ChildFund International Blog

Children Have the Right to Be Free From Violence

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

Violence against children remains a terrible problem, according to children themselves. Today — on the 25th anniversary of the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child — hundreds of children say their right to be protected from violence is not being upheld.

Gangs, political strife and child labor are issues in many developing countries, where only 30 percent of children polled say they are always or often protected from doing harmful work.

ChildFund Alliance released the fifth annual Small Voices, Big Dreams report today, a survey of 6,040 children ages 10 to 12 in 44 countries. Poor access to education also is a concern among children in developing countries.

This year, as the United Nations prepares to decide on its post-2015 global agenda, the Alliance, a network of 12 international development organizations (including ChildFund International), has launched a campaign called Free From Violence to motivate world leaders to prioritize the protection of children against violence and exploitation.

“A quarter century ago, leaders across the globe made a commitment to the world’s children, that we would help them reach their full potential by protecting, educating and nurturing them. While much progress has been made, it is abundantly clear that we still have a long way to go. Harming even one child is one child too many,” says Anne Lynam Goddard, ChildFund’s president and CEO.

Below, see a slideshow of children holding signs that spell out their rights according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

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Things to Know on World Toilet Day

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

Today is World Toilet Day. OK, get the giggles out of your system. We do indeed have a world day for just about everything! Despite the funny name, World Toilet Day draws attention to an important problem: the lack of proper sanitation in many communities around the world.

Consider these facts:

Last year, more than 1,000 children died each day from diarrheal diseases contracted through poor sanitation.

One billion people — 15 percent of the world’s population — practice open defecation, which spreads disease.

And 2.5 billion people do not have safe, private toilets.

This year, World Toilet Day (designated Nov. 19 by the United Nations General Assembly) is calling attention to the special challenges women and girls face when they don’t have safe toilets. School attendance decreases among girls, especially once they reach puberty. According to a 2012 study published by WaterAid, more than 50 percent of Ethiopian girls reported that they missed school one to four days a month due to their menstrual cycles, often out of embarrassment from a lack of privacy. Women also are more vulnerable to violent attack if they must leave their homes to use the toilet. One of the ChildFund Alliance’s primary goals is to promote child protection worldwide, through our Free From Violence initiative.

Nongovernmental organizations including WaterAid and the Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council are advocating for the following goals to be included in the U.N.’s post-2015 agenda:

No one practices open defecation.

Everyone has safe water, sanitation and hygiene at home.

All schools and health facilities have safe water, sanitation and hygiene.

Water, sanitation and hygiene are sustainable, and inequalities in access have been progressively eliminated.

Below, see pictures of some of the latrines children in ChildFund-supported communities use, and consider sharing this information today on your social media networks (use #wecantwait on Twitter or Facebook). World Toilet Day may have a funny name, but it addresses a serious topic.

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An Opportunity to Learn

By Janat Totakhail, ChildFund Afghanistan

Janana

Janana

Janana is 15 and the oldest of four sisters. They live in a village in northern Afghanistan near the border of Tajikistan, where few children — especially girls — have the opportunity to get an education. Janana, too, had never been allowed by her mother and father to attend school.

Her father works as a shopkeeper and sometimes as a hired farmer, while her mother takes care of the household. As the oldest sister, Janana also has many responsibilities at home. But she always hoped to go to school. Today, that goal has become a strong possibility.

In Afghanistan, ChildFund supports Child-Friendly Spaces (CFS) where children and teens can study and play. In Janana’s village and four more, we started 10 CFSs in 2013: one for boys and one for girls in each community, and 1,001 children have taken part in the program. Many have experienced war-related trauma and are still at risk of violence, abuse and neglect, so the spaces don’t just serve educational needs. They help keep children safe and also let community members plan for emergencies, particularly how to protect their children. Once ChildFund’s direct supervision ended in January, community members have stepped in to run the programs.

The CFSs for girls have eased some of the stigma attached to education for young women. Janana persuaded her parents to let her attend.

Now, it is her second home, giving her a place to learn and spend time with girls from her neighborhood. Janana is able to read and write names and short sentences, and she’s about a year away from mastering primary school-level literacy and numeracy. One of her sisters has joined her at the CFS.

