeracy and literacy lessons and useful life skills.” Khatun told UNICEF Nepal that when she initially started the classes, she was not aware “that children had rights, or that child marriage was a violation of those rights or that it was actually illegal.”

Through the GATE program, Khatun was educated about the dangers of child marriage and decided against it. Khatun and a GATE class facilitator eventually managed to convince her parents to cancel her marriage, allowing her to continue to pursue an education that would one day help her rise out of poverty. The story of Khatun is an illustration of the importance of 7 Fund efforts to address child marriage in Nepal. Roughly 10,000 Nepali girls are now part of “a return to school” program.

Tackling Malnutrition in Papua New Guinea

In Papua New Guinea, one out of 13 children dies before reaching the age of 5, mostly due to malnutrition. The 7 Fund looks to reduce child malnutrition in Papua New Guinea through lifesaving programs. In a 2015 press release by UNICEF, Beckham says, “I feel very proud to be in Papua New Guinea to see for the first time how the money raised is helping to keep children healthy and safe, by providing life-saving therapeutic food for children suffering from malnutrition.”

Addressing Bullying in Indonesia

The 7 Fund acknowledges that the effects of bullying can stay with an individual for life. With one in five Indonesian children between 13 and 15 experiencing bullying, the issue is important to address as bullying diminishes self-esteem and negatively impacts mental health. The 7 Fund is supporting anti-bullying initiatives in Indonesian schools, focusing on “training teachers and helping schools put safeguarding plans in place, helping to reduce rates of school dropout and child marriage and creating a safer school environment to enable children to thrive.” Due to these efforts, incidences of bullying have reduced by almost a third.

Prioritizing Girls’ Education in Uganda

Within Uganda, nearly 60% of the girls are unable to go to secondary school due to violence in school and pressure to stay home to help manage the household. To ensure girls stay in or return to school, the 7 Fund is supporting “teacher training and creating protection systems to track and report violence.” The Fund is also focusing on educating parents and communities on the lifelong benefits of girls’ education for both the girls and their families.

Beckham’s 7 Fund is a prime example of using a celebrity platform to make a difference. Overall, the 7 Fund protects and empowers children with the knowledge and tools to rise out of poverty.

– Carolina Reyes 
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty In SyriaFor the past decade, Syria has been the center of a brutal civil war. As a result, millions of Syrians face the everyday threats of violence, hunger and disease that wartime poverty brings about. Those most vulnerable to the effects of poverty include Syria’s children. A closer look at child poverty in Syria provides insight into the lives of Syrian children.

10 Facts About Child Poverty in Syria

  1. Roughly six million Syrian children rely on humanitarian assistance. Syrian children are among the most vulnerable groups in the Syrian civil war. The war has affected more than 11.1 million Syrians, almost half of whom are children.
  2. Children are unable to attend school. The civil war greatly fuels child poverty in Syria. As parents struggle to afford to send their children to school, many teachers are unpaid and destitute school buildings are collapsing. Nearly 2.5 million Syrian children are unable to attend school. This number does not include the 750,000 displaced Syrian children in nearby countries who also have no access to education. According to World Vision, the Syrian conflict has “reversed two decades of educational progress.”
  3. More than half of all Syrian children suffer from hunger. An estimated 60% of the nation’s children are suffering from hunger and 28% endure stunting as a consequence of malnutrition. The percentage of Syrian people suffering from food insecurity is currently the highest it has ever been since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011. With 6.2 million children currently living in hunger, the numbers are only rising, having increased by roughly 35% from November 2020 to February 2021.
  4. Child labor is increasing. Faced with the threat of extreme child poverty in Syria, many school-aged boys drop out of school to support their families. These boys regularly work in unsafe situations for little pay. The research study “Survey on Child Labour in Agriculture in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon: The Case of Syrian Refugees” provides statistics on Syrian child labor. The 2019 study concluded that about 70% of Syrian refugee “children between 4 and 18 years old” were employed, “with an average age of 12.9 years.” Additionally, about 75% of these children worked in the agricultural sector. In this sector, about 30% of working children have experienced injuries.
  5. Boys are targets for child soldiers. As boys drop out of school to support their families, they are at higher risk of being recruited as child soldiers. With no income to provide for their children, many families resort to sending their young boys for training as child soldiers, believing that it is the best option. In 2021 alone, almost 840 children were recruited as child soldiers, among other roles, with 797 of these children being boys.
  6. Child marriage is rampant. Many families resort to child marriage to solve their economic situations. Sexual abuse of young girls also runs rampant in crowded refugee camps. Desperate to save their daughters from “child trafficking and sexual exploitation” and unable to economically provide for their children, many families arrange marriages for teenage girls. Out of girls aged 15-19, about 3.8% give birth every year.
  7. Weather has significant impacts. Millions of displaced and homeless children in Northwest Syria face brutal winters. Their only shelter from the harsh cold is often a tent or severely damaged and unsafe buildings that serve as emergency shelters. Roughly 75% of all Syrian children killed in 2020 came from this part of the country.
  8. COVID-19 exacerbates poverty: The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated child poverty in Syria. In addition to the 11.1 million Syrians already in need of urgent humanitarian aid, an additional 1.1 million Syrians have found themselves in poverty as a consequence of the pandemic. COVID-19 has also caused the gross domestic product to fall by up to 15% in the nation’s nearby countries, meaning that Syrian refugees seeking refuge in neighboring countries have fallen further into poverty.
  9. Infrastructure is failing. Only 53% of hospitals are currently in service, greatly adding to child poverty in Syria. Since the start of the war, more than 25,000 children have been killed, a number that is only increasing due to limited healthcare services and lack of access to clean water.
  10. Children are vulnerable to diseases. Poor sanitation caused by a lack of infrastructure, resources and clean water makes Syrian children vulnerable to cholera and other diarrheal diseases. The lack of accessible healthcare means many children miss their regular health checkups. Extremely cold weather in the northwest part of Syria also makes children susceptible to pneumonia.

