poverty in Georgia
The rural people of Georgia have been experiencing lots of suffering since their independence after the disbanding of the Soviet Union. The agricultural system changed radically after the markets collapsed and privatization created around one million small farmers. These farmers had resorted to subsistence farming, where all they typically farmed was corn, potatoes, and wheat.

However, livestock production and crop yields went down because of the farmers’ lack of resources to buy inputs. Compared to the era before Georgia achieved independence, the total agricultural yield of Georgia had nearly halved in 2004.

The common family in Georgia consumes over 70% of what it produces and upwards of 80% of the rural poor in the country completely relies on their own farms to sustain their lives. Even though over half of their labor force works in agriculture and farming, this sector produces less than 20% of the country’s gross domestic product.

The majority of families in rural settings are living at the lowest levels of subsistence with no way of escape or way to earn more money to invest in reconstructing their lives. The income that the rural parts of these countries receive is not enough for them to do anything with, the unemployment and underemployment rates are extremely high and the crop yield is very low. These people are extremely vulnerable, with nearly 45% of the population living beneath the national poverty line.

Rural households that are mainly taken care of by women with children are especially vulnerable to poverty in Georgia. The economic and social problems in the country have caused the previously improving rights of women to wear away. These women are generally dominated by men in the households, being viewed as homemakers, even though they technically have equality through the constitution. The women in Georgia also usually have lower wages and less opportunities for employment, which truly traps them in their homes.

UNICEF and government officials of Georgia agreed to a joint program of cooperation to improve children’s rights and to try to bring them out of poverty. According to UNICEF, “the percentage of children living below the national poverty line increased 25% in 2011 to 27% in 2013, as social spending was more focused on other groups.” Extreme poverty in children is still higher than the rest of the population, though it has been reduced in the last few years.

There is a new emphasis in the country being put on foster care and group homes being implemented so these children can escape poverty and lead better lives. The government of Georgia says how the improved family environment can make a change in a child’s life overnight and that the childcare system to come will be great.

Since 2005, the number of children in state care has dropped significantly from over 4,000 to only 150 because of Georgia’s shuttering 36 of the 41 childcare institutions in the country. About 80% of these children came from families that were still alive, but that were in such bad poverty that they could not afford to care for them anymore, but fortunately, these childcare centers were there to save their lives.

– Kenneth W. Kliesner

Sources: UNICEF, The Messenger, Rural Poverty Portal
Photo: Daily Mail

Child labor is defined as labor that children are unqualified to perform primarily because they are either young or too vulnerable for the nature of the work. As such, not all labor that children engage in can or should be regarded as child labor. For instance, labor that does not negatively impact the child’s physical or mental health generally does not qualify as child labor.

Worldwide, there are multiple forms of child labor ranging from agricultural work to mining, manufacturing and domestic service. Other children are trapped in even more malicious forms of labor such as debt bondage, prostitution, drug trafficking, and armed conflicts. Oftentimes, children who are subjected to child labor do not receive monetary compensation but rather informal payment in the form of food and a home.

Today, approximately 168 million children are victims of child labor, with the rates of underage labor highest in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Half of these minors work in hazardous conditions. Furthermore, the United Nations has provided a set of risk factors that impact whether children are vulnerable to forced or underpaid labor. Oftentimes, poverty is the primary reason that children are subjected to labor. These children live in states of such extreme poverty that they are generally willing to endure abuse in order to secure even the paltriest sum of money.

Poverty, however, is not the only risk factor for child labor. Additional major risk factors include barriers to education, culture and tradition, market demand and poor legislation. For example, not all areas of the world have access to adequate education. Oftentimes, the quality of schooling in less developed countries is inadequate. In these situations, children generally opt to work rather than attend a school that they either cannot afford or do not view as useful. To these children, the idea of an immediate monetary reward outweighs schooling, especially when the welfare of their family is at stake.

Furthermore, in less developed countries, parents often reinforce the notion that children should enter the labor force, creating a cycle in which children of each generation successively enter the labor force early.

Due to market demand children are preferred workers because they are less costly to hire than adults. Employers perceive children as easier to abuse and more willing to endure maltreatment.

Lastly, child labor thrives in areas of the world that either do not have sufficient child labor laws or do not effectively enforce these laws.

Since children are developmentally vulnerable in more than just physical ways, exploitations of labor affect them cognitively, emotionally and behaviorally. These disturbances in development may help perpetuate the cycle of poverty – a malicious cycle that can only be broken once the risk factors of child labor are amended and principles of human rights are internalized, thus giving children the opportunity to just be children.

– Phoebe Pradhan

 Sources: International Labor Organization, United Nations
Photo: Curly Girl Chronicles

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has recently emphasized that the Bolivian government should reject proposals to lower its minimum age of employment below 14 years old. President Evo Morales has expressed support for proposals to abolish a minimum age for “independent work” and to lower the minimum age to 12 years old for all other jobs.