Child-Friendly Space in Afghanistan

A community volunteer leads an orientation session at one of Afghanistan’s Child-Friendly Spaces.

“I like learning the Pashto language,” Janana says, “and I feel proud and empowered while reading a letter for my parents and helping my little sister to read and write.”

If she had not attended the CFS, she adds, “my life would be different. I would be busy all day with housework, with no opportunity to interact with peers, make friends, play, and learn to read and write.”

Janana’s parents also are happy to see their daughter progressing in her studies.

“An illiterate person is like a blind person,” her father says. “My daughter helps me to learn Islamic principles; she reads for me the letters, invitations and wedding cards; takes note of money that I lend to people, and she helps me understand the details of the electricity bill. She helps her mother and sisters in understanding personal hygiene and health issues. I am proud having Janana as a helping hand.”

Kochai, who facilitates the CFS, also has noticed her progress: “Janana has been very active participating in learning activities. She learned to respect parents and elders, gained awareness in health and hygiene, and, more importantly, is progressing well in literacy and numeracy. I am hopeful that one day she will join school with children of her age.”

Her family, too, is encouraging Janana to continue her education at a school close to her village. She has a big dream for the future:  “I want to be a teacher, to help all school-age girls in my village to go to school and learn to make their future and help others.”

Children’s Rights: An Enduring Conversation

This gem of a video was created by ChildFund Australia five years ago to honor of the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. With their kind permission, we’re sharing it in these last few days before the Convention’s 25th anniversary Nov. 20 because we think it’s every bit as relevant now as it was then.

The rights that are set forth in the treaty are sometimes simple, sometimes complex. The language is a bit of a mouthful for children themselves. But they get it, as you’ll see in the video. Enjoy!

Businesses Recovering After the Typhoon

Martin Nañawa of ChildFund Philippines has been traveling through the Visayas, the region most severely affected a year ago by Super Typhoon Haiyan, recording its current status. Despite dramatic loss of life and property last November, communities are rebounding, with businesses and homes having been rebuilt over the past several months. Here, you can see how your gifts, along with the elbow grease of residents and ChildFund’s local partners, have made a difference in Tacloban. Martin notes: “You may have noticed the signage says ‘Tindog Negosyo.’ Tindog is the verb for standing up, or getting to your feet, and Negosyo stands for business.”

Read more about the binagol makers here.

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Light a Candle

Martin Nañawa of ChildFund Philippines took these pictures in Tacloban, one of the worst-hit localities during Super Typhoon Haiyan, a year after the storm struck the central Philippines on Nov. 8, 2013. Community members lit candles to commemorate the people lost in the disaster.

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The Experience Gap in Science Education

Today is World Science Day for Peace and Development.

By Meg Carter, ChildFund Sponsorship Communication Specialist

I remember teaching at Guinea’s national polytechnic university a few years ago. Most of my first-year students had never seen a computer. They’d earned the highest marks in the country in science and math on their Baccalauréat (Guinea’s high-school leaving exam), yet had never examined water under a microscope, created a chemical volcano or even stuck balloons to the wall with static electricity.

But they could list waterborne illnesses, recite the periodic table of elements, and define induction. My students had learned theory without practical experience because Guinea, like many low-income countries, lacks the resources for proper science education. Scientific research there usually consists of literature review and retrospective study, not original experiments.

students in Guinea

Students in Guinea are interested in learning, but they often must do so without necessary resources.

Imagine MIT, Caltech or Virginia Tech without electricity, running water, refrigeration or internet access — and no books, maps, posters, calculators, CDs or DVDs on campus. Guinea’s only bookstore was located five hours away. Lab materials and scientific instruments are expensive and hard to come by. You barely have enough chalk.

“Why,” my students asked when I introduced myself on their first day of class, “did you leave your comfortable life in America for us?”

I’d come to teach technical English but ended up team-teaching introductory information technology classes, too. Each semester, my Guinean counterpart covered IT basics, while I observed and assisted with computer labs. Then we traded: I taught the advanced content and he ran interference.

