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

Health Improvements for Children

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

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

Strengthening Written Law

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

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

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

The BiCE

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

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

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

Josie Collier
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Child Labor in Algeria

Algeria — a country characterized by political instability — has made some strides to address the worst forms of child labor. However, according to the Department of Labor (DOL), “The government has not sufficiently prohibited the use of children in illicit activities or determined by national law or regulation the types of work that are hazardous for children to perform.” Keep reading to learn the top seven facts about child labor in Algeria.

7 Facts About Child Labor in Algeria

  1. Although the legal minimum age for work eligibility is 16, 6.7 percent of children in Algeria (ages 5 to 14) are currently working. This amounts to more than 413,000 working children.
  2. While there has been no comprehensive study that provides more insight into the scope of each sector of work, it is known that children in Algeria work on farms, usually harvesting olives; in the street, vending, collecting plastics and even begging. Others perform various services for businesses and workshops and do domestic work. However, the worst type of child labor is in the form of commercial sexual exploitation that often results in human trafficking and participation in drug smuggling.
  3. Granting children access to education is known to help reduce rates of child labor. Algeria offers free public schooling for anyone with a valid birth certificate and 92.3 percent of children attend school. However, the lack of teachers trained to help with students who have disabilities and the existing stigma keep many children with disabilities from attending school. Additionally, many migrant children do not have birth certificates making them ineligible. For these reasons, both of these populations are particularly vulnerable to child labor.
  4. Child labor is often associated with immigrant communities in Algeria. Migrant children who are subject to work are primarily from the sub-Saharan region of Africa and are most likely to be forced into sexual exploitation and domestic work. Additionally, migrants from Niger are known to bring children “rented” from smuggling networks along with them while begging in the streets.
  5. Fortunately, the Algerian government recognizes this as a major problem and has been working to end child labor within their borders. In 2016 the government began a campaign titled The National Commission for the Prevention of and Fight Against Child Labor, creating radio and television programs that spread awareness about the negative effects of child labor and working to bring that message into religious sermons. The initiative also offers assistance to families in need, in the hope that lessening their financial stress will reduce the likelihood of the children being sent to work. While this campaign is a step in the right direction, there is no evidence on how effective it has been, and the Bureau of International Labor Affairs considers it to be only a “moderate advancement” along the path to end child labor.
  6. The Bureau of International Labor states that in the fight to end child labor it is essential not only to create relevant policy but also to assign the issue to a centralized government body or authority in order to stay up to date on the issue and monitor the effectiveness of the policy. Algeria has successfully done this by delegating the issue to the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare’s Labor Inspection Directorate. This has resulted in advancements such as the Ministry of Labor organizing training sessions for 136 judges on the legal framework for the protection of children.
  7. The government has made a difference through policy as well with the National Action Plan for the Prevention of and Fight Against Trafficking in Persons. While this policy is more focused on the specific issue of human trafficking, this inevitably intertwined with child labor and has resulted in 79 prosecuted child labor cases.

Madeline Lyons
Photo: Flickr


In light of Universal Children’s Day on Nov. 20, UNICEF launched its #FightUnfair Twitter campaign to promote children’s right to a safe, educated and healthy life.

“Children make up almost half of the world’s poor, nearly 250 million children live in conflict-torn countries and over 200,000 have risked their lives this year seeking refuge in Europe,” said Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director.

The details of life for poor children remain obscure to many and UNICEF has designed a quick and simple way to share child poverty facts. Supporters of the #FightUnfair campaign can click on the Facebook or the Twitter button below the fact they wish to share. In less than ten seconds, the information is available for the world to see.

Celebrities such as Orlando Bloom, Shakira, Ricky Martin and Liam Neeson have joined the campaign, each promoting a different child poverty fact.

“Behind every single number is a child, a boy or a girl much like mine or yours, or our nieces or nephews, or the kids we ourselves once were, who carry exactly the same need–and right–to feel loved, protected and respected,” Ricky Martin told Huffington Post.

