Information and stories addressing children.

Selena Gomez and UNICEFAfter starting her career at age seven starring in “Barney and Friends,” Selena Gomez rose to fame in her most well-known role as Alex Russo on Disney Channel’s “Wizards of Waverly Place.” Whether she is starring in shows on television or speaking out about the dangers of social media, Gomez often finds herself in front of the camera.  More recently, Selena Gomez and UNICEF have been working together to aid children in need.

In 2009, Gomez added UNICEF ambassador to her already decorated resume. She previously acted as a spokesperson for the organization for a year. At the age of 16, Gomez became the youngest UNICEF brand ambassador at that time. Together, Selena Gomez and UNICEF advocate for the world’s most vulnerable children by participating in campaigns, events and initiatives. “Every day, 25,000 children die from preventable causes. I stand with UNICEF in the belief that we can change that number from 25,000 to zero,” said Gomez.

Gomez in Ghana and Chile

In October 2009, one month after partnering with UNICEF, Gomez took a week-long trip to Ghana on behalf of the organization. This was an opportunity for the new ambassador to get a firsthand look at what the organization is all about. “My trip to Ghana was life-changing. I couldn’t believe the things I saw. They were so loving, compassionate and strong. Watching these kids fight for what they want was so inspirational,” said Gomez.

In 2016, when compared to adults, children were 40 percent more likely to live in poverty in Ghana. This number has increased significantly from the 1990s when it was only 15 percent. Over the past few years, Ghana’s economy has shown steady, positive growth and transformation, but clearly more needs to be addressed in regards to childhood poverty.

In February 2011, Gomez performed at a sold-out concert in the coastal city of Valparaiso in Chile. While there, Gomez met with some of the poorest Chilean women. Eighteen percent of children live in poverty in Chile; therefore, some children must work. Street children pose a large issue, especially indigenous children because they do not retain the same rights as other Chilean children.

Selena Gomez Turns to Fans for Support

In 2010, Gomez became the Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF spokesperson. The Kids Helping Kids Ⓡ event raised nearly $177 million as of 2018. In August 2011, Gomez joined more than 70 musicians for the George Harrison Fund as part of UNICEF’s Month of Giving.

Gomez took to social media to share a personally recorded message with her fans encouraging them to support the effort. In total, the efforts raised $1.2 million for children in the Horn of Africa affected by famine and droughts. Gomez closed out 2011 by participating in 12 Days of UNICEF, an annual tradition in which individuals are able to purchase a life-saving gift in remembrance of a loved one for children in need.

Gomez has performed three charity concerts for UNICEF with all proceeds benefiting the U.S. fund for UNICEF. Her concerts have raised more than $200,000 for UNICEF. She teamed up with Rihanna, Robin Williams, Taylor Swift, Dwight Howard and Adrian Grenier to participate in UNICEF’s Tap Project Celebrity Tap campaign by bottling tap from her home and taking part in PSA’s on behalf of UNICEF’s clean water programs.

Gomez in the Sahel Region and Nepal

In April 2012, Gomez traveled to the Sahel region of West and Central Africa to advocate for the millions of children facing malnutrition. Furthermore, she took to the media and created a public service announcement encouraging donations for the Sahel. She also used her Twitter following to promote #SahelNOW to initiate conversation and prompt awareness. The United Nations recognized a 50 percent increase in hungry children in the Sahel region as more than 1.3 million children faced acute malnutrition in 2018.

While in Nepal in 2014, Gomez visited with children at the Satbariya Rapti Secondary School, female health volunteers in Gangaparaspur Village, female mediators in the Hapur village and watched a skit about sanitation in Gangaparaspur Village. Nearly half of the Nepalese population lives below the poverty line with children fighting for their lives each as their fundamental needs go unfulfilled.

“Nothing is more important than helping children in need around the globe. I’m thankful that I can use my voice to bring awareness and much-needed funds to UNICEF, so they can continue their critical work. Together, with my fans, we can save lives,” said Gomez. Thanks to Selena Gomez’s work, conditions are slowing improving for children around the world.

– Gwen Schemm
Photo: Flickr

Martin Luther King Jr. quotes on familyMartin Luther King Jr. is remembered for many things. He was the leader of the American Civil Rights movement, an advocate for nonviolence, an inspirational speaker and a Nobel Peace Prize winner. At home, he was also a husband and father to four children. His dedication to his family was deeply connected to his vision for the United States. In fact, Dr. King’s mission for peace and equality was greatly inspired by his desire to help future generations of children. He consistently used familial metaphors and symbols to illustrate his greater points. Here are the top Martin Luther King Jr. quotes on family.

Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes on Family

  1. I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood.” (“I Have a Dream” speech, August 28, 1963)
  2. “Without love, there is no reason to know anyone, for love will, in the end, connect us to our neighbors, our children and our hearts.” (Date unknown)
  3. “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” (speech in St. Louis, March 22, 1964)
  4. “When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands…” (“I Have a Dream” speech, August 28, 1963)
  5. “The group consisting of mother, father and child is the main educational agency of mankind.” (Date unknown)
  6. “I want to be the white man’s brother, not his brother-in-law.” (New York Journal-American, September 10th, 1962)
  7. “The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood.” (Strength To Love, published 1981).
  8. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” (“I Have a Dream” speech, August 28, 1963)

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. quotes on family went hand in hand with his mission for equality. Whether it was America’s children or his own, Dr. King emphasized coexisting and love for one another throughout his famous speeches. He used images of brotherhood and children to exemplify the relationships he believed Americans should have with one another. To Dr. King, family referred to more than blood relatives. It encompassed all people in the United States, regardless of color. Today, his message of prioritizing family is forever ingrained in his legacy, to be studied and appreciated by generations to come.

Natalie Malek
Photo: Flickr

Culture Affects Poverty
Poverty is a universal issue. It affects people of every nation, religion and culture. Though global inequality has been decreasing in recent decades, many countries still stand at an advantage over others, and in many cases, are in a better position to help.

It is difficult to guarantee effectiveness in a foreign country by virtue of it being foreign. The way the government or people behave will differ. Even the general mindset toward poverty can vary—and these are important differences to note. Culture impacts poverty’s manifestation and means of escape.

These cultural differences continue to exist on an international scale. Culture affects poverty both directly in the way it interacts with poverty, and indirectly, with the conditions that stimulate or prevent poverty. Many of the critical factors focus on a culture’s standard for family structure.

Children are More Likely to Live in Poverty

Children are most likely to live in poverty. If approached per capita, children below 11-years-old in developing countries are nearly 10 percent more likely to live in poverty than the international average. In contrast, the elderly are 10 percent less likely to live in poverty.

There are similar numbers across the globe. In Sub-Saharan Africa, where the poverty rate averages 54.6 percent, children between six and 11-years-old are 62.7 percent likely to live in poverty, while those of 65-years-old stands at 47.9 percent.

The Middle East and Northern Africa have the lowest rates of child poverty. Mirza Izmagilov Makhmutov, former Minister of Education of Tatarstan, describes Eastern culture as being more family-oriented with a focus on upholding history and tradition, compared to Western culture, which places emphasis on science and the individual. Though she describes this rule as unattractive to most young people, it may hold ground in lessening child and elderly poverty in the Middle East.

This is not to dismiss economic factors. Poverty rates drop with even moderate economies of scale—that is, the more production in a country, the more efficiently its society runs. Countries with economies of scale tend to have fewer children in a household.

Single Parents are at a Disadvantage

Though it is difficult to isolate the causes of single parents’ likeliness to live in poverty, as they are often closely entangled with a lesser education and intergenerational poverty, single parents are more likely to live in poverty than their married or cohabiting counterparts. In the U.K., a child’s likelihood of being in the bottom quintile of income is 21 percent for married parents, 31 percent for cohabiting families and 81 percent for single parents.

While the U.K’.s rate of single parents has grown over the last few decades, as the gap in poverty between single and married parents decreases, people still largely look down on single parenthood in Asia.

Globally in 2012, 13.7 percent of children below 15 lived in single-parent households. In Japan and Korea, 12.3 percent and 8.9 percent of children respectively lived in single-parent households, compared to in the U.K. and the U.S., with a respective 20.7 percent and 16.7 percent.

On average, 15 percent of children in Japan live in poverty. For children of single mothers, this increases to 55 percent. Yukiko Tokumaru, who runs Child Action Poverty Osaka, a non-governmental organization, describes Japan as having a culture that places women below men, making it difficult for a woman to have a job after a child.

Yasuko Kawabe, who runs the Nishinari Kids Dining Hall in Osaka, describes the children as needing more than food when they come to her center. At school, the children often find themselves isolated from their peers because their peers consider them to be from a “bad house.” Mothers, too, do not receive pressure to look wealthy at the Hall. According to Junko Terauchi, head of the Osaka Social Welfare Promotional Council, there is massive pressure on single or poor mothers, with women going so far as to hide separations from their partners from friends and coworkers.

Though hope often feels far away for these Japanese women, change seems to be on the horizon. Japanese President Abe Shinzo aims to provide work for women, especially those returning to the workforce after giving birth. Daycare centers in Osaka and other cities offer free meals and playtime for children.