I believe all children, regardless of where they are born, deserve as good an education as my daughter received in the United States. And the experience gap prevents these children and youth from solving new problems or thinking as creatively and critically as they could. Like DNA, a lack of practical experience passes down to subsequent generations.

I remember the moment I realized my students knew nothing about non-decimal number systems, including binary codes, on which information technology is based. While I reviewed my Energy Technology students’ course evaluations, one young man wrote that he hadn’t known you could generate electricity without pollution. Another wrote that the class wanted to learn more: “Show us photographs and diagrams of solar, wind, biomass, fuel cell, geothermal,” he wrote, “all these energy sources you told us of. And explain in French, please.”

The enthusiasm is there. I remember the sea of faces greeting me each semester. More than 100 students sat four to a desk. Although three in 10 scientists worldwide are women, fewer than one in 10 students at Guinea’s national polytechnic university were female when I taught there. Nearly all were already married with children.

Imagine the difference in the Ebola outbreak if the quality of science education in West Africa were equal to our own.

A Year After the Typhoon, Signs of Recovery

By Martin Nañawa, ChildFund Philippines

Before the typhoon, women in Miriam’s village would gather in a common space at the edge of their row of houses and take turns making batches of binagol, a staple dessert in Leyte, an island in the central Philippines.

Although there’s not a perfect comparison in Western cuisine, binagol is a little like tapioca pudding and also tastes similar to sticky rice cakes found throughout Southeast Asia. It is made with talyan roots, similar to taro, instead of rice.

binagol in Philippines

Binagol, wrapped up in banana leaves, is a portable treat.

There’s a smaller version of this sweet served in the northern Philippines, called “kulangot” (boogers). There’s also a variant made from rice, which is called “moron.” We have such glamorous names for local delicacies.

The women chop the talyan roots and cook them with coconut milk, condensed milk, eggs and sugar inside coconut husks with banana leaves layered on top. Everything is then wrapped in banana leaves and knotted with straw into a bun. This packaging makes binagol easily portable, and in Leyte, you’ll find it at markets, corner stores, canteens and even transit terminals. Miriam and the women of her village made enough binagol to drop off at nearby markets and make a small profit for themselves.

But when Super Typhoon Haiyan struck the region Nov. 8, 2013, everything changed for millions of Filipinos. The storm, one of the worst in the area’s history, claimed 6,300 lives and destroyed half a million homes in the central Philippines.

Scarcity of food was a primary challenge, and many villagers also had to repair or rebuild their homes. Selling binagol was not an option for Miriam and her neighbors, at least for the foreseeable future. This was especially difficult for her, as her husband’s earnings as a farmhand were never enough even before the typhoon.

But after immediate needs like food, shelter and clean water were filled, ChildFund and our local partner organizations started helping people reclaim their livelihoods — including the binagol-makers, who received assistance in July. This is all part of ChildFund’s response after disasters.

Miriam felt hope for the first time since the typhoon. She was not sure what to expect from ChildFund staff when they first came, but the workshop held right at her village helped her understand that we were there to help. Still, she and the other mothers would have to work hard to restore their livelihood, but improve it as well.

Miriam received a complete set of utensils for binagol production, allowing her and her neighbors to make as much of the dessert as they could. And ChildFund provided the ingredients for their first run. Most importantly, we’ve invested capital in the business, which has helped Miriam and her neighbors escape debt.

Before the typhoon, the binagol-makers took loans to buy the ingredients, repaying loans from their profits as they’re made. With ChildFund’s investment, though, the women don’t start off in debt and are now putting 10 percent of their profits into savings so their startup capital will grow.

Now Miriam and her neighbors individually produce binagol, and they no longer labor merely to pay debt. They’re able to increase their village’s total production many times. With their increased production capacity, they’ve been able to broker an agreement with a wholesaler.

“I’m pleased and surprised how much better business is now,” Miriam says. “Life was so difficult after Haiyan, I was desperate to find a new way to feed my three children. I’m glad I can return to what I’m skilled at and provide better for my family.”

Miriam preparing binagol

Miriam (left) prepares talyan roots to make binagol.

