Children of Sierra Leone
In Freetown, Sierra Leone, the morning that Gbessey’s mother died, Gbessey was only two days old. Gbessey has All As One (AAO) to thank, the organization which has helped over 35,000 women, children and families with medical care and other services. Gbessey has been at the All As One Children’s Center ever since and turns 13 years old this year. Like so many other poor children of Sierra Leone, Gbessey has AAO to thank for their tenacious pursuit of access to health, education and social security networks.

Sierra Leone Civil War

John Bellows and Edward Miguel, scholars at the Dept. of Economics at the University of California, Berkeley, in their article on war and collective action, said that the effects of the Sierra Leone civil war on institutions, politics and social norms have been more devastating than the economic effects.

During the height of the war in 1992, people looted and destroyed medical facilities in the country. Although pregnant women have the legal right to free health care, the country has been unable to provide it. There are only about 22 physicians for every million people and about 60% of the rural population without adequate access to clean drinking water.

Filling the Gaps in the Social Safety Net

AAO, as an organization, works toward filling the gaps in the social safety net in Freetown, Sierra Leone. AAO focuses its efforts on the many orphaned and abandoned poor children of Freetown. In the AAO Children’s Center, employees provide exceptional care beyond shelter and nutrition.

The organization also vows to offer supplementary medical treatment and education for those children that are under their care. Registered nurses are available when necessary, as well as local doctors who are called when further medical treatment is needed. It also seeks to hire local teachers to enhance the learning of students as well as with implementing subject matter relevant to their lives.

Further, not only does All As One provide medical attention and education for the children under their care, but they also work to attend to those in need in the surrounding community of Freetown. On top of the 200 children of Sierra Leone it aids around the clock, the organization receives between 200 to 300 requests for assistance each month from families who are not already in the programming.

All As One’s Origins

Deanna Wallace and Steven Amara started All As One in 2000 to provide care to the abandoned and neglected poor children of Sierra Leone. What makes AAO a community-based organization isn’t just their efforts to maintain social welfare but also their collaboration with community businesses like JA Resorts & Hotels. Amara has thanked JA Resorts & Hotels for “their support and the generous gifts they have made at the times when we most need it. [JA Resorts & Hotels] have helped to keep our doors open,” Discovery Magazine reported.

Although on paper, the poor children of Sierra Leone may seem to be completely helpless. However, the people of All As One have given them a different story to tell. That story is one of resilience, community engagement and emergent response to the crisis at hand, all around the clock.

– Joy Maina
Photo: Unsplash

Organizations Working to End Child Labor
Around 160 million children around the world ages 5 to 17 are involved in child labor and more than 79 million of them are working in dangerous conditions that put their lives at major risk. Over the last four years, there has been an increase of 8.4 million children now engrossed in the act of child labor and that number is predicted to rise significantly even just for the year 2022. Despite this issue ascending, there is a multitude of organizations working to end child labor worldwide.

Child Labor and its Impact

Child labor is when someone exploits children into work that is dangerous and hazardous almost 50% of the time. This prevents them from having a normal childhood and leaves them unable to attend school. This issue is present in countries all over the world and sub-Saharan Africa has the most child laborers in the world with over 86.6 million, according to World Vision.

Poverty and poor schools are the two biggest causes of child labor in low-income countries. However, the problem is still prevalent in middle and high-income countries. “About 93.4 million children, 58.4% of child laborers, live in middle-income countries and 1.6 million child laborers live in high-income countries,” World Vision reported on its website.

Slavery, child trafficking, forced recruitment into armed conflict, prostitution and pornography, drug production and debt bondage are the worst forms of child labor, according to World Vision. The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that 22,000 children die each year at work due to unsafe environments. The most common form of child labor is agriculture work with more than 70% of laborers working in that field, World Vision reported.

One in three children in child labor is unable to receive an education due to how demanding their work schedule is, which is only going to continue the poverty and child labor cycle. According to UNICEF, there are 9 million additional children globally at risk of ending up in child labor by the end of 2022 as a result of the pandemic.” Luckily there are organizations working to end child labor, so hopefully, that number will not be as extreme.

