Child poverty in Greece
Child poverty in Greece is a prominent issue. About 40% of children under the age of 17 are at risk. According to Eurostat, Greece ranks at the top of the child poverty scale. Furthermore, Greece’s poverty rate is the third-highest within the European Union. This article will explore the state of child poverty in Greece and efforts to address it.


The economic crisis in Greece is one of many reasons for the rising child poverty rate. Access to education has decreased as well. As a result, many children are unable to attend school and unemployment rates have skyrocketed.

State education is free until university in Greece and education is compulsory between the ages of 6 and 15. In spite of this, approximately 11.4% of students dropped out of school in 2010. Moreover, an average of 30,000 students never enter high school. The highest high school dropout rate is in the Dodecanese islands and Rhodope.

Child Abuse

Giorgio Nikolaidis is a child psychiatrist and head of the Mental Health Department of the Institute of Child Health. He stated that inadequate child protection services were further undercut long before the economic crisis. Authorities are often aware of domestic, sexual abuse against children; however, they do not take the correct measures to protect children.

“I have seen cases where four-year-old kids were treated for sexually transmitted rectal HPV for over a year and no investigation had been undertaken to determine how they got it,” Nikolaidis said. The reality is that there is no coherent system to effectively protect victims.

The Greek constitution prohibits forced labor, but the minimum age for work is as low as 12 for people working in a family business. Thus, families often send their children to the streets to beg for money. Although Greece ratified the Worst Forms of Child Labor Convention, these activities remain unpunishable by law. Children who spend more time on the streets are also at an increased risk of child trafficking.

Together for Children

Together for Children is an NGO that provides assistance to young people and their families. The organization is comprised of nine member organizations that work in child welfare. Its mission is to provide immediate support for children, families and individuals with disabilities.

The organization established a child helpline that provides free counseling services and emotional support for children and their families. Together for Children strives to tackle child poverty in Greece and create sustainable living conditions. Additionally, the organization ensures access to free education through various programs such as a nursery school for children with cerebral palsy, a development playgroup for children with cerebral palsy and other disabilities, a special primary school for children with cerebral palsy and productive workshops for adults with cerebral palsy. Together for Children also has activities and programs to support unaccompanied minors who are refugees.

Assisting more than 30,000 children every year, Together for Children has received the Silver Medal of the Academy of Athens for its social contribution. In 2019, it also received a BRAVO Award for engaging with thousands of citizens in support of its initiative: Equal Opportunities for Children: Actions for Health and Education in Remote Areas of Greece.

Looking Forward

Organizations like Together for Children help create a better society for children to flourish. It focuses on improving the health and well-being of impoverished children, creating opportunities for quality education and supporting refugees. This organization has taken great strides in alleviating child poverty in Greece.

Poverty in Greece remains high due to the lack of education, child abuse and labor exploitation. Sexual and labor exploitation impoverishes children mentally and physically. Although the Greek financial crisis is often blamed for inadequate social services, there is much more that the country should be doing to protect children. Moving foward, it is essential that the government and other humanitarian organizations prioritize addressing child poverty in Greece.

– Marielle Marlys
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Afghanistan Afghanistan currently faces a large-scale human trafficking crisis that is rooted in centuries of abuse. Children and women are sold or kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery or armed forces. With the Afghani Government failing to properly protect victims and prosecute perpetrators, the U.S. Department of State and a network of NGOs are working to alleviate the problem.

The Systemic Issues

One of the major issues contributing to the human trafficking crisis within Afghanistan is the continued practice of bacha bazi, or “dancing boys”, in which sexual abuse against children is performed by adult men. Although technically illegal, the centuries-old custom has been proven hard to get rid of, with many government and security officials being complicit with its continuation.

The U.S. Department of State has declared Afghanistan Tier 3, the highest threat level, meaning that it does not meet the minimum requirements for combatting human trafficking and is not making a significant effort to do so.

This has a significant impact on Afghanistan because according to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, the United States will not provide nonhumanitarian, nontrade-related foreign assistance to a country that is ranked on Tier 3. According to the June 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report, the use of child soldiers and bacha bazi has continued. Although there have been investigations and arrests made in an attempt to end bacha bazi, no police officers involved were prosecuted.

Addressing Human Trafficking in Afghanistan

The Afghani Government has shown efforts to end human trafficking within its borders. In 2019, it joined the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on a global initiative to stop human trafficking. This initiative aims to allocate resources to countries in the Middle East and Asia that need assistance in the battle against human trafficking.

USAID reported that in 2019,  Afghanistan increased the number of Child Protection Units within national police precincts, preventing the recruitment of 357 child soldiers. Furthermore, the National Child Protection Committee (NCPC) was created to respond to the practice of bacha bazi.