Globally, there is increasing aid for single parents, and there is decreasing global inequality. Culture and wealth gradually exchange. There are no clear-cut means of determining if any culture is more effective at dealing with poverty than another. Rather, culture affects poverty by determining the behavior of poverty in a nation. Culture affects poverty on many levels—in determining government support, in the way it changes the standard family structure and in wealthy treatment of the poor.

– Katie Hwang
Photo: Flickr

EdTech in India
Education Technology, also known as EdTech, is a current driving force for major improvements to education in India. The information and communication technology placed in school systems throughout the country helps bring outside knowledge to classrooms that would have been previously inaccessible. Edtech has recently dropped in pricing, making the equipment and technology easily accessible in less developed areas and easier to implement in impoverished schools.

Four Key Facts About India’s Educational System

  1. India has one of the largest populations of school-age children, with an estimated 270 million children between the ages of 5 to 17.
  2. The country has four main levels for education: pre-primary from ages 3 to 6, primary from ages 6 to 10, secondary from ages 11 to 17 and tertiary from ages 18 to 22.
  3. Children must attend school from ages 6 to 13.
  4. School systems have seen a major increase in student enrollment in recent years, with a 15.37 percent increase of total gross enrollment in secondary education between 2009 and 2016.

While enrollment has increased, education in India is still behind with teaching methods and test scores. Many students test poorly in math and reading skills and teaching quality decreases in rural areas. In 2015, the mean achievement scores for math at a national level for rural areas was 247, while the urban score was 256. Urban areas also scored 19 points higher in English, with a mean score of 263. With less access to teachers and educational materials, the rural school systems face more deficits than urban areas.

Education technology is a relatively new concept for foreign countries, but the benefits to technology-infused classrooms are well known. Below are three benefits of increasing EdTech usage in Indian school systems.

Three Benefits of Increasing EdTech Usage in Indian Schools

  1. EdTech Bridges the Gap Between Rural and Urban Education: EdTech incorporates text, audio and video to teach and elaborate on classroom subjects. This technology fills in knowledge gaps when teachers are absent or less educated with certain materials. The language in these materials is also more streamlined, making topics easier to understand for a multitude of students. Video lessons make classes more consistent in all schools, eliminating the variation of teaching materials around the country. These programs also make student data more accessible to teachers, with some methods collecting and compiling data on student progress for teachers to be able to track progress and note areas that need improvement.
  2. EdTech Programs Emphasize Specialized and Individual Learning Plans: Education in India has previously been less effective at aiding students individually; through the implementation of EdTech, schools are better able to cater to students’ needs and adapt specific programs to better suit individual learning styles. Mindspark, an Indian based company that delves into education through videos, games and questions, is working to pique students’ interest in non-traditional ways. The software takes the basic values of comprehension for each student and adapts lesson plans to better fit their needs. The company recently worked with over 600 students in Delhi, citing increases in understanding of math and Hindi.
  3. EdTech Forms a Collaborative Space for Education: As more teachers begin to incorporate the newer technologies into the classroom, lesson plans will become more consistent in each region. Teachers will also be able to share effective teaching strategies using newer technology to benefit classrooms with less access to EdTech. This technology also makes information about students’ success more accessible to parents. Automated messaging to parents regarding progress can increase test scores for students overall.

While Edtech is benefitting education in India, foreign investments heavily fund the current ventures. Further development into education technology would require extensive partnership with the government, but some are taking steps to bring more technology into Indian classrooms. Prices for tablets and computers have decreased in recent years, making these educational programs more accessible to the multitudes. Many state-run schools have some access to these newer programs, and India is making more strides towards providing EdTech for students in all regions.

– Kristen Bastin
Photo: Flickr

symphony for peruJuan Diego Flórez is a highly-recognized, award-winning Peruvian tenor, who has sung on the most coveted stages, including Covent Garden and Milan’s La Scala. He is also a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, and in 2011, he started Symphony for Peru. The foundation offers music classes and activities for children in low-income families, giving them a chance to develop their talent, teach them values through the arts and pull them away from at-risk situations.

The Need for Creativity

After struggling in the 80s and 90s with terrorism, hyperinflation and corruption, Peru started recovering and achieving steady economic growth from the beginning of 2005 to 2013. Poverty rates decreased and the stable economy gave Peruvians hope of improving their quality of life. This growth, however, has not been able to translate into proper educational or social development. Although it no longer stands in the last place of the PISA rankings, there is still much work to be done. With this in mind, Flórez stepped in and decided to help in the best way he knew: through music.

