By Erin Kennedy, ChildFund Director of Advocacy
I can’t stop thinking about something I heard at one of the side events in the run-up to the recent 2015 United Nations Summit, in which the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted: “There are millions of girls who grow up around the world expecting to be beaten by their husbands because they saw their mothers being beaten.”
This statement, by Susan Bissell, who’s heading up the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, made my own two little girls spring to mind. What will they expect? I wondered. Certainly not that. Thankfully, not that.
My girls, of course, expect all their needs to be met. They expect Mommy and Daddy to love them, respect each other, feed them, care for them when they’re sick, keep them safe. The 3-year-old, my sunshine climber, and her 2-year-old sister, my feisty hugger — both expect to be queens of all they survey. And that’s as it should be. (Within reason.)
But what if they’d been born into a community where they watched their mother experience endless physical and emotional violence and grew up thinking that was just the way things were? What if they grew up afraid to go to school because of the dangers along the way? What if they had to leave school to work in pesticide-laden fields or dangerous mines — or marry someone at age 12?
That’s not what I want for them. Oh, no.
But for too many girls worldwide — boys, too — these are the exactly the kinds of things they can expect as they grow up. For them, it starts early: About 60 percent of children ages 2-14 experience physical punishment from their caregivers. More than 120 million girls have experienced sexual violence. Some 85 million children are trapped in hazardous work.
However, we know that moms and dads around the world want more for their children. We all do, not just in the richer countries.
So we should all be able to agree that it is time to give all children a chance to fulfill their dreams instead of having them derailed by violence. And now, more than ever, we have a chance to make that possible.
We celebrate the newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals, the world’s newest statement of what it wants for itself. And we celebrate the inclusion of violence against children as a priority throughout that statement. That’s a great first step.
But for this world to achieve a future in which children are free from violence and exploitation, we must step forward together — governments, communities, families and, especially, children — toward that future. We need to roll up our sleeves and take this high-level, political commitment embodied in the SDGs and turn it into more than a document gathering dust on the shelves of the U.N. — we must transform it into concrete commitments enacted for children around the globe. Word into deed.
How? The more important question is who. The answer is all of us.
Governments, the United Nations and civil society must take decisive actions and make real investments in protecting children: stronger laws and policies and well-supported systems and services that are funded and targeted. This will make it more possible for communities to do the work of transforming themselves into environments structured around children’s well-being. With stronger safety nets, families can more easily make choices based on love rather than desperation. Children, freed to have safe childhoods, can live at their potential and contribute in their unique ways.
We also need to recognize that, despite all, children already do contribute. Listening to them is a great place to begin this important work.
ChildFund Alliance (including its U.S. member, ChildFund International) has spent the last several years doing exactly that, consulting with more than 16,000 children in 50 countries. In this extensive research into children’s primary concerns, the idea that bubbled up to the top was prevention of violence. It also came clear how strongly children are invested in being part of the solution.
Children know what they want for themselves. We must act before the world beats this vision out of them, before yet another generation’s potential is lost to the world, slipping into a renewed cycle of poverty and inequality.
What does the world really want for its children?
I know what I want for my own, and that I’ll do everything to make it happen.
The world should do no less.
Oct. 11 is the International Day of the Girl Child, a day set aside by the United Nations to recognize girls’ rights and the special challenges they face. This year, its theme is The Power of the Adolescent Girl: Vision for 2030, so ChildFund’s blog will focus this week on girls who are working to achieve great things now and in the future.
Thirteen-year-old Mung was born in one of the poorest villages in Kim Boi district in rural Vietnam’s mountains, and even here, she’s had a difficult life compared to many children.
Mung’s father passed away when she was young, and her mother has a disability and is unable to work. She struggles to provide for Mung’s needs with the approximately US$13 she receives from the Vietnamese government each month.
Her uncle tries to support Mung and her mother, as well as his own wife and two children. His rice fields produce enough rice to feed the family and pay for their basic daily expenses, but if a crop fails, they will be hungry for several months.
“When I get home from school, I feed the pigs, clean the house and cook for my mom to help her,” Mung says.
Mung has just completed seventh grade. She has a passion for learning and is a good student, despite having to borrow schoolbooks from her friends to follow the lessons. Also, her house is more than four miles from school, so it often took Mung and her cousin two hours to walk to school each day.
“I used to have to leave home at 5 a.m. to be at class on time,” she says. “It was so dark and freezing.”
In 2013, ChildFund Vietnam staff members identified Mung as being at great risk of dropping out of school due to her family’s financial situation. So, Mung was among 200 children in her village who received bicycles through the Hope Bike project, which was funded by KB Financial Group in partnership with ChildFund Korea and ChildFund Vietnam. She was also enrolled in a project designed to offer support to families struggling to provide for their children’s school needs.