USAID has worked to assist the Afghani by training government officials to prosecute human traffickers and abusers as well as giving assistance to shelter workers that give legal and social resources to victims. It assisted in the creation of the Afghanistan Network in Combating Trafficking in Persons (ANCTIP), a network of Afghan NGOs that work with victims of human trafficking.

NGOs within the country have provided most of the assistance to victims of human trafficking. Approximately 27 women’s shelters in 20 provinces provided protection and care for female victims of trafficking. NGOs also operated two shelters for male victims under the age of 18.

Eradicating Human Trafficking

In order for Afghanistan to efficiently combat its human trafficking crisis and move to a lower tier level, Afghanistan needs to increase criminal investigations and prosecutions of suspected traffickers, especially in law enforcement and the military. Furthermore, traffickers must be convicted and adequately sentenced. This can be done by increasing the influence and powers of the NCPC and allowing the committee to remove public servants found practicing bacha bazi. Additional support from the country’s government must also be given to survivors of human trafficking. Only by rooting out the systemic abuse within the top institutions of the country can Afghanistan effectively address its human trafficking crisis.

– Christopher McLean
Photo: Flickr

Child Protection SystemThe child protection system in Greece has long been criticized for its lack of consistency and the inability to provide adequate protection for abused children. The lack of investigations, follow-up from social service professionals and incidents of returning children to the care of abusers are not uncommon.

A Lacking Child Protection System

While the lack of a sufficient child protection system has been attributed to the financial crisis, in Greece, child protection services were underfunded before the financial collapse. The inability to develop a structured and cohesive child protective system has denied many children of their rights. Reduction in personnel, lack of funds, insufficient resources and inadequate collaboration among social service entities have caused dysfunction within the child protection system.

The Institute of Child Health

The Institute of Child Health has taken a stand in many cases impacting the lives of the youth in Greece. The Institute of Child Health is overseen by the Greek Ministry of Health and has advocated for funding and mental health support for abused children. This entity has developed a protocol to allow the networking of services to meet the needs of children that are victims of abuse. Through unified procedures and the development of a digital records system, the organization has made efforts in the modification of the child protection system.

While the efforts made by the Institute of Child Health have been ignored by the Greek government, the government has implemented an initiative that will streamline processes and improve the conditions for child abuse survivors. Yet, the Greek government has been slow in implementing changes that will impact the lives of children systemwide. Currently, children of abuse are required to repeat their stories multiple times, risking retraumatization. With the implementation of the Child Houses or Child Advocacy Centers, testimonies are recorded. Through this method, children will only need to provide their testimony once. The implementation of this process is one step in addressing a significant problem within the child protection system.

Greece Implements New Adoption and Fostering System

For decades, many children entering the child protection administration have been placed in hospitals due to an incomplete foster care system. In Greece, the child protection system relies upon institutions, children’s homes operated by the state, the Greek Orthodox Church and NGOs, to provide care for children removed from their families. However, the lack of an adequate foster care system and institutionalizing children removed from their families presents another problem in the child protection system in Greece. Institutionalized children are subject to inadequate living conditions, living in wooden cages or tied to their beds, leaving children with life long trauma and further victimization. The children spend months in an institution due to being removed from their families and the inability to locate a suitable foster or adoption home.

In July 2020, Greece implemented a new adoption and fostering system that demonstrates progress toward revamping a crippled child protection system. With this new system, a more effective process will allow more accuracy in the evaluation of applications from prospective applicants. The new system establishes full transparency, documentation and expert control of the process. The Greek prime minister believes this implementation addresses past bureaucratic hurdles and will expedite the process of connecting children with families. Other steps that are in the works include the registration of minors in child protection and training of professionals that will work with prospective foster and adoptive parents.

The Need for Further Progress

Lacking child protection in Greece has jeopardized the safety and wellbeing of many children. Due to the lack of uniform protocol, collaboration among service providers and unclear mandates and responsibilities, children that enter the custody of child protective services continue to relive their abuse. While steps have been taken to rectify this problem, Greeks remain positive that further progress within the child protection system will come.

– Brandi Hale
Photo: Flickr

Saint HelenaSaint Helena is a small tropical island in the southern Atlantic Ocean and remains one of the few countries that is part of the British Overseas Territories. Saint Helena has been a part of the British territories for many years, far from the mainland in its remote locale. Though the island is isolated, there is a question as to the current issue of human rights in Saint Helena. Recently, Saint Helena has been under scrutiny for possible child abuse on its shores.

In 2014, the Daily Mail published a series of three articles about the “culture of sexual abuse of children” in Saint Helena. Needless to say, these articles shocked the public. The articles detailed the brutality of the abuses. More importantly, the articles suggested that authorities needed to review the policing occurring on the island.

The articles criticized the authorities in great detail, particularly the Foreign Commonwealth Office, the local Government of Saint Helena and the Department for International Development. Other coincidental occurrences suggest that there is child abuse ongoing on the island as well, creating a grave concern for human rights in Saint Helena.