The Global March Against Child Labour

The Global March Against Child Labour (Global March) is a global organization made-up of trade unions, teacher associations and civic organizations, with the purpose of ending child exploitation and trafficking, while focusing on providing quality education to all children. Global March began in 1998 when thousands of people, including world leaders came together to march against child labor in 103 countries to bring awareness to the problem.

The organization takes part in local, national, regional and global efforts in protecting and promoting the rights of children. Its goal is to change the system that compels children to have to work in the first place. Some of the issues it is addressing in order to improve children’s future: “the elimination of child labor, education for all and poverty alleviation.”

The organization has multiple programs in place as well as events aiding the end of child labor. It also has a current campaign called “Will you dance with us?,” which aims to show world leaders the importance of education and how many children in Africa (87 million) are working instead of going to school.

GoodWeave

GoodWeave, an organization that began in 1994, “is the leading global institution with a mission to stop child labor in global supply chains through a market-based holistic and authentic system.” Since 1994, the organization has rescued over 6,700 children from child labor and provided educational opportunities to over 26,000 children. It reached more than 75,000 workers in supply chains in 2018. In partnership with more than 350 organizations worldwide, GoodWeave aims to heal and educate exploited children and address the root causes of child labor.

There is “The GoodWeave Label,” which is a label on products that means no child labor went into the creation of that product. The purchase of products with this label shows support for programs trying to educate children and ensure adequate work for adults. “GoodWeave makes regular, unannounced inspections of all production facilities that cover tier-one factories and all outsourced production, including homes, to verify compliance with this Standard,” the organization said on its website.

Love146

Rob Morris founded Love146, a global organization, in 2002 with the mission of ending child trafficking and exploitation. The values Love146 operates under are “defiant hope, steady perseverance, deliberate collaboration, relentless advocacy, intentional thoughtfulness and unfiltered joy.” Services provided to positively outcome children include preventative education and supportive programming for financial independence, skills and resources.

There is a current project in the Philippines to provide holistic care to children in Love146’s care. The staff there created innovative ways to provide “education, recreation, health care and other services could be provided to children on-site,” according to its annual report.

Love146 reached more than 3,500 children through survivor care. It also reached more than 16,000 professionals, community members and caregivers to support Love146’s vision. Prevention and community education reached more than 63,000 children, thanks to Love146. “The trafficking and exploitation of children are one of the most severe human rights abuses imaginable,” Morris said on the organization’s website.

There are millions of children forced into labor each year and that number could only go up. By the end of this year, UNICEF predicts that 9 million children could go into child labor. This means they are most likely going to lose access to their education and have a poverty-based future, continuing the cycle between poverty and child labor. Child exploitation is an ongoing issue around the world, but these are just a few of the many organizations working to end child labor permanently around the world.

– Dylan Olive
Photo: Unsplash

Effective Language of Instruction
According to the World Bank, children are more likely to succeed and stay in school if they are taught in their native languages. However, about 37% of children who attend schools in low- and middle-income countries receive education in foreign languages, which puts them at an educational disadvantage. Effective language of instruction policies can help reduce learning poverty and improve children’s learning experiences. As a result, children are more likely to succeed in foreign languages and subjects like math and science, which can open up career opportunities down the line. Because educational attainment is a proven pathway out of poverty, the effective language of instruction policies must become a global priority.

The Effective Language of Instruction Policies

The World Bank lays out an approach to the effective language of instruction through public policy. The first principle of the World Bank’s approach is to educate children in their native languages up until at least their sixth year of primary school. The second principle states that children should have the opportunity to learn all academic subjects in their native language, not just reading and writing. Third, second languages at the primary school level must take the form of foreign language classes that begin with an emphasis on oral communication skills. Fourth, native language instruction should continue in schools even when “a second language becomes the principal language of instruction. “And finally, governments should continue to introduce effective language of instruction policies over time in order to best serve students and their countries.

Early Benefits

Limited access to effective language of instruction can hinder a student’s learning process as early as kindergarten. Children in low- and middle-income countries often lack access to educational resources at home, therefore, attending a school with ineffective language of instruction creates additional disadvantages for students. When children have access to effective language of instruction, they are more likely to excel in reading and writing, which are valuable tools in learning most other subjects. Children with access to education in reading and writing are more likely to engage in classes and schoolwork. Reading and writing skills can also help students excel in the real world, giving them career opportunities once they leave school.