Addressing Child Poverty in Syria

To address the issue of child poverty in Syria, UNICEF has sent humanitarian assistance on the ground. UNICEF’s efforts focus on children’s education, health and sanitation, among other goals. In 2020 alone, UNICEF “screened 2.6 million Syrian children and women for acute malnutrition,” improved water services for 3.2 million people and vaccinated roughly 2.6 million children against polio. UNICEF also “supported 2.2 million children with education services in formal settings.”

While the conflict in Syria continues, vulnerable groups are disproportionately affected. The efforts of UNICEF ensure the protection and well-being of millions of Syrian children, reducing child poverty in Syria.

– Caroline Bersch
Photo: Unsplash

Child Poverty in Romania
Romania, an Eastern European country bordering Ukraine and Hungary, is infamous for its struggles with children’s rights. A quarter of the nation lives below the poverty line, and furthermore, almost one-third of all children in Romania live below the poverty line. The rate of child poverty in Romania is one of the highest in the whole European Union.

Childhood Poverty in Romania

Romania has one of the highest poverty rates in Europe and the issue of child poverty is especially pressing. According to the Independent, child poverty in Romania has worsened in recent years due to three main reasons: “a higher rate of unemployment, a wider gap between rural and urban areas in terms of investment, education and employment opportunities” as well as “a general descending economic trend after the 2008 financial crisis.” Though the number of working children has decreased in recent years, still, 1% of children work, involved in begging, washing car windows or working as brickmakers. Some families sell their children to mafias who recruit them to join gangs or sex traffick them in Romania or in other European countries.

Rural Child Poverty

Today, child poverty is the worst in rural areas of Romania where 45% of the population lives. Most rural Romanians are impoverished subsistence farmers, leading to their children growing up in poverty-stricken conditions. Access to education and proper medical facilities is not as available as it is in cities. Many rural Romanians cannot pay for medical services, which has resulted in a severe lack of doctors in the countryside. In addition, the country decreased its education budget because of dire economic conditions, which led to a shortage of teachers. Furthermore, 400,000 children are not attending school.

Solutions

Several organizations have been working in Romania with the main goal of promoting the rights of children and lobbying the government in order to alleviate childhood poverty. The National Council of Students represents all the country’s students by defending students’ rights and lobbying for a reformed educational system. Another organization, the Children’s Board, comprises children of different ages from all over the country. It strives to create a governance that protects children of all ethnicities and backgrounds.

These organizations work to keep children’s voices heard in different capacities, a pressing task considering the treatment of children during Romania’s communist days. Four of the leading child protection organizations joined to produce the “Child Rights Now! Romania” report. The report details how child rights have improved since the end of communism and the execution of Romanian communist dictator, Nicolae Ceaușescu, in 1989. The report also highlights issues to address in order to improve child rights and decrease poverty levels, plus several tangible solutions.