Martin has been a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and avid opposer of child trafficking since 2003.

Fighting unfairness requires more than tweeting facts, which is why UNICEF invited participants to share ideas about ending child poverty. Negative facts tweak consciences, but achievable solutions inspire action.

In addition to the Twitter campaign, UNICEF revealed how to have an informed and persuasive discussion about child rights. Tips include knowing the difference between equality and equity, researching key facts, referencing real stories of real children and refraining from creating an “us” and “them” barrier.

Addressing the needs of children will foster future generations of educated citizens who can break the cycles of poverty.

Sarah Prellwitz

Sources: Do Something, Global Citizen, Huffington Post, UN Brussels, UNICEF 1, UNICEF 2                                                                                                                                                Photo: Wikipedia 

A new report released by UNICEF in late June has highlighted the significant achievements of nations across the globe in safeguarding child rights.

The Progress for Children Report, which examined international efforts to meet UN Millennium Goals related to the advancement of children, specifically noted certain accomplishments Indonesia has recorded in regards to strengthening child protection and security.

Since the advent of the MGD’s in 2000, the Pacific Island nation of Indonesia has successfully reduced the mortality rate for children under 5 from 84 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990, to 29 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2015. These figures also represent significant regional advancements, as the average number of deaths per 1,000 live births decreased dramatically from 58 in 1990 to only 17 in 2015.

Indonesian officials have cited such health advancements as products of efforts to reduce national fertility rates, which have decreased 1.3 percent in the past 25 years, and improvements in maternal healthcare programming. As opposed to 1992, where only 36 percent of live births recorded attendance of skilled medical professionals, officials reported a dramatic increase to 83 percent skilled attendance in 2012.

Such efforts by the government to promote stronger home construction, offer wider access to clean water and sanitation, and generate better education and health care systems have assisted in the growth of the nations economy and subsequent increases in social expenditures. The government is currently planning to introduce a universal health care program by 2019, an advancement that would solidify national efforts to improve the quality of life available for Indonesian children.

Government officials also boasted a 95 percent net primary school attendance record last year, which brought the nation equal to the regional average of primary education attendance for East Asia and the Pacific.

While Indonesia has demonstrated strong efficacy in advancing the protection of children’s rights, many officials have warned that the current climate of child poverty within the country must be further addressed.

According to the World Bank, of a national population comprised of over 250 million people, almost 30 million of these people still live below the poverty line. Despite recent efforts to improve sanitation facilities, access to such public works systems remains at 68 percent of the population—a large shortcoming of the 86 percent target outlined within the Millennium Development Goals. Indonesia also recorded a remarkably high maternal mortality rate last year, with 190 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. Officials hope continued efforts to provide stronger health care and sanitation systems across the country will assist in reducing such statistics.

Tata Sudrajat, the Families First Director for Save the Children, recently stated in an interview, “Although Indonesia is already a middle income country according to World Bank standards, nearly 44 million Indonesian children still live on under $2 per day. That’s about 50 percent of Indonesia’s child population.”

Sudrajat continued to explain that a major obstacle for the security of children’s rights within Indonesia remains the prevalence of sexual violence against children between the ages of 13 and 18. Citing data from a recent government study, she explained that on average one in 12 males and one in 19 females within this age range are annually affected by sexual violence. Claiming that such crimes often occur close to victim’s homes, Sudrajat stated, “Research on sexual violence against children often finds that the perpetrator is someone who is personally close to the child, which makes children very vulnerable to these sorts of crimes.”

Sudrajat also explained in her interview that campaigns for public awareness regarding child abuse and the socio-cultural roots of these crimes are effective methods for promoting stronger understanding of such issues in order to prevent future incidents. With UNICEF estimating in 2013 that 34.2 percent of the national population, or about 85 million people, are under the age of 18, the continual responsibility to promote and protect the basic rights of Indonesian children is enormous.