Through the project, Mung receives paper and clothing for school, her fees are covered by direct transfer to her school, and she receives a daily meal to ensure her dietary needs are met.
“ChildFund’s support has helped to reduce the burden on my uncle,” Mung says. “He has been really tired taking care of the two families. Now he doesn’t have to worry about the expense to send me to school. I am provided with tuition fees, course books, a desk and lamps to study at home. I also get rice for meals every month. I feel like I am getting closer to my dream.”
Despite her challenges, Mung always tries her best to study hard, and her efforts are showing. She recently took part in a mathematics competition in her district and received an “encouragement award.” Everyone in the community is proud of her.
“I would like to become a teacher in the future to earn enough money to support my mom,” Mung says. “My goal next school year is to improve my grades in Vietnamese. Any teacher should be good at Vietnamese to convey what she means to her students.”
By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer
For the past year, ChildFund Alliance (of which ChildFund International is a founding member) has been working to make sure the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, which take effect in September 2015, will include a goal to keep children free from violence.
So far, more than 300,000 people have signed the Alliance’s Free From Violence petition calling for such a measure. And recently, ChildFund’s national offices have created a visible show of support for this goal: handprints of children, youth and adults who want to see every child able to attend school, play with friends and conduct their lives without fear of physical, sexual or emotional violence. Here are some of the handprints we’ve collected.
Please share the photos with your networks, create your own handprints, and help us build support for letting children grow up free from violence by emailing us pictures of your handprints. Below, see photos from Afghanistan, Bolivia, Brazil, the Caribbean, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Indonesia, Mexico, Mississippi, the Philippines, South Dakota and Texas.
By ChildFund Australia staff, with reporting from Live & Learn Vanuatu
Schools officially reopened in Vanuatu at the end of March, just weeks after the destructive Cyclone Pam wiped out homes and schools across the Pacific island nation on March 13. But for thousands of younger children, school is still out of session because Vanuatu’s Ministry of Education does not fund kindergartens. ChildFund Australia and its local partner Live & Learn Vanuatu are working to rebuild two of them.
Kindergartens are generally funded though school fees and small-scale fundraising by local communities. However, fundraising at a time when many families are rebuilding their homes, gardens and livelihoods is extremely difficult, and raising fees is likely to result in fewer children attending class, leaving younger children most vulnerable.
ChildFund Australia, our Alliance partner, is working with Live & Learn Vanuatu to help rebuild two destroyed kindergartens on the outskirts of Port Vila. The schools are being constructed using cyclone-resistant architectural design and will include rainwater systems and toilets so children have access to safe water and sanitation. Both kindergartens will also be wheelchair accessible.
“The project goal is to rebuild both kindergartens to get the children back into a normal and stable learning environment within four months of Cyclone Pam, without placing further financial burden on the communities or parents,” says Anjali Nelson, team leader of Live & Learn Vanuatu.
Live & Learn has engaged a team of local professional builders to support the reconstruction effort, as well as volunteer workers from the two communities. On one of the sites, a group of volunteer builders from New Zealand also pitched in for 10 days.
The project is on track, but a shortage of construction materials and a severe lack of water have caused problems.
“The biggest issue so far has been the acute shortage of water in the area,” Nelson says. “Although we have had a period of heavy rain, we couldn’t collect sufficient quantities of water for the concrete mix, mainly due to the shortage of water tanks and drums, which were destroyed in the cyclone. Instead, we had to truck in water, which has slowed down the rebuilding process.”
Still, working together with the community, and with patience and a lot of improvising, the team has managed to keep the project on schedule, and at this stage the kindergartens are due for completion by mid-July.
Together with Live & Learn, ChildFund Australia plans to support families of the kindergartners by providing chickens, poultry management training and seedlings for home gardens.
You can help us be prepared for emergencies like this by donating to our Emergency Action Fund.
Headlines fly by fast, even when tragedy happens, like the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that occurred in Nepal on April 25. Right now, families like Ayush’s are struggling to get back on their feet after losing their homes, jobs and even loved ones. This video, filmed by Jake Lyell, shows the personal toll the disaster has taken on Ayush’s family, and this was before Sunday’s 7.3-magnitude aftershock, which has taken more lives and destroyed more homes. Please watch this video, share it and give what you can to help ChildFund’s relief efforts in Nepal. Thanks.
Conditions in Nepal are dire after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake April 25. As of today, the death toll is more than 7,500 and climbing as assessments continue. The country’s National Emergency Operations Center, operating under its Ministry of Home Affairs, reports that more than 160,000 houses were destroyed, and nearly 144,000 more have been damaged.