More organizations are addressing child poverty in Romania than ever before. Under Ceaușescu’s regime, Romanian children living in poverty had no rights. Hopefully now, with the help of various advocacy organizations working with the government, improvements will alleviate child poverty in Romania.

– Allie Degner
Photo: Flickr

Theresa Kachindamoto’s Activism
Malawi operates under a democratic chiefdom system, which has been in existence for hundreds of years. Theresa Kachindamoto is the youngest of 12 siblings and the mother of five children. She works as a tribal Malawian chief in the district of Dedza. This district consists of nearly 900,000 people and 551 headmen. Theresa Kachindamoto’s activism for Malawi children stems from the cultural practice of child marriages.

Kachindamoto has been working to annul child marriages and ensure that the female victims of it can receive an education. In Malawi, one in two girls will marry before 18, preventing them from completing their education. Kachindamoto uses her voice to explain the practicality of arranged marriages with healthy boundaries. She also advocates for safe environments for the betterment of all parties involved. Here is some information about Theresa Kachindamoto’s activism for Malawi children.

Empowerment of Children

Some call Theresa Kachindamoto the terminator of child marriages. In fact, she has annulled over 1,000 marriages and immediately aided in getting individuals back to school afterward. Kachindamoto has said she will be chief until she dies, giving the children of Malawi a solid and long-term advocate. She is accomplishing change through the creation of a reliable support network to alter traditions.

U.N. Women has been a big supporter of Theresa Kachindamoto’s activism for Malawi children and how she brings attention to the issue of child marriages.

Many young women end up having to enter child marriages since their families are in poverty and cannot provide for their basic needs. Benedeta Matinson talked about marriage and finishing school in a U.N. Women video before she received employment. She conveyed information about experiencing marriage and pregnancy at the age of 15. Benedeta stated that marriage not a suitable solution for the lack of basic necessities.

The Problem

Malawi is the sixth most impoverished country in the world. Girls who marry before the age of 18 make up 18% of the country. Kachindamoto has expressed that motherhood and wifehood often take precedence over girls’ education. Thus, the chief is working towards altering traditions. Theresa Kachindamoto’s activism for Malawi children empowers young women. It grants the girls understanding of their value and what they deserve. This includes quality education before marriage arrangements.

Child marriages lead the way to more significant problems. An example of a problem is sexual initiation camps. These are places where young women learn how to sexually please men and understand their “duties” as wives. The tradition translates as “kukasa fumbi,” which basically means sexual cleansing. Girls either graduate the program by having relations with their instructor or go home virgins. Meanwhile, if they return home as virgins, their parents force them to lose their virginities to local men. This cultural practice makes girls more susceptible to unwanted pregnancies and the spread of HIV. In fact, statistically, every one in 10 Malawians becomes ill with HIV/AIDS.

With the teen pregnancy rate rising during the COVID-19 pandemic, 57.2% of girls ages 15 to 19 are mothers. In addition, 63.5% of girls are mothers-to-be.

The Importance of Education

As part of Theresa Kachindamoto’s activism for Malawi children, she created and signed an agreement for her district to end child marriage along with sexual initiation camps. This was the result of conversing with 50 sub-chiefs who gave Kachindamoto significant pushback. In response, she firmly said, “these girls will go back to school” and the other tribal members slowly worked towards sticking to the new law. In her reign, Kachindamoto raised the age of consent for marriage from 15 years old to 18 years old.

The Mpapa mothers’ group is an organization that seeks out victims of child marriages. Members go door to door in search of those who have dropped out of school due to early marriage, and they attempt to return the girls to school. Mpapa Primary School is a school that the girls then attend, where drop-out rates were at 6% in 2020 and attendance was at 87%. Nationally, only 51% of girls finish primary school.

The Joint Programme on Girls Education (JPGE) trains the Mpapa mothers’ group. The United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency supports the group as well. The group encourages to complete education by mentoring teens on pregnancy issues, marriage and their rights as women.

A 15-year-old girl and Mpapa Primary School attendee, Aisha Kayima, benefited from mentoring sessions two times a month. The mothers’ group has taught Kayima to be better informed about her choices so that she can have a quality future.

Looking Ahead

Putting a stop to child marriages can change the economic status of young girls while ensuring entire communities’ safety by inhibiting the spread of HIV/AIDS. Theresa Kachindamoto’s activism for Malawi children also helps reconnect girls with their warranted educational paths. In Kachindamoto’s words, “If you educate your girl, you will have everything in the future.”

