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

Childhood Education in Rural UzbekistanAfter gaining independence from the Soviet Union in the 1990s, Uzbekistan gradually lifted itself off the ground, despite malnutrition problems, a lack of government transparency and high unemployment rates. Since then, advancements have been made to improve opportunities for education in rural Uzbekistan.

Education in Rural Uzbekistan

Children living in rural areas are at a geographic disadvantage compared to those who live in cities. Issues affecting children living in impoverished, rural areas include a lack of access to basic education and healthcare services.

Approximately 46 percent of children living in urban areas are enrolled in school, but in rural areas, this number drops to 23 percent. The population of children aged 0-3 living in rural Kashkadarya, for example, grew by 12 percent from 2013 to 2016, yet rates of enrollment have not kept up with a growing rural population.

Making a Difference

Ameliorating the effects of child labor and the lack of access to primary education coupled with the establishment of protections over children’s rights have set the foundation upon which Uzbekistan has begun to build its nation. Programs such as the Rural Basic Education Project have been allocating funding to improve learning conditions in the rural areas of Tashkent, Surkhandarya and Kashkadarya. The goal is to increase opportunities for higher education for children living in rural Uzbekistan.

Child Labor Issues

A major, longstanding issue Uzbekistan faces is the state-controlled labor system that supports massive amounts of cotton exports. This hinders education in rural Uzbekistan from making lasting and important impacts on children.

Government-mandated labor quotas that previously included children forced out of school are becoming lenient and age-restricted. As a result, there has been a substantial decrease in the number of children working in fields. This has led to an increase in funding and the number of schools, increasing education access for rural children. In rural areas, more children are continuing their education, rather than being forced into state-mandated labor. As a result, more adults, specifically women, have greater job opportunities than they otherwise would.

Increased educational opportunities lead to greater attention to human rights laws and how they impact children living in poverty. The availability of a more open education system has also improved gender equality.

For the first time, 56,000 children are enrolled in partial-day preschool programs because of the Improving Pre-Primary and General Secondary Education Project administered by the Ministry of Public Education of Uzbekistan and regulated by the World Bank. Developing the education system, specifically in rural areas, has led to greater economic success and improved livelihoods.

The Future for Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan still faces pressing issues, including forced labor and violations of human rights. However, by investing in its children, the country has become characterized by progress and improved quality of life. The children living in poverty are the future of Uzbekistan. Through a focus on providing education for children in rural Uzbekistan, the nation is helping them grow and flourish.

Jessica Ball
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Facts about Child Labor in Bangladesh
Bangladesh is a small country in South Asia with a rapidly growing export-based economy including textiles, electronics, leather and jute. It is the eighth-most populous country in the world with approximately 168 million people and is the 39th richest country with an estimated GDP of $274 billion in 2018. Child laborers, however, highly support its flourishing economy. The following eight facts about child labor in Bangladesh further examine this human rights violation, and how the country is addressing the issue today.

8 Facts About Child Labor in Bangladesh

  1. Currently, 4.3 percent of children (between the ages of 5 and 14) in Bangladesh engage in exploitative work to support their families. Statistics determine that not all Bangladeshi children attend school. Lack of education is frequently a barrier to higher-paying jobs. Thus, intergenerational poverty is even more likely, perpetuating this cycle of exploitative labor. This phenomenon is not unique to Bangladesh; international coalitions dedicated to reducing child labor have pushed poverty reduction initiatives on local governments wherein this is common practice. These strategies include the creation and enforcement of minimum wage laws, mandatory schooling laws and stricter regulations on child labor itself.
  2. Eighty-three percent of child laborers work in rural areas. Since resources and jobs are more readily available in the city, children may seek employment in urban areas for low wages.
  3. Children are especially vulnerable to exploitation and therefore receive minimal compensation for their work. Research by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) revealed that child laborers worked an average of 64 hours a week. Furthermore, these children earn less than $2 per day.
  4. There are regulations on child labor in Bangladesh. The Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics informs the existing legislature which defines child laborers as those working between the ages of 5 and 14. In 2006, the Bangladeshi government outlawed work by children under the age of 14. Despite this, the number of child laborers has continued to rise in the past decade, given that most children work at small local businesses, factories or homes. The National Child Labor Survey reported that there were 1.3 million child laborers in Bangladesh. The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that approximately 5 million children are full-time workers.
  5. The Bangladeshi government established its Child Labor National Action plan in 2012, designed to eradicate child labor by 2016. Bangladesh has since extended the plan to 2021, as part of the 2010 National Child Labor Elimination Policy. This policy outlines the government initiatives to eliminate child labor by strengthening the education system, raising awareness, funding research and prioritizing public health and nutrition. The policy also outlines plans to remove children from dangerous workplaces. Lack of governmental oversight of hazardous working environments also poses a great risk to child laborers oftentimes exposed to toxic chemicals and relied upon to operate heavy machinery. While establishing legal precedents for safe work environments is important, implementing punitive legislature holding factory owners accountable is also a promising solution to reducing child labor in Bangladesh.
  6. Since 2002, the Bangladeshi government has offered stipends to children in primary school. The subsidizing of school costs alleviates the financial burden of education on poor families, providing additional incentive for their children to stay in school rather than work. As of 2013, 7.8 million children receive stipends worth about $1. The government has also implemented the Female Secondary Stipend Program, partially funded by the World Bank to provide stipends for 1.5 million girls nationwide. Girls attending school in rural areas are also eligible for free tuition and textbooks.
  7. Bangladesh also has the fourth-highest rate of child marriage in the world. While families rely on their children to work, many encourage their young daughters to marry due to being unable to support them. Reducing poverty is a promising start for addressing gender discrimination.
  8. Eliminating underage prostitution, another common form of child labor should also be a governmental priority in Bangladesh. Young girls are vulnerable to trafficking which primarily takes place in “brothel villages” populated by 700-1,000 other women. As of 2000, prostitution has been legal in Bangladesh, but with no extended protections for underaged girls. Estimates determine that there are 100,000 women selling sex within the country.

These eight facts about child labor in Bangladesh highlight the depth of this problem and reinforces the immediate attention that it deserves. Child labor is not a singular isolated issue, however, but a manifestation of sociopolitical shortcomings. In fact, child labor is a derivative of poverty. Reevaluating economic policies to enrich individuals and strengthen families is where the world has to start.

– Jordan Powell
Photo: Flickr