James Thornton

Sources: The Jakarta Globe, Economist, World Bank
Photo: University of Victoria

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

end child marriages
USAID recently renewed its commitment to end child marriages – as well as early and forced marriage – both by allocating U.S. $4.8 million dollars to be spent over the next year on prevention efforts and by announcing a new set of strategies for combating the practice that leaves so many children (mostly girls) devoid of resources, health, and dignity.

With the support of several key U.S. legislators, USAID will implement new prevention programs in seven nations: Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, India, Nepal, Tanzania, and Yemen. These prevention programs, which have been updated after analyzing the weaknesses of previous prevention programs, are customized to the needs and features of each of the countries USAID is targeting, making their eventual success very probable.

The advent of child marriage is highly correlated not only with increased rates of poverty, but also with increased maternal and infant mortality and increased incidence of HIV/AIDS and other sexually-transmitted diseases. Ending the practices of forced child marriage, which is “perpetuated by cultural norms, poverty, and lack of access to education,” will re-empower over 10 million girls per year, as well as the families from which they were taken, to make their own choices about their health, education, and futures.

Though child marriage by definition includes all children wed before their 18th birthdays, as many as a third of child marriages occur before the 15th birthday, and some children are married at as young an age as eight years old.

Among USAID’s new strategies for preventing child marriage are improved legislation advocacy measures, increased public awareness of the effects of child marriages and cash incentives to families whose girls have not been married at the age of 18. USAID is setting an influential and inspiring example to other organizations, like The Borgen Project, to continue to promote a change.

USAID’s previous commitment to preventing child marriage was already impressive. Their renewed focus will only serve to keep more children from the bonds of early matrimony.

Elise L. Riley

Sources: USAID, AllAfrica, The Guardian
Photo: The Guardian

Convention on the Rights of the Child

Although they are young, children have rights too. This year will be the 25th anniversary for the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Twenty-five years ago, certain countries of the United Nations made a promise through CRC that they would protect and promote children’s rights to thrive and survive, to make their voices heard and to allow them to reach to their full potential.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child is a treaty that recognizes the rights of children, including anyone below the age of 18. Since the year 2014, 194 countries have become State Parties to the Convention. It establishes a law that States Parties must ensure that children get health care and education and are able to develop their personalities, abilities and talents to their full potential. It also ensures that they grow up in a happy, loving and understanding environment.

Children should also be able to be informed about their basic human rights and how they should use them. The Convention was one of the first committees to recognize that children deserve human rights and that children are not objects or property of parents. CRC is often a reference that other organizations that work with children often look at to determine their framework.

There has been a lot accomplished through CRC, like declining infant mortality, rising school enrollment and more opportunities for girls. UNICEF has recognized this and has declared the year 2014 as the Year of Innovation for Equity. UNICEF wants to get the world’s attention to help develop solutions for children.

UNICEF promotes the principles and provisions of the Convention and the mainstreaming of children’s rights in a systematic manner, in its advocacy, programming, monitoring and evaluation activities.

– Priscilla Rodarte

Sources: UN Human Rights, UNICEF 1, UNICEF 2 Photo: UNICEF 3

Rope isolated on white background
Yemen will soon vote on the inclusive Child Rights Act in hopes to alleviate child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM.) According to the United Nations, more than half of Yemeni girls get married by just 18 years old, and these marriages are often synonymous with abuse, sexual violence and FGM.

FGM is still prolific in almost 30 countries, where most girls are mutilated before the age of 5. Countries such as Egypt and Ethiopia, where FGM victims hit the 20 million count, often rely on traditional practitioners to perform most of the procedures. Banned from Egypt in 2008, the procedure is still a not so taboo, yet illegal, “tradition”: more than 90 percent of women in the country have been subjected to FGM.