Juan Diego Flórez created Symphony for Peru, or Sinfonía por el Perú in Spanish, in 2011 to promote musical education in Peru’s most distant and poorest communities, throughout Coastal, Andean and Amazon regions. Flórez used the structure of the Venezuelan government’s music program as inspiration for Symphony for Peru; José Antonio Abreu created this program, who linked musical skills as a route to improve social and personal development.

Music to Peru’s Ears

Symphony for Peru aims to help children in low-income communities. The organization provides music education not only for children to develop their creative skills, but also to provide a different form of entertainment or hobby, taking them away from the risks of the streets, including drugs, crime and teenage pregnancy, and into the classroom.

As it is spread out throughout the country, the Symphony for Peru created different core groups of around 400 and 600 children who participate in either choirs, orchestras or jazz bands. It also works to have two luthier workshops, where children can practice instrument development by learning how to build and tune their own instruments. Another important aspect of the organization is their main Symphony Orchestra, which performs a couple of times per year and has recently recorded and released its own Christmas album.

Perhaps the most innovative way to show the results of the work Symphony for Peru is doing is by letting the children speak for themselves. Students in the organization can show their improvement and talent with patrons and the general audience in free concerts that Flórez organized. These often happen in July, Peru’s independence month.

An Impact through Music

More than 8,000 children have developed their skills as part of the program, and as a result, perseverance and efficacy at school has improved, as well as their behavior and ability to focus in the classroom. Additionally, the organization has proven to be a useful and more productive way for children to spend their time, and the levels of both psychological and physical abuse in the families of students have drastically decreased.

There is no doubt that Flórez is one of Peru’s most important cultural ambassadors. His talent and work ethic lead him to the top, and music critics compare him to some of the best opera tenors in the world like Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti. His greatest gift, though, may not be his musical talent, but his selflessness and generosity, as well as his will to give back to his country and share his skills with the people who need it the most.

– Luciana Schreier
Photo: Flickr

Single Motherhood in South Africa
Poverty in South Africa disproportionately affects women, a phenomenon people know as the feminization of poverty. Despite efforts by the South African government to combat severe female poverty and disadvantage, the feminization of South African poverty remains an important issue today. Single motherhood in South Africa is a huge problem because it puts a severe psychological and financial strain on both mothers and children. As of 2015, more than half of the South African population was living under the official poverty line, and homes headed by black African women are at greatest risk of impoverishment.

Despite government efforts to alleviate race-and-gender-skewed poverty with state-sponsored health care, free housing programs and subsidized basic services like water and electricity, poverty in South Africa remains overwhelmingly black and female. Half of South African children grow up in fatherless households, and the number of single mother households in the country has grown over the past several decades. Women must increasingly raise and support children alone, which increases a family’s risk of living under the poverty line.

Single-Mother Households and Poverty

The link between single-mother households and poverty is undeniable, impacting even the world’s most affluent nations. In Europe, single-mother households generally have more than double the poverty rate of two-parent households. Single-parent households are bound to bring in less money than married couples because they only have one source of income. As a result, children living in single-parent homes are three times as likely to be poor as children living with married parents.

South African women earn an average of 28 percent less than men, partly accounting for the disproportionate poverty of female-led households. Women also have a harder time finding jobs than men; almost 30 percent of working-age women are unemployed, compared to 25.2 percent of men. Women are also more likely to work in the informal, unregulated sector or do unpaid work. Other vulnerabilities, like domestic abuse, sexual assault, unwanted pregnancy and HIV prevent South African women from supporting themselves and their families.

There are psychological consequences for children in fatherless households as well as financial strains. Research has found that boys who grow up with absent fathers are more likely to display aggression and other hyper-masculine behaviors, which increases their risk for unhealthy relationships, crime and addiction. Fatherless girls are more likely to engage in high-risk sexual behaviors, experience an unwanted pregnancy or find themselves in an abusive relationship. These consequences propagate the cycle of fatherless homes.

Why is Single Motherhood in South Africa Common?

For almost 50 years, South Africa’s white-supremacist government crystalized systematic inequality on the basis of race through the system of Apartheid. Now, only 25 years into liberation, the South African people still feel these legacies deeply. One of the main contributing factors is the urban-rural divide. Apartheid relegated black South Africans were often in rural homelands far from metropolitan centers and, subsequently, jobs. Thousands of black men had to migrate to cities to find work. They lived in male-only hostels or townships, making low wages and sending money back to their families, who could not leave the homelands to join them.

Some argue that the destruction of the black family structure by the Apartheid regime contributed to patterns of male family-abandonment and neglect. This phenomenon may have had a hand in the recent increase in single-mother households.