ChildFund Japan, our Alliance partner, has worked in Nepal for 20 years and is helping distribute food in four villages in Sindhupalchowk, among the hardest-hit districts. On May 1, ChildFund Japan representatives brought 10 tons of rice, 1.5 tons of dhal (lentils) and salt to more than 10,000 children and family members. Longtime ChildFund freelance photographer and videographer Jake Lyell is documenting damage and relief efforts in Sindhupalchowk and elsewhere.
Jake has been to disaster zones before and says, “On my third day in the field, I can say that the area around where ChildFund works is the worst I’ve seen. It’s more remote, and the damage was very severe. It made our hearts sink.”
Jake’s not mincing words, but we are able to get help to some of the Nepalese families who need it most. Take a look at his pictures (as well as videos), and then donate what you can to help Nepal’s children through ChildFund’s Emergency Action Fund. You can follow our emergency updates, too.
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!
Every child has the right to live and thrive in a safe and caring family environment, free from all forms of violence. That’s what the ChildFund Alliance and our other peers believe.
Earlier this month, the governments of Canada and Paraguay co-hosted six child-focused agencies — ChildFund Alliance, Plan International, Save the Children International, SOS Children’s Villages International, UNICEF and World Vision International — at the United Nations headquarters in New York to discuss violence against children and ways to prevent it. The goal is to make sure children’s rights are a high priority in the Post-2015 Development Agenda, which is set to be agreed upon by United Nations member states in September 2015.
Millions of children experience abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence on a daily basis at home, at school, at work and in their communities. The consequences can be life-long and also spread to other generations; in the worst cases, violence can lead to a child’s death. Violence can also cause economic disadvantages: lost productivity, and a reduced quality of life. Most broadly, it has far-reaching costs for society, slowing economic development and eroding nations’ human and social capital.
During the eighth session of the intergovernmental Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, the governments of Canada and Paraguay co-hosted A World without Violence against Children, along with coordination from the six agencies. ChildFund Alliance, for one, has taken a stand to advocate for children’s issues — particularly freedom from violence and exploitation — to be included in the U.N.’s post-2015 development agenda. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to bring the prevention and responses to violence against children to the debate about the U.N.’s future priorities, which affect its work in the countries where ChildFund and other agencies work.
Jim Emerson, secretary general of the Alliance, thanked the co-hosts, participating children and the speakers. He highlighted the pervasive presence of violence against children, and the importance of the post-2015 development agenda addressing this issue.
“But it’s not just our organizations saying this,” Emerson noted. “Most importantly, this is a call from children all over the world. Children are asking for an end to physical and humiliating punishment; sexual violence and abuse; harmful child work and child marriage; trafficking and other harmful practices.”
Migena, an Albanian girl who participated in a post-2015 consultation in her home country, organized by SOS Children’s Villages International, also joined the meeting via Skype. She highlighted the need for the next generation of development goals to address the different forms of violence, exploitation and abuse against children, as well as the importance of children’s participation in the process. Raising awareness in communities and getting state agencies more involved in regions where violence occurs are equally important, Migena said. “Children are going to rule the world in the future,” she concluded.
Canada’s and Paraguay’s U.N. ambassadors, Guillermo Rishchynski and José Antonio Dos Santos, both spoke about their countries’ work to bring children’s issues to the attention of the U.N. work group, and their speeches were followed by a panel discussion moderated by Al Jazeera English journalist Femi Oke. The panelists also answered questions from the audience in New York and online.
Marta Santos Pais, the U.N. secretary-general’s representative, added that she hears children in many countries talking about how fear defines their lives.
The panelists, among them UNICEF’s chief of child protection, the U.N. secretary-general’s special representative on violence against children and the World Health Organization representative to the U.N., discussed many aspects of this issue. Susan Bissell of UNICEF noted that it’s important to communicate the fact that violence against children is preventable and that there are concrete solutions to the problem, drawing on successful programs from around the world. She also pointed out that the reduction of child mortality rates could be offset in the future by violence against children.
Marta Santos Pais, the U.N. secretary-general’s representative, added that she hears children in many countries talking about how fear defines their lives. Werner Obermeyer of WHO called attention to links between violence against children and other types of violence, which often lead to risk-taking attitudes that cause declines in health.
ChildFund’s Emerson highlighted the importance of this issue for development and remarked that violence against children has a series of economic implications that transcend the direct costs of responding to it. Evidence shows that prevention is much more cost-effective than response.
Santos Pais also read a statement of support from the U.N.’s Committee on the Rights of the Child, urging governments “to make the protection of children from all forms of violence a high priority goal on the post-2015 agenda, as an issue of utmost international as well as national importance.”
By Joern Ziegler and Antje Becker, Chief Executive Officers, ChildFund Deutschland
To commemorate ChildFund’s 75th anniversary, we invited the leaders of each of the 12 ChildFund Alliance member groups to reflect on the past and future of their own organizations and the Alliance. Today, we hear from Germany.