– Libby Keefe
Photo: Flickr

Celebrities Working With UNICEF
The United Nations created the United Nations International Emergency Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in December 1946. It helped children in countries that WW2 impacted. In 1950, UNICEF began advocating for both children’s and women’s rights. It also works toward the protection, safety and health of developing countries. In 1953, UNICEF shortened its name to The United Nations Children’s Fund. UNICEF works in over 190 countries to provide vaccines, safe water, sanitation, education and skill-building. UNICEF has a program for celebrities and public figures called UNICEF Ambassadors. Ambassadors use their fame and platform to fundraise and raise awareness for children’s rights and advocacy. Each ambassador has its own motive and mission. Here are five celebrities working with UNICEF.

Selena Gomez

American actress and singer Selena Gomez began working with UNICEF in 2009. Gomez started as a “trick or treat UNICEF” nation’s spokesperson in 2010, helping raise $4 million. In 2011, Gomez took part in UNICEF’s 12 Days for UNICEF. This was a blog campaign focused on “the gift of giving back.” Its goal was to raise funds and awareness about the objectives of UNICEF. She also joined UNICEF’s Tap Project by bottling tap water from her home. Additionally, she posted public service announcements on social media for UNICEF’s clean water program.

Gomez took to Facebook and Twitter to promote “Sound The Alarm” in 2012. “Sound The Alarm” is an international campaign that raised funds for the child nutrition crisis in the Sahel Region of Africa. Later that year, she learned about the importance of social media in mobilizing and educating young people and made a public service announcement encouraging everyone to donate $10 via text to the emergency relief efforts campaign for the Sahel Region of Africa. Gomez also worked with and supported George Harrison’s FUND for UNICEF month of giving in 2011, held a charity concert benefiting UNICEF that raised over $200,000 in 2012 and visited Chile, Gana and Nepal with UNICEF.

Amelie Zibler

Amelie Zibler is just one of the many celebrities working with UNICEF. Zibler is famous for being a social media influencer on Tik Tok and Instagram and is a UNICEF Young Ambassador. Christina Zibler introduced Amelie, her daughter, to the NGO. Christina Zibler is a UNICEF Ambassador and CEO of “Jouer Cosmetics.” She uses her platform to raise awareness of current events and Middle Eastern politics. Zibler is just beginning her work with UNICEF.

Orlando Bloom

Orlando Bloom’s involvement with UNICEF dates back to 2007. He became a Goodwill Ambassador in 2009 when Bloom became highly involved with UNICEF. Bloom traveled to Mozambique with UNICEF in 2019 to meet with kids who experienced displacement from Cyclone Idai.

In 2018, Bloom traveled to Bangladesh with UNICEF to film the Netflix series “Tales by Light,” a documentary following children working in slums. Boko Haram violence forced hundreds of thousands of children out of their homes. Bloom traveled to South East Niger in 2017 to meet with the children. In 2016, Bloom went with UNICEF to Ukraine to increase awareness about the global education crisis for children in emergencies. Bloom also went with UNICEF to Jordan to meet with Syrian refugees in 2014. Additionally, Bloom traveled to Nepal in 2007 and 2008 to view water and sanitation projects.

Sofia Carson

UNICEF recently announced its newest national ambassador, Sofia Carson, in October 2020. Carson is a singer, activist and actress. She has worked with UNICEF since 2017. She specifically focuses on girls’ empowerment and protection by using her social media platform. Her platform educates her followers and spreads awareness regarding protecting young women. In 2019, Carson urged Congress to pass the Keeping Girls in School Act, which passed in The House of Representatives in 2020. Carson traveled with UNICEF to Recife, Brazil in 2019 to meet with teenagers and children to see UNICEF’s work, mission and dedication in person.

BTS

Korean boy band BTS and its label Big Hit Entertainment partnered with UNICEF in 2017 by creating the LOVE MYSELF campaign. The campaign aimed to end global sexual, domestic and school violence for children and teenagers. BTS also created a LOVE MYSELF fundraiser that raised $2.9 million in addition to putting out a song called “Answer: Love Myself.” BTS continues to spread the message of sharing love and making the world a better and safer place for all children and teenagers. In March 2021, BTS renewed its “Love Myself” campaign with UNICEF and donated $1 million to continue to end global violence and promote self-love.

Celebrities and public figures have raised millions of dollars for UNICEF. They used their large social media platforms to raise awareness. Besides these five, there are many more celebrities working with UNICEF.