Additionally, the vast gap in access to good education, well-paying jobs and respect in society created socio-economic inequalities in South Africa. Black South Africans remain poorly educated, and cyclical, persistent poverty traps many of them, leaving them unable to pull themselves out. In addition, 13 percent of all pregnancies in the country are teen pregnancies, which prevent mothers from finishing school and focusing on a career, resulting in continuous poverty.

The South African government recognizes the scope and seriousness of poverty in single-mother households and has adopted the National Development Plan: Vision 2030 to raise living standards, provide public services and reduce severe poverty and inequality. The policy outlines a plan to invest in education, health services, public transport, housing and social security, as well as welfare policies directed specifically at women and children, like a national nutrition program for pregnant women and a plan to increase women’s enrollment in schools, especially in rural areas. Single motherhood in South Africa is a dangerous phenomenon, and in order to alleviate this problem, women need better access to education, resources and job opportunities.

– Nicollet Laframboise
Photo: Flickr

Child Labor in Sierra Leone
Child labor is defined as work that harms children mentally and physically and deprives them of their childhood. Child labor is illegal in many countries, but some countries have found loopholes in their legal frameworks which enables the use of children in some of the toughest work environments. Sierra Leone’s minimum employment age is 18, but it lacks the ability to enforce its laws. Here are 10 facts about child labor in Sierra Leone.

10 Facts About Child Labor in Sierra Leone

  1. Child labor affects 72 percent of children in Sierra Leone making the grand total almost 900,000. The children are between the ages of five and 14, and most are young boys. Employers put them to work in alluvial diamond mines and tunnels, which the world knows as the blood diamond industry. They often work in the agricultural industry harvesting coffee, cocoa and palm oil as well.
  2. Since the majority of parents cannot afford to send their children to school due to distance, costs of school uniforms and books, teen pregnancy or fear of sexual abuse from teachers, some parents put their children to work in mines, plantations and farms. In worst-case scenarios, parents may even sell their children into child labor because of poverty.
  3. Children working in diamond mines typically only make $0.15- $0.60 per day if they do not have a contract. If an employer does contract them, a child’s limit is $2.10 per day. They do not fare well as rebel groups own most of these mines and they threaten children with violence if they do not work.
  4. Pools of muddy sludgy water or puddles infest most diamond mines which attract mosquitos carrying deadly mosquito airborne diseases such as malaria. The potential medical complications for these children do not stop there. Many suffer respiratory issues, malnutrition, starvation, headaches, eyestrain, dysentery, dehydration, diarrhea, cholera and sexually transmitted diseases from their involvement in the fishing and mining industries, and sexual exploitation.
  5. The amount of child trafficking, sexual abuse and rape in Sierra Leone has provoked President Julius Maada to declare that Sierra Leone is in a state of emergency. In 2018, people reported 8,500 instances, and a third of these cases involved minors. Sierra Leone’s First Lady and other activists have suggested that that number may be higher because people do not report all instances.
  6. Sierra Leone’s economic growth heavily depends on diamond mining, which amounts to approximately half of its international exports.
  7. In the year 2013 and 2014, Tulane University’s study determined that there was a 51 percent rise in the illegal use of children working in the cocoa industry. Child labor drives the cocoa industry not only in Sierra Leone but also Cameroon, Guinea and Ghana. Some industry members claim that approximately 99.5 percent of child labor happens because of families rather than large corporations.
  8. Many disadvantages plague the process of bringing perpetrators to justice. Once a case enters to the criminal justice system for further exploration, they do not resolve. In 2017, Sierra Leone’s government identified 34 victims of sex trafficking and it did not bring the culprits forth to justice.
  9. The National Child Rights Bill has been working hard since 2007 to exterminate child trafficking, early marriages for children and enlistment in armed forces to name just a few. It has done this by providing a framework for how to care for children.
  10. Children enlisted in labor often emerge with psychological illnesses due to danger and abuse. Mental disorder is often associated with disgrace or dishonor in Sierra Leone which affects all child laborers seeking help or guidance. Lawfully adequate mental health care services are tremendously scarce resulting in a 99.8 percent treatment gap.

Hope for Lives

Ending child labor in Sierra Leone will take more than just a village. Thomas Bobby Smith, a Sierra Leone native, founded Hope for Lives, a successful nonprofit. This organization delivered seven donated hematology and immunoassay machines to a local clinic and installed them. In 2013, it revealed the Hope for Lives Library at St. Anthony’s Primary School in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown. The library included 15-20 computers, open to 3,000 students upon fair rotation. It also offered constant computer lessons taught by a tech leader and computer and printing services for public use. Hope for Lives is doing all it can to give Sierra Leone’s children and youth options for success. Thomas Bobby Smith kept his momentum strict and faithful by sending another 50 computers to Sierra Leone’s remote areas in hope of creating successful computer labs.