Labeled a human rights violation by the U.N., FGM has absolutely no health benefits for women. Procedures can cause heavy bleeding and problems urinating, and can eventually result in cysts, infections, infertility, complications in childbirth and an increased risk of newborn death. The procedure, which removes and damages healthy and normal female genital tissue, poses a serious risk to the natural functions of women’s bodies. Yet FGM, like many other cultural traditions, is difficult to completely erase even by law. An act of patriarchal control, FGM works under the intent of controlling women’s bodies to ensure “virginity, purity and modesty.”

The Child Rights Act would work to eliminate mental, emotional and physical abuse and would ban child marriage and FGM. Establishing a minimum age of marriage at 18, the law would impose fines on guardians, marriage officials or any other persons aware of the transgression.

Yet FGM is not only common in Eastern countries: it happens here in the United States, too. An estimated 228,000 women in America are either at risk or have received the procedure, and this number is increasing. Sent to countries where the practice is still legal, many victims are beginning to speak out against the procedure, demanding more attention from the U.S. government. Subsequently, the 2014 U.S. Department of State Human Rights country reports include a mandatory question regarding FGM for the first time.

Yemen, which is set to vote on the Child Rights Act this coming month, has a long way to go before it gets passed. If approved by the prime minister and cabinet, the legislation would then go to a parliamentary vote. Ultimately, the president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, would have final say regarding its passing. After an unsuccessful push to make 17 the legal age of marriage in Yemen in just 2009, human rights groups around the world are hoping the Yemeni government will act judiciously in passing this potentially life-saving legislation.

– Nick Magnanti

Sources: The Guardian, Liberty Voice, UNICEF 1, UNICEF 2
Photo: ViralNova

In Yemen, 52% of girls are married before the age of 18. This nightmare is far from fantastical dreams of love and marriage, meeting ‘Prince Charming’ and living ‘happily ever after.’ Rather, many Yemeni girls are forced to marry men double their age.

Prior to recent progress, Yemen had no legal minimum age for the marriage of its citizens. In 1999, parliament abolished a former law that made marriage before the age of 15 illegal, and in 2009, attempts to reinstate a legal marriage age failed. Both of the aforementioned incidents occurred when legal groups cited “religious grounds,” arguing that a minimum marriage age would be contrary to Islamic law. However, Abdulwahab al-Anisi, who currently serves as the secretary general of Yemen’s largest Islamist party, has voiced his party’s willingness support the new law.

The average age of child brides in rural Yemen is 12 to 13-years-old, and the death of brides as young as 8-years-old have been reported after their wedding night or child birth. This is the horrific reality for young brides forced into child marriage, many of whom are unlikely to have knowledge of intercourse prior to their wedding night.

However, new constitutional proposals address gender equality and women’s rights, as well as the suggestion to make marriage before the age of 18 illegal for both genders. The proposed Child’s Rights Law was submitted to Prime Minister Mohammad Basindawa on April 27 and would require the verification of age for both the man and the woman when filing for a marriage license.

The draft also suggests punishment for perpetrators of forced child marriage, providing criminal penalties of two months to one year in prison. Any persons who draw up a marriage contract with the knowledge that one or more persons is under the age of 18 could face fines of up to $1,860. Prison sentences and fines are also suggested for witnesses, parents, or guardians who know that at least one person filing for the marriage license is under 18.

It will be long and difficult process to change a practice with such deep roots and serious social implications, but Belkis Willie, a Human Rights Watch (HRW) researcher, believes that, “a law setting an age and criminalizing is a first step, and then a few high profile criminal cases against parents and spouses will be key.”

Organizations such as HRW are urging the Yemeni government to expedite the passing of this law, which would help protect thousands of girls who are victims of early and forced marriage. Forced marriage, in turn, often results in girls being prevented from completing their education and makes them more vulnerable to marital rape and domestic abuse.

“The prime minister should provide strong leadership to get the minimum age for marriage and the child rights law on the books,” said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East and North Africa director for HRW. “There’s no excuse for further delays in passing this desperately needed legislation.”

– Madisson Barnett

Sources: The New York Times, Human Rights Watch (1), Human Rights Watch (2)
Photo: BBC