A Foundation for the Future

Children who reap the most benefits from these policies often come from families with socioeconomic disadvantages. When a child’s family is unable to compensate for a lack of effective language of instruction at school, the child is more likely to drop out of school, repeat grades, experience learning poverty and receive a lower quality education overall, according to the World Bank. Effective language learning offers children opportunities to escape learning poverty, complete school and use the skills they learn to develop careers. The World Bank also finds that these policies reduce national education costs per student and in turn, allow governments to put more funding into achieving equal and quality education systems.

Learning poverty affects children all over the world and it often begins at a very young age. Effective language of instruction can benefit students everywhere and is particularly valuable for children in low- and middle-income areas, where learning opportunities may be scarce. Native language education lays out a foundation for student success, professional opportunities and national advancement, enabling children to break cycles of poverty.

– Cleo Hudson
Photo: Unsplash

Child Marriage in Niger 
Niger, one of the largest countries in West Africa, holds the highest rate of child marriages compared to the rest of the world. In fact, 75% of young girls marry before turning 18. This is because the nation’s legal marital age is 15 for girls and 18 for boys. Although Niger has made efforts to reduce child marriage, the country has noted only minimal progress in the last 20 years. As a result, many consequences have arisen from child marriage.

Why Does Niger Have a High Child Marriage Rate?

First, child marriage in Niger harshly affects girls deprived of attending school because they need to rely on others to survive. In addition, many young girls choose to drop out of school because of the unsafe learning environments. As a result, they cannot live an independent life due to the lack of income and confidence to make rational decisions. Due to few other options for their futures, many families decide to marry their daughters off for financial stability.

According to the World Bank, Niger has a poverty rate of 42.9%. However, Niger’s population continues to increase, causing the number of people in poverty to grow. Currently, many families are struggling financially, so they view child marriage as a way to alleviate their financial burdens. Because of this, marriage becomes “a strategy for economic survival” due to the lack of social protection, according to Save the Children.

Moreover, child marriage in Niger is common because many communities believe a woman’s purpose is to become a housewife and bear children. Due to this belief, families tend to prioritize the education of sons over daughters. To add, marrying young is a way that Niger communities attempt to prevent pregnancy before marriage, which is “a source of shame for the family,” Save the Children reports.

Consequences of Child Marriage in Niger

Although families aim to avoid pregnancy before marriage and look for financial stability by marrying their daughters off at a young age, this only causes more damage in the long run. For example, without education, young girls are unaware of the risks of early pregnancy. In fact, these young girls are at greater risk because 30% of the young girls show signs of malnutrition. As a result, “maternal mortality constitutes 35% of all adolescent deaths between ages 15 and 19,” according to Save the Children.

Not only do women face physical challenges but they also face mental health challenges caused by marrying at a young age. This is because young girls have to abruptly transition to adult life and take on responsibilities they are not mentally prepared to tackle. They are still at an age that requires guidance from a guardian. In a BMC Public Health study, many Nigerian girls expressed emotional distress and depression due to fulfilling their marital responsibilities and sexual demands from their husbands.

Due to the common practice of child marriage in Niger, young girls do not have the opportunity to have a childhood and face threats to their lives and health. For instance, some experience domestic violence and cannot return to school to escape these living conditions. Unfortunately, young married girls “have worse economic health outcomes than their unmarried peers, which are eventually passed down [sic] to their own children,” UNICEF reported.

How is Niger Receiving Help to End Child Marriage?

UNICEF is working to help implement laws and policies to help end child marriage and work within Nigerian communities to address the social norms that encourage child marriage. UNICEF partnered with the Niger Traditional Leaders and Association and the Islamic Congregation because they are well respected in their communities and can create new rules for people to follow.

Due to these advocacy efforts, the Niger Government created a national action plan, “Towards the End of Child Marriage in Niger,” that convenes every month to discuss what the community needs to do to advocate for better treatment of young boys and girls. Fortunately, “Education sessions by the Village Child Protection Committees were able to prevent cases of child marriage through direct mediation with parents and assisted girls to return to school,” UNICEF reported.