The implementation of the National Child Rights Bill and work from Sierra Leone’s very own President, Julius Maada, are making strides to end child labor. Organizations like Hope for Lives should help revitalize the spirits of children and youth as well.

– Niesha Braggs
Photo: Flickr

Children in Urban Poverty
Children who drink unclean water or expose themselves to poor sanitation and hygiene face seriously heightened health risks. Young children are the first to get sick and die from waterborne illnesses such as diarrhea and malaria. Out of the 2.2 million diarrheal deaths each year, the majority are children under the age of five. In areas with unsafe water and inadequate sanitation, children are also at risk for parasitic illnesses such as guinea worm and trachoma. Health outcomes range from child weakness to blindness and death. Poor hygiene increases the likelihood of these diseases and this occurs frequently among children in urban poverty.

Splash

Splash emerged in 2007 to bring water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programs to children in urban poverty around the world. Splash’s 1,779 program sites in schools, orphanages, hospitals and shelters support over 400,000 kids every day in eight countries. This includes Nepal (101,149 kids), China (84,234), Ethiopia (73,622), Cambodia (71,234), India (49,404), Bangladesh (20,603), Thailand (10,385) and Vietnam (18,365).

Splash focuses on harnessing the technology, infrastructure and supply chains already in use in large cities for solutions that serve the poor. The nonprofit’s founder, Eric Stowe, saw that hotels and restaurants had access to clean water, but the children in poor schools and orphanages across the street did not. Stowe saw this as an easy problem to fix by leveraging the existing economies and infrastructure.

Safe Water

Everything Splash does begins with ensuring access to safe water. Its water purification system removes 99.9999 percent of bacterial pathogens. Splash has the water regularly checked for quality which has reduced costs and maintained reliability. Splash’s point-of-use filtration is much more cost-effective and durable than typical approaches. Well-digging projects are often expensive, time-consuming and do not always work for urban areas. Additionally, Splash’s stainless steel taps last infinitely longer than plastic ones.  This approach to clean water is very sustainable. No new chemicals add to the environment and people reuse contaminated water in a gray water system.

Hygiene Education and Behavioral Change

Splash believes it is not enough for a child to drink safe water. It also encourages long-term behavioral change and improved hygiene through student hygiene clubs, child-to-child training and school events. It provides hygiene training for teachers and conducts soap drives at every school. Five-hundred and forty schools have received hygiene education, hygiene education has impacted 328,666 kids and people have donated 145,241 bars of soap.

In addition to installing high-quality filtration systems, Splash provides colorful, child-friendly drinking and handwashing stations that have been field-tested to make sure kids are excited to use them. Often children in urban poverty must drink and wash their hands from the same spigot; however, Splash separates drinking fountains and hand-washing taps to reduce the risk of water re-contamination. Splash uses fun, kid-centered learning materials to teach kids how to properly wash their hands with soap and develop good personal hygiene.

Improved Sanitation

By leveraging the clean water supply chain, Splash works to improve bathrooms in public schools to meet global standards for safety, privacy, cleanliness and accessibility. It ensures safe and secure toilets, water for flushing, gender-segregated toilets and bins for menstrual hygiene management. So far, Splash has reached 48,802 children in urban poverty in Ethiopia, Nepal and India with improved sanitation through 91 sites. Mirrors, colorful facilities and information are helping to motivate behavioral change and encourage proper toilet use by girls and boys.

Goals for the Future

Splash is a unique nonprofit because it aims to become “irrelevant”, “obsolete” and “unnecessary” by 2030.  Just as everything begins with clean water, Splash aims to complete all projects with a sustainable and strategic exit.

The ultimate goal is ensuring local success on its own time, its own terms, through its own talent and with its own funding. This is why Splash designs each program to have local roots, and be economically stable and enduring. It intends the solutions to live on as the ownership transitions from Splash staff to local owners.

As of 2016, Splash was on track for each of its ambitious goals. This includes WASH program coverage for all 650 public schools in Kathmandu, Nepal by 2020 and all 400 public schools in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia by 2022.

Splash is a great example of a forward-thinking international nonprofit with a clear vision to develop long-lasting WASH solutions for children in urban poverty. The world requires lots of work to ensure affordable and clean water, sanitation and hygiene for the urban poor, but organizations like Splash are making progress.