Claire Gannon and Martin Warsama are social workers from Britain who worked with Saint Helena residents. Gannon and Warsama reported the occurrence of rampant child abuse; later, both alleged they were threatened and forced to leave the island in retaliation for reporting such abuse.

After denying these accusations of abuse to the U.N., the Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO) of Britain drafted a report in which it noted that child abuse was indeed a plague on the island. The report alleged that police officers assaulted a four-year old girl and mutilated a two-year old toddler. The FCO apologized for its “erroneous” original report. Gannon and Warsama were furious. In return, the social workers sued the FCO and the United Kingdom Department for International Development.

The FCO was faced with public outcry. As a result, it commissioned a report by a children’s charity, the Lucy Faithfull Foundation. The Foundation kept its report confidential. However, the contents were leaked to a website the social workers had created to help drum up support for their lawsuit. The report noted that there was a culture on the island of abusing teenage girls through “violent and brutal attacks.”

The two different reports generated by the FCO indicate that there is, at a minimum, some ongoing child abuse in a social pattern on the island. One of the reasons such abuse could potentially be taking place is because of the small population: there are just over 4,000 permanent residents of the island. It is well-established that abusers often become close to their victims.

The government of Saint Helena has been taking an active legislative and political interest in the welfare of children as a whole. Beginning in 2010, the Welfare of Children Regulations has been shaping the Safeguarding Children’s and Young People’s Board. To avoid undue political influence as much as possible, the Board is chaired independently, though it does report to the Governor of Saint Helena. Other members of the Board include those who work with children regularly: representatives from the different sectors of health, social services, education and nongovernmental organizations.

The Board is a sincere effort from the government to protect children’s interests; it meets every six weeks and when there is an urgent matter. The Board also strives to harmonize different elements of the government, so that various agencies can work for the betterment of children’s interests.

Saint Helena is a closed-off island. Besides being well-known for being Napoleon’s home during his last years, the island is generally not in the news. Still, different stories detailing possible child abuse yield concerns about the status of human rights in Saint Helena. The government’s efforts to restore these rights serve as an encouraging step forward in the fight to end child abuse.

Smriti Krishnan

Photo: Flickr

A recent United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) study titled A Deadly Journey for Children: The Central Mediterranean Migration Route, surveyed migrant women and children in Libya making their way to Europe. Refugee children leaving war and poverty are being mentally and physically abused, sexually assaulted and starved.

Last September, it was estimated that 256,000 migrants were in Libya, 11 percent of whom were women and nine percent of whom were children. A third of these children were unaccompanied. However, these figures are estimations and the actual statistics are assumed to be much higher.

About 70 percent of migrants traveling through Africa to Europe experience some type of exploitation, according to an October International Organization for Migration (IOM) survey. Last year, nine of out 10 children who used the Central Mediterranean Migration Route arrived in Europe unaccompanied. Nearly 26,000 children made the journey in 2016, which is twice the number of children from the previous year. Unaccompanied children are more prone to different types of abuse, trafficking and exploitation.

UNICEF staff members in Libya have documented many cases of refugee child abuse over time. Three-quarters of the children interviewed in the survey said they had experienced some type of violence from an adult. A majority of the children had experienced emotional abuse, with girls reporting higher rates than boys. Some children also said that they had to rely on smugglers, which resulted in other types of abuse like trafficking.

Amid the refugee child abuse shown in this study, UNICEF has created a six-part plan that they want governments and the European Union to adopt. The UNICEF Agenda for Action is comprised of the following goals:

  1. Protect child refugees and migrants, particularly unaccompanied children, from exploitation and violence.
  2. End the detention of children seeking refugee status or migrating by introducing a range of practical alternatives.
  3. Keep families together as the best way to protect children and give them legal status.
  4. Keep all refugee and migrant children learning and give them access to health and other quality services.
  5. Press for action on the underlying causes of large-scale movements of refugees and migrants.
  6. Promote measures to combat xenophobia, discrimination and marginalization in countries of transit and destination.

UNICEF spokesperson Sarah Crowe told Al Jazeera, “We need to work on finding a solution to the root causes of the problem and we need to do more to support children at every step of the way.”

Shannon Elder

Photo: Flickr

child labor
After child labor was legalized in Bolivia this past month, discussion of its causes and impact is on the rise.

The International Labour Organization’s (ILO) website reported that between the years 2000 and 2014, the number of child laborers has decreased one- third, from 246 million to 168 million children.

Though these numbers show promising signs, there are still many hurdles to overcome in ending child labor. Child labor does not merely consist of working in factories and on the streets, but so much more.

1. Slavery

Slavery can come in various forms but all amount to the same thing: a child is owned by someone and has zero say in what they have to do, where they go and what conditions they are forced to live in.