Lastly, Plan International Niger is helping girls establish confidence to fight child marriage in their communities. As a result, the young girls are using their voices and asking their leaders to end child marriage and provide them with an education to gain independence through employment. The Plan International Niger placed child protection committees throughout Niger and provided them with the tools to protect the rights of young girls to ensure change.

Child marriage is common in Niger, but it has far-reaching negative impacts on girls, such as emotional stress and depression. To add, young girls are at risk of domestic violence and pregnancy complications due to their age and malnutrition. These young girls have to become adults at an early age, which strips them of their childhood experiences. Fortunately, many young Nigerian girls are receiving help in an attempt to end the cycle of child marriage.

– Kayla De Alba
Photo: Flickr

The Action Foundation
Close to 1 million people with some form of disability live in Kenya. People with disabilities are at a greater risk of living in poverty. Women and adolescent girls with disabilities are even more at risk of poverty as well as gender-based violence. Maria Omare founded The Action Foundation (TAF) in Kenya, a grassroots nonprofit organization, because she noticed a need for disability awareness, education that caters to children with disabilities in low-income areas and support for the caregivers of children and adolescents with disabilities. TAF is paving the way for inclusivity and resiliency. TAF is minimizing disparities among children and adolescents with disabilities and their caregivers through three programs.

The TUNZA Program

TAF’s TUNZA program offers support to caregivers of children and adolescents with disabilities. It also provides necessary skills and resources to caregivers. In Kibera, where the center is located, many families live in extreme poverty. They do not have the resources or finances to care for a child with a disability.

Earlier in 2021, TAF in Kenya launched an inclusive early childhood care education map and referral directory. This tool helps caregivers find and utilize therapy services at little to no cost. This can play a vital role in helping children with disabilities have a better quality of life.

The TUNZA program also brings awareness and education about disabilities because many Kenyans believe that children born with disabilities are cursed, bewitched or a bad omen. A survey found that 45% of mothers who have a child with a disability are “pressured to give up and/or kill their child.” Other mothers experience coercion to leave their children at an institution. The statistics are even more staggering in rural areas in Kenya.

The IBUKA Program

Many people are taking notice of TAF’s advocacy efforts and are helping to amplify the organization’s voice, such as Michelle Obama and Google. Obama publicly highlighted TAF’s work in teaching girls with disabilities STEM-oriented education, such as robotics and coding, as a partnership with the Girls Opportunity Alliance.

Women and girls with disabilities in Kenya are more likely to face poverty, discrimination and denial of basic needs. Ibuka in Swahili means “emerge” or “rise,” and that is the aspiration of the IBUKA program.

One of the ways the program combats negative stereotypes of women and girls with disabilities and offers them hope is through mentorship and education. It teaches the women and girls the skills necessary, such as STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and vocational training, so that they can play an active role in the workforce. Women with disabilities are less likely to face poverty, discrimination, exploitation and violence when they are able to work or run their own businesses.

The SOMESHA Program

Children with disabilities in Kenya are unlikely to attend school due to a lack of accessibility. Also, fewer “than one in four children with a disability had access to any services.” Many families cannot afford special services for their children as the average monthly income per person is $39 and women in Kibera make 42% less than men.

The SOMESHA program aims to offer accessibility and inclusive education for children with disabilities. The program fits learning to the unique needs of each child. The SOMESHA program created a mobile-based application that improves literacy and promotes inclusivity. It is an interactive application for both caregivers and children. The application was especially helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic when Kenyans could not socialize in large groups.

The heartbeat of The Action Foundation in Kenya is in the people. Omare, the center’s staff and volunteers, the caregivers and the children make the organization thrive. The people of Kenya have historically looked down on people with disabilities as inferior, bewitched and helpless. However, Omare and her team are changing the narrative. They are offering hope and resources to families with children who have disabilities.

– Amy Helmendach
Photo: Unsplash

School Lunches in Peru
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlights the importance of school lunches in introducing children to nutrition and influencing their health outcomes over time. Although the emphasis on school meals has grown significantly in countries around the world over the last decade, Peru has struggled to make a drastic nutritional transition in comparison to its developed counterparts. However, the nation’s Qali Warma program aims to improve nutritional outcomes through school lunches in Peru.