In 1978, ChildFund Deutschland was established as CCF Kinderhilfswerk (translated from German as “children’s fund”) through the initiative of Karin Astrid Greiner, a Dutch woman married to a German. During an extended stay in Brazil, she witnessed the important work of Christian Children’s Fund.
Back in Germany, she and some friends laid the cornerstone for a child sponsorship organization. CCF Kinderhilfswerk’s foundation era, characterized by a steady growth in sponsorship numbers, lasted till 1993. By then, the organization had grown into full self-financing autonomy. In the following years, ChildFund Deutschland identified new partners in developing countries — genuine nongovernmental organizations in their countries that were not part of an international network.
This type of collaboration — an early beginning to our support of civil society organizations in developing countries — led to many years of close cooperation with organizations in Latvia, Lithuania, Burundi and Congo. Although Latvia and Lithuania are now members of the European Union, which has allowed their partner organizations to support themselves, Burundi and Congo continue to be important program countries for ChildFund Deutschland, with many children in desperate need for support.
During the 1990s, a group of supporters in Northern Italy established an organization to raise funds for ChildFund Deutschland’s activities. Today, this association is well-established as ChildFund Suedtirol and remains associated with ChildFund Deutschland, contributing reliably to the well-being of children. ChildFund Suedtirol’s board made the decision not to establish an administration of its own but to rely on the services available through ChildFund Deutschland.
In 2001, ChildFund Deutschland´s board made a strategic decision to expand the funding and program portfolio of our organization. In addition to the classic child sponsorship system, we built up non-sponsorship donations and grants from the German government and the European Union by 30 percent within five years.
This has allowed more support for more children in more countries. The new approach has led to new partnerships and new activities in a number of East European countries, especially in Ukraine. Our cooperation with a committed Ukrainian partner organization has continued for many years and gives us hope for more support of needy Ukrainian children and youth.
In recent years, ChildFund Deutschland became a founding member and committed supporter of the global ChildFund Alliance. In 2009, we changed our name to ChildFund Deutschland, a step to underline the importance of the global ChildFund Alliance, to make the overall branding more visible and to spread the word about ChildFund’s important work. ChildFund Korea and ChildFund Deutschland were the first two non-English-speaking organizations to introduce the English words ChildFund as part of their names.
Operationally, ChildFund Deutschland closely cooperates with most of the 12 ChildFund Alliance member organizations, the most important partner being ChildFund International. At the same time, we give attention and invest more effort to support partner organizations that are not yet members of the Alliance, especially in the Southern Hemisphere and Eastern Europe.
As we look to the future, ChildFund Deutschland is working to identify new innovative models of funding, programming and partnerships. Part of this process has been the establishment of ChildFund Stiftung, a foundation accepting endowments and building up capital to support ChildFund’s work. Partnerships and other activities within Germany are also part of the plan.
Despite great progress in many areas and countries, achieved through the tireless efforts of many people, thousands and thousands of children continue to need the committed support of donors, sponsors and NGOs. ChildFund Deutschland is willing and ready to meet this challenge!
Member organizations of the ChildFund Alliance believe a focus on child protection can foster a global mindset that prioritizes and protects children. To this end, we are working hard to ensure that child protection appears among the global priorities that will follow the Millennium Development Goals for reducing poverty worldwide.
The children on whose behalf we are acting, it turns out, have much to add to the conversation. This year, the ChildFund Alliance held more than 50 focus groups with more than 1,300 children in 41 of the 58 countries where Alliance member organizations, including ChildFund International, serve children.
The first question we asked them was, “What makes you feel free?”
A 15-year-old girl in Bolivia answered, “I feel free when I reach my dreams and the elders don’t tell me to shut my mouth.”
The rest of the questions largely built on the first: What makes you feel free from violence and exploitation? To take action to stop them? What can world leaders and adults do? What are your risks?
Too many children experience violence and exploitation, most often sexual violence, exploitative labor conditions and physical and humiliating punishment. Even in school, sexual harassment and corporal punishment are everyday occurrences; still, children also cite access to education as a primary key to their keeping safe from violence and exploitation.
“If I were president, I would build a very nice school in every village,” says a 12-year-old Laotian boy.
Children have ideas about how the situation might be improved, and they are clear that they want a role in that change. They call upon legislators to create and enforce laws to protect them, and upon all adults to learn about the issue, to listen to children and to respect them.
“I don’t understand why we are treated inhumanely and not considered citizens,” says one girl, 13, from Nepal.
A 15-year-old boy from Liberia says it another way: “Overlooking me is violence.”
Please sign the ChildFund Alliance’s Free From Violence and Exploitation petition. Thank you for caring about children.