– Lauren Peacock
Photo: Flickr

Misconceptions of Human Trafficking
An estimated 25 million individuals are trafficked globally on any given day. About 5.4 people per every 1,000 people in the world were victims in 2016. Additionally, one in four of these victims were children and three in four were women or girls. Approximately 89 million people have experienced some form of human trafficking within the last five years. Some victims suffer for a few days while others suffer for several years. Human trafficking is widespread and pervasive, and it is imperative that people understand the problem before addressing it. There are several common misconceptions of human trafficking that can make it difficult to identify and provide relief to victims. Here are five of these misconceptions.

5 Common Misconceptions of Human Trafficking

  1. Human Trafficking is Always Violent and Involves the Use of Force: Human trafficking is more than just kidnapping. The United States Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 defines human trafficking as “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery.” Human trafficking also includes any commercial sex act induced by force, fraud, coercion in minors, as well as organ harvesting and the use of child soldiers. Kidnappings and abductions are not the only factors in classifying human trafficking, as people typically traffic victims through fraud or coercion. Many victims may lack the personal documents or financial resources to escape. They may also fear for their safety.
  2. Human Trafficking Only Involves Commercial Sex: Sex trafficking is the most sensationalized form of human trafficking in the news. However, experts believe that there are more instances of labor trafficking worldwide. It is difficult to measure the scope of labor trafficking because sex trafficking cases receive more attention from the media and law enforcement. Labor trafficking receives less awareness largely due to this misconception of human trafficking.
  3. Human Trafficking Only Happens in Illegal Industries: Illicit and legal industries both report cases of human trafficking. Trafficked individuals often work alongside free employees. Some of the many legitimate industries in which trafficked individuals might work include restaurants, hotels, cleaning services, agriculture, construction and factories. However, people can also be exploited for criminal activity such as in street-level drug distribution businesses and cross-border drug smuggling schemes. Gang and drug dealing activity often occurs alongside sex trafficking business models as well.
  4. Human Trafficking Only Happens in Developing Nations: Both developed and developing nations experience human trafficking. Depending on their vulnerabilities, certain individuals are at a higher risk of being trafficked. Rachel Parker, the Program Manager of the Anti-Human Trafficking Division at World Relief Triad, told The Borgen Project these vulnerabilities include poverty, lack of education, violence and gang activity. She highlighted that native populations are an especially vulnerable demographic. Additionally, Parker noted familial factors, including having “too many mouths to feed” or parent-child separation as a result of immigrating in search of work. Lastly, she cited institutional variables such as a “lack of appropriate government support” as risk factors.
  5. Individuals Being Trafficked Always Want To “Get Out”: Victims of human trafficking do not always identify themselves as victims. Every trafficking situation is complicated and unique. Perpetrators often manipulate victims into human trafficking. In addition, some experience shame, guilt, fear and even feelings of loyalty towards their trafficker. These circumstances can prevent a victim from seeking help. Parker states, “Even if they don’t see [trafficking] as the worst thing to happen to them, we still have to respond.” She says they often see this in cases with minors who have experienced other traumas such as sexual assault. They might see their trafficking situation as the lesser of two evils. Parker emphasized that this is one of the largest misconceptions of human trafficking: the question of “Why didn’t they leave?”

Parker stated the one thing she wishes she could tell everyone about human trafficking is that “it is a crime of egregious exploitation, and if unaddressed in partnership throughout the world, it will continue to grow.” Furthermore, she emphasized that people should not fight by themselves, but that “the community and world need to take responsibility.” For example, governments can work with local providers to disseminate information, attend to gang violence and develop service infrastructure for survivors.

Human trafficking is a global problem that requires global solutions. First, however, education and awareness must eradicate misconceptions of human trafficking. Only then, can this widespread issue be adequately addressed.

– Margot Seidel
Photo: Flickr

demand for child rightsWith 25% of Latin America’s population being under the age of 15, an increased demand for child rights is inevitable. As a result, Latin America and the Caribbean have seen gradual implementations of protection for children under the law. Countries in these regions have seen improvements spanning from a growing economy to quality health care.

Health Improvements for Children

One immediate causes for the demand in children’s rights is because of the abuse that many children in impoverished countries endure. Some issues that exemplify the need for child rights are sexual abuse, drug and alcohol consumption and child labor. The health care systems in Latin American countries are responding.