– Camryn Lemke
Photo: Flickr

Rescued Child Soldiers
At the age of seven, Judith became an accomplice to a murder. The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) raided her village and forced Judith to participate in the killing of her mother. The LRA then kidnapped Judith and her siblings and forced them to serve Joseph Kony. Thousands of children share Judith’s story. Today, the rescued child soldiers in Africa are finding healing and restoration through art.

The Rise of Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army

The World Economic Forum found that poverty, social marginalization and political disenfranchisement were fertilizers for extremist groups to take root and grow. In the 1980s, poverty, social marginalization and political disenfranchisement hit Uganda hard. Estimates determined that one-third of the population lives below the poverty line.

Uganda government officials did little to improve the dire situation. As a result, rebel groups and organizations began to pop up throughout the country. The Holy Spirit Movement, a militaristic and spiritual rebel group, formed to fight against the oppression of the people in northern Uganda. Joseph Kony joined the movement in the mid-1980s. After the Holy Spirit Movement’s defeat in 1988, Kony kept the organization. He renamed the group the Lord’s Resistance Army. Kony used religion and traditional beliefs to continue the support of the people living in northern Uganda. His operation expanded to the nearby countries of South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic. The tactics Kony and the LRA used became more violent over time.

Kony and the LRA caused the displacement of more than 1.9 million people. Authorities issued a number of arrest warrants for Kony and leaders of the LRA on counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The LRA raided villages, burned down homes and murdered or mutilated thousands of people.

Child Soldiers in Africa

Kony lacked support for his cause and army. As a result, he abducted children and forced them into his service. Estimates state that the LRA kidnapped between 30,000 and 60,000 children. The LRA trained males to be child soldiers and females to be sex slaves. Fear was a major driver for children to remain in the LRA. Many children, like Judith, had to kill their parents and other loved ones for survival.

Art Is Restoring Peace to Rescued Child Soldiers

The U.N. called the LRA crisis the “most forgotten, neglected humanitarian emergency in the world.” A 29-minute film became the most effective tool in mobilizing the world into taking action against Kony and the LRA.

Art and social media were the key components of the success of the film “KONY 2012.” The U.S. advocacy group, Invisible Children, launched a digital campaign with the release of the film. The campaign’s goal was to make the infamous warlord famous in order to mobilize world leaders to stop him. The film garnered over 100 million views in six days. Public outcry and celebrity support increased the pressure for global leaders to take action against Kony. Eventually, authorities sanctioned a universal manhunt to capture Kony and put an end to the LRA. People have rescued many of the child soldiers in Africa but Kony still remains at-large. Today, the LRA has reduced to a group of fewer than 300 members.

Art has also been an effective tool for healing and restoration for the child victims of the LRA crisis. For many of the rescued child soldiers in Africa, there were some elements in their story that were too painful to put into words. Art became an avenue for those children to confront the past and face the future. Exile International, a nonprofit organization, has been providing healing to war-affected children through art-focused trauma care since 2008.

Recently, Exile International partnered with award-winning photographer and artist Jeremy Cowart to share the faces and powerful stories of child survivors. The Poza Project utilized the children’s art and Cowart’s talent to create a healing opportunity for the children to tell their own story of survival. Unique photographs and mixed art media created by the children were available for purchase. All the proceeds helped provide art therapy and holistic rehabilitation to children survivors of war. The Poza Project showcased a dozen children including Judith.

Judith spent nearly two years in captivity before being rescued. Today, she is back in school and working to become a psychiatric doctor. With the help of The Poza Project, Judith is one step closer to her dream of helping the other victims of Kony and the LRA.

– Paola Nuñez
Photo: Flickr

Child Labor in India
India is the second most populated country in the world with around 1.3 billion inhabitants and the seventh-largest country in terms of size. It is also a prominent figure in the United Nations and other international deliberative assemblies. The country’s top exports include petroleum, medicaments, jewelry, rice and diamonds with major imports consisting of gold, petroleum, coal and diamonds. India’s main trade partners are the United States, Saudi Arabia, China, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). While the country wields power as a major partner in worldwide trade and holds the title of the 17th largest export economy, many Indians still struggle to make ends meet. Indian children, in particular, must carry the heavy burden of supplying for their families far more often than any child should. The following are 10 facts on the reality of child labor in India and what the country is doing to improve these children’s quality of life.