#NoFilter in Brazil

By Nicole Duciaume, Americas Region Sponsorship Manager

After a long day of training at ChildFund’s national office in Brazil and a few more hours in my hotel answering emails, I closed my laptop and walked a few blocks to the closest mall. I was on a dual mission: to eat dinner and to buy a Brazilian soccer jersey for my nephew’s upcoming 12th birthday.

Later, with my belly full and my purchase in hand, I stumbled upon something so much more exciting — something I wasn’t expecting.

In the middle of the shopping center was a photography exhibit with the ChildFund logo. I became enveloped in the amazing photos, which were described as #NoFilter (a social media term indicating that the photo has not been retouched or run through a filter on Instagram). The photos were all taken by children and youth enrolled in ChildFund’s urban programs around the city of Belo Horizonte.

As the #NoFilter tag indicates, they are unfiltered, unedited and untouched… not just in the sense of using technology to alter the photos, but also in the sense of giving real perspective and insight into the daily lives of these children and youth: their identity, their roots and their realities.

These photos are a part of an outreach program, Photovoice, that uses photography to stimulate reflection among children and youth. It opens a space for them to talk about their communities and their cultural strengths. As such, these images become an important instrument to discuss citizenship, identity and collective work for the well-being of society. These photos are a launching pad for not only creative expression, but also building leaders for tomorrow.

I experienced the exhibit not only as someone who loves good photography but also as a proud ChildFund employee. I didn’t expect to stumble upon the photos, but I am so glad I did. It helped me to reconnect, yet again, with the invaluable work my colleagues do around the world helping children and youth realize their beauty, power and value just as they are: without filters.

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Food Friday: Brazil’s Feijoada

By Meg Carter, ChildFund Sponsorship Communication Specialist

Brazilian cuisine is a mixture of many cultures: Native tribes and descendants of African slaves and European immigrants.

Today, local ingredients known to the original native populations are still key to Brazilian cuisine: root vegetables such as cassava and yams, fruit such as açaí, cupuaçu, mango, papaya, guava, orange, passion fruit and pineapple. Rice and beans are popular throughout the country. Seafood and dried meats (carne de sol or carne seca) are eaten along the coast, where ChildFund’s programs in Fortaleza are located.

Feijoada, Brazil’s national dish (pronounced fay-jwah-duh), is a stew made with dried, salted and smoked meats, along with rice, leafy green vegetables and black beans. Brazilians use the black beans originating in South America and various types of pork. Although there’s no one definitive recipe for feijoada, it’s traditionally served with farofa (toasted cassava flour).

Feijoada

Brazil’s feijoada, with greens and rice. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

 

INGREDIENTS:

8 ounces of carne seca (or replace with unflavored beef jerky)

8 ounces of dried black beans

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup onion, chopped

1 bay leaf, crushed

½ teaspoon sea salt

8 ounces linguiça calabresa sausage (or replace with mildly spiced pork sausage)

8 ounces pork loin

1 cup white rice

1 pound chopped kale or collard greens

1 cup cassava flour

2 tablespoons butter

2 oranges, sliced thinly

DIRECTIONS:

Soak carne seca overnight. In a separate bowl, soak dried black beans. In the morning, drain and cut the meat into small chunks. Rinse and drain the beans.

Heat olive oil in a kettle. Add onion, bay leaf and sea salt. Sauté until onions are soft; then add sausage, cut into chunks. Cook for several more minutes. Add pork loin, cut into chunks, along with the carne seca, black beans and enough water to cover the stew. Bring to a boil, cover the kettle and reduce heat. Let simmer until beans are tender, adding water whenever necessary.

In the meantime, prepare rice. Sauté kale or collard greens in olive oil until tender.

Prepare the farofa by sautéing cassava flour in butter for about 5 minutes, or until the flour turns golden brown. Serve the beans over rice, with greens on the side. Garnish with orange slices and hot sauce. Sprinkle farofa over the top.

Serves 8.

In October, ChildFund’s blog has been celebrating the harvest and traditional foods of the countries where we work.On Fridays, we’ve been sharing recipes, which you can see here (or find all of the Harvest Month posts). 

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