For example, increased demand for child rights in places such as Argentina and Peru has resulted in more representation for children in health care services. Argentina has had children’s rights written in law since 1994. Now, with children included in health plans, child mortality rates have decreased to 9.9 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2018, compared to 12.6 just five years earlier.

Strengthening Written Law

Previously, many children in these countries were not seen as separate individuals until they reached adult age. However, increased children’s rights in certain Latin American and Caribbean countries have improved the livelihoods of the underaged. Children’s rights in Latin America and all across the world have moved to the forefront of many political agendas thanks to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and active citizens.

Countries such as El Salvador have shown that the demand for child rights have proved their international leadership on the issue. There are more than 15 comprehensive laws within the country protecting children and almost 20 international laws protecting El Salvadoran children.

Though the numerous laws, in theory, protect the children, it is not as easy to enforce the laws. A large discrepancy still remains between the sentiment and enforcement of law for the protection of children. Legislature rendered ineffective through lack of enforcement “allows perpetrators of violence against children and adolescents to continue committing the same crimes with no fear of prosecution or punishment.

The BiCE

One organization that has made child rights in Latin America a priority is BiCE, the International Catholic Child Bureau. The organization’s main goal is the preservation of child rights in different countries in Latin American and around the world. Current field projects take place in countries such as Ecuador, Guatemala and Peru. Most of the projects focus on fighting sexual abuse of children.

BiCE’s projects have many goals that ensure the safety of a child. For the programs fighting sexual abuse, they offer therapy services for recovery. They also train people to learn advocacy techniques for children’s rights. Over 1,000 children in Peru have received help from BiCE and the organization continues to do more in other countries in Latin America.

Most countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have written laws and statutes that protect children. However, this has not proved to be enough for the safety of children in these countries. There have been health improvements and decreased poverty rates, but more still needs to be done to enforce the written laws.

Josie Collier
Photo: Flickr

Senegalese ChildrenOver the past ten years, there has been a sharp global concern for Senegalese children’s well-being in schools, on the streets and within their own homes. The awareness of the brutal physical, mental and sexual treatment that many Senegalese children are subject to in modern society cannot be examined with a blind eye. Noko-Boku is a nonprofit organization that is having a direct impact on improving the lives of individual children living in Senegal.

Treatment in Schools

Over 50% of Senegal’s population lives in rural areas, making educational institutions challenging and school choice nonexistent. Many children miss the opportunity to attend school because of geographical barriers and familial responsibilities. Only 57% of students living in urban areas enroll in established educational centers.

Physical discipline from teachers is a common experience among children as young as 6-years-old. This makes the student-teacher relationship rigid and unwelcoming. Not only does this propel many students into detesting the school experience, but it also limits the number of safe spaces they have in their daily lives.

Senegalese Children on Streets

Additionally, hundreds of newborn boys in Senegal have no roof over their heads or family to comfort their cries. Many orphaned children among the streets of the nation’s capital Dakar are known as talibé children. They live in the same building that they attend their religious school teachings called Quranic Institutions. These children sleep on crowded sand floors with little to no personal belongings. Their lives have become an endless amount of physical and mental beatings that stay ingrained in them forever.

The fact that the children are subject to daily distress in their school hours is not the only issue. After the Quran’s teachings, a text that preaches peace, the students are forced to roam about the city’s jammed streets and beg for money and food. They receive beatings for showing up empty-handed to their “masters” or caretakers. Talibé children are in grave danger every day. The choice between the Quranic Schools and the streets is between a covered place to sleep or the sandy roads.

Tensions at Home

Furthermore, there is a mortality rate of 78% for children 5 years and under. With this rate, the need to improve home life among infant and toddler Senegalese children is crucial. It is common for very young children to live with extended family or neighbors when growing up instead of with their parents. This results from parents’ occupational obligations or immigration sacrifices to give their children and families a better future. The change in living situations and locations disrupts the mental and physical state of innocent growing children. Rates of sexual and physical abuse are much higher in children living in these estranged situations. This is because of the lack of supervision and trust between the child and the caretaker.

Noko-Boko’s Roots

In 2018 about 650,000 Senegalese children were not enrolled in schools or learning centers. This stunts their social and emotional growth. Zahra Thiam is the president and founder of Noko-Boku. She explained the catalyst of why so many young children are out of school in Senegal. She specified why this happens in the Kaolack region, where she was born and raised. There is an extreme lack of funding for instructors, supplies and materials in this region and all over Senegal. There is also a lack of essential resources for students throughout the school days, such as food. Thiam says that more schools in Senegal need to be provided with the proper financial and staff support. As a result, the Senegalese school day would improve dramatically. This improvement would be made in the teachings and the spirits of the teachers and students alike.