The Anti-Slavery International’s website reported a Sudanese woman named Mende who was taken as a teenager after being separated from her family. Mende ended up in a house in Khartoum as a domestic slave for six to seven years.

“[Once] my master… called me her slave. From that time on I understood who I am. From the beginning she treated me badly and beat me; even then I couldn’t understand why. It was only when she said that she was my owner and called me Abda [servant] that I understood.”

Slavery with children often occurs because the child’s family is in debt and cannot pay that debt off, so to become free from the burden of debt, they sell their child. The child will work for years to pay off their family’s debt.

Other types of slavery include forced labor, which in the private economy generates over $150 billion illegally per year. In addition, War Child U.K. has reported that there are an estimated 250,000 child soldiers in the world because of forced labor.

2. Sexual Exploitation

Sexual exploitation is taking advantage of, abusing and mistreating someone sexually for profit and gain. Many children- girls and boys alike- are exploited every day, whether it be through pornographic material, sexual acts, child marriage or prostitution.

According to the Half The Sky Movement, “trafficking for sexual exploitation is one of the fastest–growing organized crimes, generating $28.7 billion each year.”

What does this mean for children? More and more children will be bought and sold, kidnapped and trafficked across even international boarders, abused countless times over and forced to perform sexual acts.

3. Illicit Activities

Illicit activities are crimes such as producing and/or trafficking drugs, shoplifting, stealing automobiles, theft and begging for money.

Children are forced or willing to get involved with drugs. For those who willingly get involved, it is for the belief that they will become wealthy and gain status. It is these children who are involved in the selling of narcotics that develop drug addictions.

Oftentimes, children are made to become beggars and earn money from passersby. If they do not earn enough throughout the day, they are typically beaten.

4. Work Harmful to Mind, Body and Spirit

Forced into child labor, children suffer mentally, emotionally and physically. ILO reported that child labor which involves domestic work, manufacturing, agriculture and construction are sectors of child labor that raise tremendous concern.

Around 60 percent of child laborers are in agriculture worldwide. Child labor streams mainly from poverty and many times in family farming. Though child labor is thought of only to be in foreign countries, it can be seen on farms in America.

Mining is becoming increasingly popular as a form of child labor. The United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking reported that, “[Children are] forced to spend 10 or more hours a day in dark, cramped mines filled with poisonous chemicals… Children working in the gold mines face mercury poisoning; in coal mines, children inadvertently consume toxic coal dust…”

UN.GIFT also reported that over 32,000 children die per year as a result of working in unsafe conditions.

While many children are playing on playgrounds and catching fireflies on a warm summer night, there are those all around the world who are in bondage, in despair, in crisis, begging for help and a way out.

Juan Somavia, ILO Director- General, said, “A world without child labour is possible with the right priorities and policies…Driven by conscience, let’s muster the courage and conviction to act in solidarity and ensure every child’s right to his or her childhood. It brings rewards to all.”

– Kori Withers 

Sources: International Labor Organization 1, International Labor Organization 2, UN, Anti- Slavery International, Half The Sky Movement, War Child UK, United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking
Photo: The Guardian

girl summit
Co-hosted by UNICEF and the UK government, Girl Summit 2014, held on July 22 marked the first international conference dedicated to eradicating forced child marriage and forced genital mutilation.

Speakers at the Girl Summit 2014 included Justine Greening, Secretary of State for International Development and Theresa May, the Home Secretary.

A statistic released by the U.N. claims, according to The Telegraph, that around “125 million women and girls worldwide have been cut—and that at least 30 million more will be at risk over the next decade.” This mutilation is used as a means to make sure young girls remain “controlled and disempowered.” The consequences of this process include increased risk for illness and increased pain and mortality rates for mothers during childbirth.

Moreover, approximately one-third of female children in developing countries are married by the time they are 18. The Girl Summit Pledge website asserts that some girls who are forced into marriage “are as young as eight. Girls who marry young have babies while still children, putting them at risk of death or suffering for the rest of their lives. They are more likely to be poor and stay poor.” The ultimate goal of the Girl Summit 2014, therefore, is to more actively publicize and strengthen the worldwide community against these horrendous types of child abuse.

David Cameron, Prime Minister of the UK, declared that efforts to eradicate forced female genital mutilation and forced child marriage would be, according to The Telegraph, “at the top of Britain’s aid agenda” and he will endeavor to ensure these changes will take place “within a generation.”

The Girl Summit 2014 is also seeking to continue the movement beyond the conference through generating a large and sustained social media following. The Girl Summit is looking for people to pledge their support through their Facebook page and through twitter by using #GirlSummit.

– Jordyn Horowitz

Sources: The Telegraph, GOV.UK, Girl Summit 2014
Photo: GOV.UK