Peru in Numbers

As of 2021, the World Food Programme (WFP) recognizes 22% of Peru’s population as impoverished without access to proper nutrition. Furthermore, of children younger than 5, 13.1% suffer from chronic malnourishment. With a total population of 31 million individuals, these statistics illustrate the severity of inadequate nutrition in Peru.

However, over the years, Peru was able to reduce rates of chronic child malnutrition by 50%, a significant feat for the nation. While statistics on hunger and poverty show improvements over the past 10 years, it is important to recognize that rates of malnutrition differ across regions of Peru. In some rural areas, chronic child malnutrition reaches almost 34%. Furthermore, the rates of child stunting among Indigenous groups have remained the same since 2011. The lack of access to healthy and nutritious foods in Peru is partly responsible for these concerning rates.

Qali Warma Nation School Feeding Program

The lack of access to healthy and nutritious foods in Peru has led to a plethora of health concerns. Among the most pressing issues are anemia and obesity, which both serve as risk factors for other illnesses. The Peruvian government recognizes the concerning rates of anemia and child obesity in its country, leading to the implementation of the Qali Warma school feeding program.

Qali Warma is a social program that the Peruvian government implemented, aimed at increasing the health and nutrition of children through school lunches in Peru. The name Qali Warma originates from the Indigenous Quechua language and translates to “vigorous child.” The meaning behind the name is an ode to the mission of the group — encouraging “healthy eating habits” among the youth of Peru. Qali Warma’s main focus is children in early learning and primary education. However, to benefit Indigenous children in the Peruvian Amazon, the program extends its reach to high school students.

Since its implementation in 2012, the Ministry of Development & Social Inclusion of Peru (MIDIS) has overseen the program along with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Initially developed as a three-year-long initiative, the success of the program means Qali Warma will continue until 2022. For the past decade, Qali Warma has provided healthy school lunches in Peru, improving eating habits among children while simultaneously engaging with local communities and providing people with food education.

A Two-pronged Strategy

The program consists of two services working in tandem with each other. The food service entails planning school meal menus and gathering the ingredients and supplies needed to put the meals together. Qali Warma uses specific calculations to ensure it meets the necessary nutritional and caloric requirements for child development. Moreover, the organization takes into account different cultural diets and consumer habits of each area it serves. The educational service component is primarily instructional. Qali Warma promotes “healthy eating habits and hygiene practices among the beneficiary children” while providing technical support and educational outreach to people implementing the food services.

Results and Reach

As Peru continues to invest in programs like Qali Warma, outcomes are proving successful in improving children’s health. By 2019, Qali Warma’s school lunches in Peru benefited more than 4 million children in total. Overall, the government notes an improvement in the overall nutritional state of these children since addressing nutrition with school lunches in Peru. Qali Warma reports that the impacts of school lunches extend far beyond nutrition as children are also more focused in classes and are eager to attend school. Nutrition specialists second this sentiment.

While Peruvian youth have struggled to maintain healthy levels of nutrition, addressing these issues in the places where children spend the most time, like schools, creates a lasting impact. Increasing the nutritional benefits of school lunches in Peru is a crucial first step in addressing malnutrition. However, consistent monitoring and modification are necessary as the program expands to reach more children nationwide.

– Chloé D’Hers
Photo: Flickr

Child Soldiers in Syria
In June 2021, the United Nations released its yearly 2020 report on children in armed conflict, confirming the ongoing recruitment of children by various Syrian militant groups. These groups include the Syrian National Army, the Syrian Democratic Forces, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham and other Syrian armed opposition groups. By June 2021, militant groups recruited almost 840 children to work as child soldiers in Syria, among other roles, meaning child soldier numbers will likely increase by the end of the year.

Child Soldiers in Syria

With conflict raging since 2011, these groups turn to child populations to manage their shortage of combatants. By exploiting children in impoverished communities, groups use adults and other child victims to coerce and manipulate children into joining the armed forces. The child soldiers in Syria become spies, combatants and checkpoint guards, among other roles, enduring sexual exploitation and harsh military punishments. By using children as combatants, these groups continue to violate international laws with few repercussions.