Jo Becker, children’s rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch (HRW,) stated that, “Child labor perpetuates the cycle of poverty. Lowering minimum age of employment is counterproductive and out of step with the rest of the world.”

Reductions in child labor are attributed to increasing access to education, strengthening national legislation and monitoring and bolstering social protection plans such as Bolivia’s Juancito Pinto cash transfer program.

The International Labor Convention stipulates a minimum employment age of 15 years old. Bolivia, along with 166 other countries, is a part of this. The only stipulation is countries whose economy and educational facilities are insufficiently developed may under certain conditions have a minimum age of 14 years old. Bolivia has a reported 850,000 child laborers.

“Poor families often send their children to work out of desperation, but these children miss out on schooling and are more likely to end up in a lifetime of low-wage work,” Becker said. “The Bolivian government should invest in policies and programs to end child labor, not support it.”

Human rights across Latin America are struggling with a seemingly intractable dilemma, according to The Guardian. Countries such as Bolivia, Colombia, Argentina, Ecuador and Brazil hope to benefit from the commodity boom in global markets that are fueled by demand in China and other areas of the world.

Social movements across Latin America are helping to remold politics and political discourse. These countries democratization depend on the support of increasingly active social movements in both rural and urban areas.

Along with the protesting and movements transpiring in Latin America, HRW joined the Global March against Child Labor and Anti-Slavery International on January 24. The group sent a letter to Morales completely opposing any sort of movement to lower the minimum age of employment. HRW explained that it would be extremely counterproductive to the Bolivian economy.

Lindsey Lerner

Sources: Human Rights Watch, The Guardian
Photo: Bicultural Mom

The nation of Syria has endured ongoing violence with tension between the Syrian government and people. The situation has long been called a human rights disaster and numbers are beginning to show the extent of the issue.

According to a Human Rights Watch report, a total of 145 hectares of developed land including neighborhoods and towns (about 200 soccer fields worth), have been completely demolished. The areas have contained opposition hubs and the Syrian government has used large-scale explosives and bulldozers to wipe them out.

Because of the extent of the situation in Syria, there is expected to be a lost generation of Syrian children. There have already been thousands of refugees forced to leave, which has put a strain on the surrounding nations that are dealing with economic burdens.

Currently, organizations on an international scale are beginning to step in to alleviate the situation. The United States has already addressed the human rights situation in Syria and plans to mobilize USAID to respond to refugee needs. As of January 28, members of Parliament for the European Union convened to reach a resolution on the action regarding the lost generation of Syrian children.

Ultimately, with the inclusion of UNICEF and cross party EU committees, they established the goal to “create synergies across committees and incorporate children’s rights into the legislative body.” Spanning back to the start of the situation in Syria, the EU has already mobilized a total of over 2.7 billion in assistance—and now they are planning on utilizing the legislative system to prevent the lost generation.

As violence in Syria continues, the future of the nation looks dreary. So far there have been over 2.4 million registered refugees with almost 50 thousand refugees awaiting registration for assistance. With the assistance of the entire international community, the situation in Syria is expected to continue to be addressed. So far, much has been done to respond to the humanitarian needs of the people; ultimately, it may require a more of a political approach to resolve the issue.

– Jugal Patel

Photos: UK Humanity First

93 million children around the globe have a moderate or severe disability.  Many of these children live in developing nations that do not have the financial or social tools to make necessary accommodations for special needs children.  Even more disturbing is the discrimination against children with special needs, making children who need our support the most feel abandoned.

This is where Able Child Africa (ACA) steps in.  ACA was founded in the wake of the Ugandan Civil War in 1984 with a vision of helping children with disabilities realize a future of equality and inclusion in society.

The organization seeks to break down the social barriers that demean special needs people.  These barriers are broken down into three categories: physical and environmental barriers that prevent access to buildings, transportation and the like as well as institutional barriers such as governmental policy that fails to recognize the equality of disabled people and negative popular attitudes about disability.

ACA works locally with communities in order to help create a sustainable culture of change for special needs children.  For example, ACA is partnered with the Ugandan Society for Disabled Children.  Together, the two organizations oversee support groups for parents of special needs children and run training programs to teach elementary and secondary school teachers how to be more inclusive.  ACA also runs two centers in Kenya and Tanzania, respectively.

Although 63 percent of children in African countries are now completing a primary education, only two percent of children with disabilities complete this stage.  In 2006, the United Nations held the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which requires all member nations to be inclusive for disabled persons in all levels of education.  With such a gap between traditional and special needs students, much work must be done.  ACA is willing to take up the fight.

Taylor Diamond

Sources: UNICEF, Able Child Africa
Photo: The Guardian

There have been crises in South Sudan, with recent news of the presence of child soldiers. The country has a population of 11,090,104, ranking at 77th in the world with  the majority of its population at 14-years of age or younger.  Approximately 46.2% of the South Sudanese population are children.