10 Facts About Child Labor in India

  1. Poverty is the main driving cause of child labor in India. There is often an increased reliance on child labor in India due to the need to provide a necessary income contribution to one’s household or out of an obligation to fund a family debt, especially considering the susceptibility of Indian families to enter poverty. In some cases, a child’s income amounts to 25 to 40 percent of a total household income.
  2. A lack of quality education also causes children—particularly girls—to turn to work. Girls are two times more likely to take on domestic jobs like cleaning, cooking and general housekeeping if out of school. Also, even though India’s 2009 Right to Education Act made education for 6 to 14 year-olds compulsory, it did little to improve the educational infrastructure across all of India. A 2006 survey found that 81,617 school buildings lacked blackboards to display class content on and that around 42,000 state-supported schools conducted classes and academic activities without an actual building.
  3. Child labor affects 5 to 14 year-olds disproportionately and is present in some of India’s most unsafe industries. Almost 60 percent of all working five to 14-year-olds are located in five of India’s 29 states. The latest available census found that of the 10.1 million children in India between the ages mentioned above, 2.1 million live in Uttar Pradesh, 0.1 million in Bihar, 0.84 million in Rajshahi, 0.7 million in Madhya Perish and 0.72 million in Maharashtra. Around 20.3 percent of Indian children work in hazardous industries such as mining gemstones and construction — even in spite of the existence of laws that are supposed to prohibit this activity in India.
  4. Indian legal rulings on child labor have brought about unorganized trade, called the informal sector–an area of trade that has little to no regulation on the production of goods. Though it is not the greatest source of GDP growth in India, the informal sector still constitutes 90 percent of the workforce in the country. Because of the nature of child labor and the need to often choose work over education, the majority of child laborers work in this unskilled sector. Government-mandated inspections are infrequent, and employers rarely uphold legal rights for workers and do not enforce minimum wage standards.
  5. Production work in India can range from seemingly harmless to very harmful. Many children at work in India take part in “bangle-making, stainless-steel production, bidi-making, hotels, and small automobile garages and workshops.” However, some of these workers experience serious health issues as a result of their involvement. One such sector is incense production, which causes respiratory tract problems. The ILO finds that girls are more likely to work in this sector, and as such, are often more susceptible to these health issues.
  6. A decades-old child labor law in India requires amendments to solve the issue of loopholes. The Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986 defines a child as a person of 13 years of age or younger. This ruling prohibits children from working or from employers putting them to work. Adolescents are of age 14 or older, and may work in unhazardous occupations. The law, however, does not outline all types of work that can become unsafe after an extended period. The penalties for violating this rule are also not enough to encourage employers to move away from adolescent work.
  7. Maintaining child labor in India is detrimental to the country’s economy. Investing time and funding in children’s education upfront might feel like an economically unwise choice, but in the words of Frans Roeselaers, ILO International Programme director on the Elimination of Child Labour, “ [childhood education investment] gives enormous, almost astronomical returns in terms of both productivity and increased wages once the child grows up and becomes a worker.” Not only do companies benefit from more educated workers, but individual households will also experience an improved quality of life thanks to the higher salaries of the jobs more educated people can obtain. As a result, the government would also benefit from those higher salaries in the form of greater tax returns.
  8. India has made or is in the process of making various efforts to establish institutional unity and solve the child labor crisis. The state of Andhra Pradesh, India is working on an economic model that would eliminate the need for child labor and urge other Indian states to follow suit or use as its example as inspiration for similar approaches. The Universal Alliance of Diamond Workers (UADW) is working to establish the involvement of children in the gemstone industry as unsuitable in many respects. Also, the M. Venkatarangaiah Foundation in India has strategized different and adaptable approaches to “prevent early drop-out and involvement in child labor, by motivating parents, easing enrolment problems and bridging the gap between home and school.” The initiative utilizes groups of government teachers, officials elected to represent their community at a higher governmental level and other community members who have counsel to provide based on experience and observation. As this effort grew in acceptance and implementation, 85 villages rid their industries and establishments of any opportunity to utilize child labor.
  9. Recent updates to rules on child labor in India have resulted in improvement. As of 2017, the Indian government moved to ratify both ILO Convention 182 and Convention 138–two improved standards of labor laws that the country hopes to introduce as status quo in years to come. India’s leaders also devised a new National Plan of Action for Children that establishes the National Policy for Children. This policy focuses on helping improve the conditions and tolerance for continued child labor and child trafficking.
  10. There are several organizations already working to address India’s child labor crisis specifically. Groups like CHILDLINE India Foundation, Save The Children India and SOS Childen’s Villages India are all working to combat child labor in India.

Although India has a long way to go to eradicate child labor, it is making serious steps towards its goal. The help of various NGOs and the improvement of existing laws should help reduce child labor in India.

– Fatemeh-Zahra Yarali
Photo: Flickr