Syrian Democratic Forces

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has a long history as a critical perpetrator of recruiting child soldiers in Syria. In 2019, the SDF signed a United Nations Action Plan intending to prevent the use of child soldiers, making it appear as though the SDF was attempting to adhere to international law. Under this plan, anyone younger than the age of 18 would be unable to join the SDF.

However, the Syrian Justice and Accountability Center reported that the SDF continues to recruit young boys and girls, some as young as age 11. Additionally, a U.N. report in April 2021 explains that the SDF and its branches are responsible for about 35% of confirmed child recruitments in Northern Syria.

Due to the United Nations Action Plan and international pressure, the SDF is increasingly reuniting recruited children with their families, but only after those specific families put constant pressure on the SDF. Since the creation of the SDF’s Child Protection Office, families have complained about the issue of child soldier recruitment 150 times. However, as of March 2021, the SDF has only demobilized 50 children. In December 2020, the SDF held a press conference, reuniting 16-year-old S. Jam Harran and 15-year-old G. Muhyiddin with their families.

Law No. 21 – Child Rights Law

On Aug. 15, 2021, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad presented Law No. 21 to regulate child rights and welfare throughout the country. The law prohibits the practice of trafficking children, including the use of child soldiers in Syria. The government will take action in response to reports of such practices but does not mention specifics in this regard. While this legislation seems like a significant step in the right direction, many groups, such as the Syrian Accountability and Justice Center, are skeptical about the law’s true ability to end the militant groups’ use of child soldiers. This is due to the existence of a vast number of groups that recruit children, including the Syrian government.

Addressing the Issue of Child Soldiers

Despite the skeptics, the new Syrian legislation on child rights and welfare is a promising step for children throughout the country. Enforcing these new laws nationally will take time, but various groups are working to alleviate the current child soldier situation until then.

UNICEF is responsible for aiding more than 8,700 children following their release from armed forces globally through counseling, education, medical services and safe living arrangements. These rehabilitation and poverty-fighting efforts allow for proper healing from trauma, allowing these children to become functioning members of society. Additionally, UNICEF specifically aids Syrian children, thus impacting communities directly by assisting in medical care, education and improving living situations.

In reducing the number of child soldiers in Syria, the investment by wealthy nations through humanitarian aid may be the most powerful tool as those countries could positively influence local dynamics by helping to lift populations out of extreme poverty. Armed groups have a more difficult time recruiting educated children from stable environments. Nonprofits like Save the Children work to aid impoverished child populations. Save the Children establishes programs and services for families to develop economic stability, preventing child exploitation by increasing the standard of living.

Because children are one of the most at-risk populations, militant groups often use them to sustain extreme military operations through indoctrination and community approval. With emerging Syrian legislation and organizations tackling the issue of child soldiers in Syria, the future of Syrian child welfare could be moving in a positive direction. These efforts combined with international advocacy and education on the issue of child use by armed forces could significantly change the lives of children in Syria.

– Hannah Eliason
Photo: Unsplash

Conditional cash transfer
Conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs serve as poverty reduction tools. The government provides monetary support to individuals with low incomes on the condition that the individuals meet certain requirements. For example, an individual may receive a cash transfer on the condition that he or she keeps his or her child in school and ensures the child receives all necessary child immunizations. The aim of CCTs is to stop the transmission of poverty from generation to generation, which is why conditions, especially related to healthcare and education, are in place. CCTs have shown success as poverty reduction tools in many countries, especially in regions such as Latin America.

Benefits and Criticisms of Conditional Cash Transfers

A benefit of CCTs is that they allow people to use welfare to meet their specific needs. CCTs empower impoverished communities by giving them the choice, through the provision of cash, of how to use aid to best meet their individual needs. Other welfare programs are able to fulfill a specific need, but they also restrict the voice of impoverished communities to choose how to best fulfill their needs.

Another benefit is that giving individuals money is cheaper than providing people with goods. When paying for goods, the government must also pay for the secondary costs associated with the goods, such as storage and transportation. Therefore, direct cash payments are more cost-effective than programs that distribute goods.

A common concern with CCTs is that recipients will spend the money on alcohol and drugs instead of their basic needs. Researchers have conducted studies to learn more about how recipients spend CCT money and results show that most recipients spend the money on meeting their families’ needs.