Southern Sudan was colonized by Egypt with the province of Equatoria in the 1870s. The region was then overrun by Islamic Mahdist revolutionaries in 1885, only to be overrun again by British forces in 1898.  Anglo-Egyptian Sudan was then formed, with Equatoria one of eight provinces. South Sudan eventually gained its independence in 1956, when full participation in the political system was granted to all provinces.

In 2005, after two prolonged periods of conflict that killed 2.5 million people, peace talks finally led to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement which entailed a six-year period of autonomy for Equatoria. Independence was then achieved on July 9th, 2011 and since then South Sudan has had a hard time maintaining good governance to build its nation. Since 2012, South Sudan’s economy has been deteriorating and the nation has struggled to control rebel militia groups in the territory.

According to South Sudanese national law and international law, no child should be able to fight in armed conflict, either with an informal militia or an army.  UNICEF has been concerned with this issue for some time and suspected numerous combatants to be children in the conflict in South Sudan. These allegations have recently been confirmed in reports received by UNICEF, but the number of child combatants is still uncertain.  UNICEF is on the UN Security Council and is monitoring the children affected by armed conflict in the country. UNICEF has called on both parties to halt the use of child soldiers and release them straightaway.  They are also reminding the parties that they are currently committed to international and national law and will face the consequences if they do not comply.

Kenneth W. Kliesner 

Photo: amnestyusa

Child Soldiers Released in Myanmar
With over 400,000 soldiers serving in the national army of Myanmar (known as 
Tatmadaw Kyi), it’s nearly impossible to estimate the number of child soldiers hidden among the hundreds of base camps all over the country – nor is it easy to track down the ones that have been reported. In 2011 the International Labour Organization (ILO) reported that it had received 236 complaints of child soldier recruits, and that in response to these complaints 57 underage soldiers had been released.

Children find their way into combat when they run out of other ways to feed themselves, when they are forced at gunpoint to accept a forged birth certificate and enlist, when they are dropped off by their families to be taught discipline, or when they volunteer for any number of nationalistic reasons. Regardless of how they get there, all are under violation of the UN’s Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which sets the minimum age of volunteering for armed combat at 18.

In June 2012, Myanmar’s Ministry of Defense signed a joint Action Plan with the UN that promised to work toward the release all of its soldiers and guards under 18, as well as prevent future underage recruits. The army also stated that they meant to assist the released children in attending school or finding civilian employment, as well as providing the necessities for their trip back home.

The plan was set to be implemented within the first 18 months of it being signed, and within that time, a total of 272 children, as well as adults who were recruited as children, have been released. Moreover, while the act is now due to be extended, representatives of the UN are planning to meet with armed groups across the country to discuss and encourage more releases.

As Human Rights Watch (HRW) representative Smith suggests, “The real test [of Myanmar’s dedication to eradicating underage soldiers] will be if the army is willing to give full access to the UN and hold soldiers and officers accountable for falsifying documents, and for other crimes related to the recruitment of child soldiers.”

Since the signing of the Action Plan on behalf of the Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting of grave violations of child rights in armed conflict (CTFMR), actions have been taken against 40 military officers and 229 military personnel for their role in the recruitment of underage soldiers.

While the UN praised this as a “historic step” toward ending the practice of using children in the military, Myanmar still employs more child soldiers than nearly any other country, and the work of eradicating all involvement of children in armed forces is far from over.

Lydia Caswell
Sources: Australian Network News, Child Soldiers International, Eleven , GMA News , Irin News
Photo: AATOP

Universal Children’s Day, celebrated on November 20, promotes the well-being of children everywhere. Nations worldwide celebrate the day to support children’s rights and interests. Universal Children’s Day is celebrated upon principles put forth by the General Assembly on December 14, 1954, by Resolution 836(IX). Since then, the day is used to promote objectives the General Assembly puts in place to enhance the welfare of children around the world.

November 20 was chosen as the day because of two other historical adoptions the General Assembly declared on this day. First, in 1959, the Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. Secondly, the Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of a Child in 1989.

In more recent times, world leaders drew out the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the year 2000, designed to reduce poverty dramatically. These goals are directly related to children in multiple ways. In 2012, The Secretary General launched a new program called Education First, which will raise awareness about education, as well as produce additional funds through advocacy work.

Several officials commend Universal Children’s Day and its purpose. According to David Anthony, co-author of UNICEF’s study, Generation 2025 and beyond: The critical importance of understanding demographic trends for children of the 21st century, “ the world needs to be prepared for the post-2015 agenda and take account of this fundamental and unprecedented shift.” He also states, “we must do everything possible, so these children get an equal chance to survive, develop and reach their full potential.”

Overall, by spreading awareness and boosting advocacy efforts regarding children’s well-being in the world and by incorporating the UN standard into national legal frameworks, we can ensure the rights of the world’s children. Wrapping up the vision of Universal Children’s day is this statement by the Report of the Secretary General in 2001, “We were all children once. And we all share the desire for the well-being of our children, which has always been and will continue to be the most universally cherished aspiration of humankind.”

Laura Reinacher

Sources: United Nations, UNICEF