Noko-Boko is a community-run organization that started in 2018. Every year, it has made incredible efforts to help rebuild and reform schools, orphanages and individual lives of children from Zahra’s village and surrounding towns of the Kaolack region. In the 2018 to 2019 school year, the organization raised $413 to buy school supplies providing a kit to each of the 300 students. These kits consisted of a notebook, three pens, three pencils and geometric tools. Zahra Thiam says that access to quality education is the way to help these Senegalese children out of the oppressive cycle of poverty. It is also a way of showing them that there is so much that the world has to offer and so much that they can offer to the world. Her dedication to raising the quality of education and life for young children in her community is remarkable.

What is Noko-Boko’s Future?

COVID-19 had a detrimental effect on Senegal. With many Senegalese children without a home and many living in orphanages, the need for sanitary supplies is dire. A generous $400 donation from the president of Noko-Boku gave over 100 children clean diapers and disinfectant cleaners. It also gave them wearable garments for physical protection. Although these funds went a long way, Noko-Boku needs people worldwide to have a more profound effect on underprivileged and impoverished children living in the Kaolack region of Senegal. There is a Noko-Boku GoFundMe page with more information on how to help.

 Overall, in the final words of Zahra Thiam, “Changing the level of opportunities and treatment of children in Senegal starts with community action and advocacy. However, we cannot conquer the injustices in education, housing, hunger and abuse alone. We need help from individuals around the world with an open heart to hear and aid the needs of these innocent bright lives to create a better future and more equitable world.”

– Nicolettea Daskaloudi
Photo: Flickr

#ENDviolence Campaign
There is a powerful positive correlation between poverty and violence. Working to address this problem is BTS, a popular K-pop boy band. By partnering with UNICEF, BTS has supported the #ENDviolence campaign, which focuses on ending violence against children and teens worldwide.

The Correlation Between Poverty and Violence

One study revealed that children who grew up in poverty are “seven times more likely to harm themselves and be involved in violent crimes as young adults.” To reach this conclusion, the study analyzed 21,267 patients who had self-harm incidents and 23,724 individuals who were accused of violent crime between the ages of 15 and 33.

The results revealed that “children who remained in the top 20% of wealthiest families over their first 15 years of life were the least likely to harm themselves or commit a violent crime between the ages of 15 and 33.” On the other hand, children from families who lived in the least wealthy fifth of society were 13 times more likely to commit crimes and seven times more likely to hurt themselves as young adults.

Numerous research demonstrates the causes of self-harm and abusive behaviors of children, one of which is poverty. Overall, exposure to poverty has a significant impact on violent behaviors. Reducing poverty will therefore lead to a reduction in violent actions.

K-Pop Group BTS’ Support for UNICEF

BTS, one of the most popular K-pop boy groups, has raised approximately $1.4 million for the UNICEF #ENDviolence campaign. On June 22, 2020, the K-pop superstars won the 2020 UNICEF Inspire Award in the Integrated Campaigns and Events category.

The UNICEF Inspire Awards go to the most influential UNICEF campaigns. For this year, there were about 100 campaigns from 50 countries competing for the awards. BTS won this year’s Inspire Award because of the group’s wide range of work to promote children’s rights, which includes fundraising and raising awareness about the issue.

#ENDviolence Campaign

UNICEF launched the #ENDviolence campaign, also known as the Love Myself campaign, in 2017 to fight “against violence toward children and teens around the world.” Through the #ENDviolence campaign, UNICEF works actively to rebuild children’s lives. Some of the organization’s work includes bringing civilian life back to child soldiers and supporting shelters for street kids. UNICEF also protects trafficked children by training and funding a child protection team.

After BTS received the UNICEF Inspire Award, the secretary-general of UNICEF Korea, Lee Ki-Cheol, said, “BTS’ message that you need to love yourself in order to be able to love others is creating positive transformation all over the world. I believe this award is the result of BTS’ positive influence as they give children and youth across the Earth, both courage and comfort.”