4 Countries With Successful Conditional Cash Transfer Programs

  1. Brazil’s Bolsa Família. Established in 2003 by Brazil’s former president, Lula da Silva, the program provides 32 reais (about $19) every month for each child in a family with a household income of fewer than 140 reais ($82) in exchange for parents ensuring that their child attends school and regular doctor’s appointments. The government will provide money for up to five children per family. Bolsa Família is the world’s largest CCT program, benefitting 11.1 million families every year. The program has decreased income inequality and poverty in Brazil. Estimates indicate that rates of extreme poverty in Brazil “would be between 33% and 50% higher” if Bolsa Família was not in place. Overall, the program is responsible for decreasing income equality in Brazil by 12%-21%.
  2. Argentina’s Universal Child Allowance for Social Protection (AUH). Beginning in 2009, the program provides money to children from impoverished families. Every month, child beneficiaries receive $55. The government provides 80% of the money to the child monthly and places the remaining 20% into a savings account for the child. In exchange for the money, children must attend school and meet health objectives. The AUH reaches almost four million children, decreasing poverty and increasing childhood well-being in Argentina. In the early years of the program, child poverty decreased by 13.1 percentage points and “12.5% of households receiving the AUH in 2015 were no longer in poverty.”
  3. The Philippines’ Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program. Beginning in 2008, the program provides families with grants of P500 ($11) to P1,400 ($32) every month. The grant amount is dependent on the number of children in a household and the grant conditions have ties to education and child health care requirements. A couple of these conditions involve keeping children in school, attending regular pediatric check-ups and females attending check-ups in the case of pregnancy. From the start of the program to 2019, more than 5 million households benefited from Pantawid Pamilyang. The program has “increased the delivery of babies in health facilities by skilled health professionals by 20 percentage points” while raising “elementary school enrollment” among impoverished children by 5% and increasing high school enrollment rates among impoverished children by 7%.
  4. Jamaica’s Program of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH). Since 2002, the Jamaican government has committed to providing cash grants to impoverished families in exchange for children obtaining an attendance rate of 85% or higher in school and on the condition that parents take children younger than 6 years old to doctor’s appointments following a schedule that the Ministry of Health created. PATH benefits 350,000 Jamaicans, improving school attendance and increasing health care visits for children.

The Role of CCTs in Reducing Global Poverty

Conditional cash transfers have gained prominence as a strategy to help impoverished families in real-time while also working to prevent future poverty through the transmission of intergenerational poverty. While CCTs positively impact families in multiple countries, improvements to education and health services must accompany the programs so that children can receive quality education and adequate health care services. Increased participation through CCTs in tandem with improved public services can have a more significant impact on the world’s impoverished than CCTs alone. The combined power of conditional cash transfer programs and public service improvements have the potential to create lasting change globally.

– Anna Ryu
Photo: Flickr

War Child
Two filmmakers founded War Child in 1993 after observing the violence that children endured during periods of war. The organization describes itself as “the only specialist charity for children affected by conflict.” With the slogan, “A world where no child’s life is torn apart by war,” War Child works to address the realities children face during war and provide them with prompt support, safety and coping mechanisms. The organization shows children from Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic that there is more to life than the destructive nature of war.

War Child’s Work

Since the traumatic impacts of conflict and violence on children, War Child takes an approach to help children through four key areas: protection, education, livelihoods and advocacy. Armed groups tear children from their families through false promises of education or money while abducting others. This can leave these children with severe and lifelong psychological problems. The organization’s support includes “setting up children’s helplines,” strengthening child justice systems, “rehabilitating and reintegrating former child soldiers” as well as reuniting children with parents.

More than 75 million children ages 3 to 18 are not in school in 35 countries experiencing war. War Child aims to address this problem in multiple ways, including providing children with early childhood education programs and initiating Education in Emergencies initiatives. The organization also provides teachers with training to best support learners in conflict-ridden environments. By incorporating play into learning programs, the organization attempts to remedy trauma. These initiatives give children a sense of normalcy during a period of time in their lives where chaos surrounds them.

The organization also recognizes the need to provide children with humanitarian aid to address their basic human needs. The organization provides cash assistance to communities for people to use according to “their own priorities and preferences.” To strengthen economic resilience, the organization assists people in securing employment or establishing businesses “by providing them with technical, business and life skills, establishing group-based saving schemes and providing small grants making the best out of existing market opportunities. ”

In many crisis-prone countries, agriculture plays an important role. As such, War Child created Peace Gardens. Peace Gardens allow children to develop agricultural skills while increasing food security as crop produce can provide nutritious school meals for children.

Sam Smith’s Role in War Child

Sam Smith’s global impact extends far beyond his role as a singer-songwriter. Smith became War Child’s Global Ambassador in 2017 after conversing with a child in Jordan who, as Smith put it, “said something that will stay with me forever.”

Smith subsequently took to his social media pages, urging his fans to support War Child. For his 26th birthday, in 2018, Smith asked that his friends, family and fans make donations to War Child instead of buying him birthday gifts. After releasing his hit single “Too Good at Goodbyes,” in 2020, he launched a four-city mini-concert tour, with all profits from the ticket sales going toward supporting War Child.

War ravages land and people, however, children face disproportionate impacts of war. Through the efforts of War Child, children living in conflict-riddled lands can look toward a brighter tomorrow.

– Nia Hinson
Photo: PxHere

Maiti Nepal
Nepal, landlocked between the global superpowers of China and India, is one of the most impoverished countries in South Asia, due in part to poor infrastructure, corruption and natural disasters. Staggering poverty rates and unemployment have created a crisis at the India-Nepal border, a hotspot for human trafficking. Women and girls are especially at risk of sex trafficking, especially girls in rural communities far from the capital city of Kathmandu. Maiti Nepal aims to address the growing issue of human trafficking in Nepal.

Women and Girls at Risk

Women and girls make up about “71% of modern slavery victims” worldwide. Illiteracy, poverty, unemployment and geography all contribute to the human trafficking crisis. Faced with few prospects, many girls are lured into the hands of traffickers with the promise of work and prosperity abroad.

Traffickers transport these girls to urban centers, either to Kathmandu or various cities in India. These girls must work in brothels, massage parlors, dance clubs, circuses and private homes. If the girls are lucky enough to make it back home, they then face additional discrimination and struggle to reintegrate into society.

COVID-19 Worsens the Trafficking Crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating the risks of human trafficking for girls. As unemployment rises, desperate families are more likely to believe traffickers can provide a better life for their children. In a society that views girls’ education as less important than boys’, extended school closures leave girls at heightened risk of falling victim to trafficking. It is imperative that global actors and the government of Nepal take immediate action to protect girls and women during the pandemic.

Neither India nor Nepal requires documentation for citizens to cross their shared border, allowing traffickers to move people across without detection. Dealing with the COVID-19 crisis has further depleted the resources and ability of anti-trafficking officials to adequately monitor border crossings. Estimates indicate that traffickers move 54 women and girls into India every day.

Maiti Nepal Spearheads Anti-Trafficking Efforts

Anuradha Koirala founded Maiti Nepal in 1993 with the goal of addressing the trafficking of women and children. Named a CNN Hero in 2010, Koirala has devoted the majority of her life to rehabilitating survivors of trafficking and implementing prevention efforts. Maiti Nepal recognizes that without improving conditions in Nepal, trafficking will continue to persist.

Though the Nepali government attempts to monitor the border, women and girls continue to slip through the cracks. Maiti Nepal supplements the government’s efforts to guard the busy border between India and Nepal. Volunteers directly intercept traffickers at the border and safely return the victims to their homes or a transit center. To date, Maiti Nepal has intercepted more than 42,000 girls at the border and convicted 1,620 human traffickers.

Maiti Nepal began as one rehabilitation home to house survivors. Now, its programs include prosecution and legal counseling, transit homes, education sponsorships, job training, advocacy efforts, rehabilitation and HIV/AIDS treatment programs, among others. Maiti has provided rehabilitation services to about 25,000 women and children. The nonprofit spearheads multiple efforts to provide direct aid as well as prevention and advocacy efforts throughout the country.

Looking Ahead

The continued efforts of Maiti Nepal and the Nepali government safeguard impoverished girls and women from the lures of human trafficking. Understanding the links between poverty and human trafficking, a broader focus on poverty reduction can accelerate efforts to combat human trafficking in Nepal.

– Elizabeth Long
Photo: Unsplash