BTS’ Global Philanthropy

BTS has not only helped the #ENDviolence campaign but has also contributed to other social and philanthropic campaigns. One member of the group, J-Hope, donated 100 million won ($84,407) to support underprivileged children. The donation went to the Green Umbrella Children’s Foundation. This organization supports children in need and helps students achieve their dreams. Along with the donation, J-Hope said: “Amongst the disadvantaged children that are victims of the various societal problems, I hope that these funds will be well-delivered to those that are facing financial difficulties due to the coronavirus.” J-Hope has been consistently making these generous donations so that the total amount of his donations so far reached 450 million won ($380,530). It’s safe to say that he along with his fellow BTS members are using their position to help people around the world.

Alison Choi
Photo: Flickr

palestinian children
Palestine is a Middle Eastern state that borders the Mediterranean Sea and primarily consists of the Gaza Strip and West Bank regions. Over five million people make up the population of both regions combined. Decades of conflict with Israel have left the land, especially Gaza, in a precarious state, with 80% of the population in Gaza needing some form of external aid to survive. Thus, Palestinian children face unique challenges and experiences.

Two-thirds of Palestinian families live above the poverty line, leaving almost one-third below the line, defined as having a monthly income of less than $640.

Children in Palestine, who make up about half of the population, are the most affected by these conditions. In both regions, more than one million children are in need of humanitarian assistance. Here are seven facts about the lives of Palestinian children.

7 Facts about Children in Palestine

  1. Infant mortality in Palestine is among the lowest in the Middle East. Infant mortality rates in the Middle Eastern region average to 18.3 deaths per 1,000 births, which is greater than Palestine’s alone. On average, there are 18 deaths per 1,000 births in Palestine between the West Bank and Gaza regions. As restrictions in movement confine Palestinians to their homes, the accessibility of adequate health care services may deprive children of their right to obtain necessary medical care.
  2. 70 percent of Palestinian children attend primary school. However, nearly 25 percent of boys and seven percent of girls drop out by age 15. These numbers are much larger for children with disabilities, who have a more difficult time accessing education. This is, in part, due to movement restrictions, as children and teachers need to cross at least one checkpoint to attend school. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Education and Higher Education, over 8,000 children and 400 teachers are in need of protective presence to obtain safe access to schooling in the West Bank.
  3. More than 80 new school buildings and 1,000 new classrooms are needed in Gaza over the next five years. The lack of sufficient classrooms has reduced learning hours for Palestinian students to 4.5 hours a day and has forced two-thirds of schools to operate on multiple shifts per day to prevent overcrowding. A lack of resources, materials, and willing teachers makes it difficult for children to attend school.
  4. Since 2000, over 10,000 Palestinian children in the West Bank have been detained by Israeli military forces in the Israeli military detention system. Defense for Children International — Palestine (DCIP) took the testimonies of 739 children, between 12 and 17 years old. Based on these testimonies, the organization found that 73 percent faced physical violence following their arrest, 64 percent faced verbal abuse and intimidation tactics by Israeli interrogators, 74 percent were not informed of their rights and 96 percent were interrogated without a family member present.
  5. The joint American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and DCIP led the No Way to Treat a Child campaign that exposes the systematic ill-treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention facilities. The campaign challenges Israel’s extended military occupation of Palestine by creating a sizeable network of people demanding immediate safeguarding of Palestinian children. As such, the proposed Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act (H.R.2407) follows these protocols and calls for U.S. citizens and policy-makers to take measures against unlawful detention.
  6. Conflict-related violence significantly impacts the physical and mental health of Palestinian children. Violent discipline in Palestinian homes and schools is widespread, where 91.5 percent of children have experienced psychological aggression or physical violence. The Israeli occupation has increased stress-levels and dysfunctionality within Palestinian families. The most vulnerable population— children— experience violence from both their families and Israeli soldiers alike. They are traumatized, confronting “flashbacks, nightmares, agoraphobia,” according to a UNICEF study involving children in the Gaza Strip.
  7. Coping mechanisms are eroding. Palestinian children and families are resorting to unhealthy coping strategies, such as school dropout, early marriage and child labor. Socio-economic difficulties, poverty and violence from the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict have forced children to mature early in life, with one in 10 girls between the ages of 15 and 19 years old getting married. Checkpoints have contributed to significant dropout rates. Some children are even referred to as “One Shekel Kids”, moving into the labor sector to support their families.

Poverty and conflict greatly affect children in Palestine, leading to high dropout rates and negative mental and physical health impacts. More than one million children in Palestine are in need of humanitarian assistance. Despite these conditions and traumas, Palestinian children still present inspiring stories of hardiness and hope. 

Sarah Uddin
Photo: Flickr