Every day millions of children around the world are denied their rights.
From education to protection from harm to accessing simple things like a toilet or clean drinking water – many children are unable to reach their full potential due to several complex issues and challenges that hold them back.
Today, over 190 countries have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) – making it the most widely supported human rights treaty in history. But just because the CRC exists doesn’t mean that children’s rights are always being upheld. That’s why Plan International has been working for over 80 years to protect children and help ensure their rights are respected.
Working in over 50 developing countries, these are some of issues we encounter and some of the many reasons why we urgently need to protect children’s rights while ensuring that communities, authorities and local governments are also doing the same.
1. Child marriage
Nearly every two seconds a girl under 18 is forced into marriage. Each year, 12 million girls are married by their 18th birthday.
Child marriage denies girls their rights, often forcing them to drop out of school, exposing them to violence (sexual, physical and emotional) and driving them into experiences that their young minds and bodies are not ready for, like motherhood.
Of course, boys are married too, but child marriage is an issue that disproportionately affects girls – around 82% of all children married before age 18 are girls.
SEE ALSO: 5 ways to end child marriage
2. Child labour
In the world’s poorest countries, millions of children (approximately 1 in 4) are engaged in hazardous and exploitative child labour that is considered detrimental to their health and development.
Some examples of child labour can include sex trafficking, domestic servitude, hard physical labour such as farming or mining, and sweatshop labour.
SEE ALSO: Freed from a life of child labour
3. Lack of access to education
An estimated 263 million children and youth around the world are currently out of school, including an estimated 130 million girls, with the highest proportion aged 15-17.
Every child has the right to an education, and learning is crucial for development. It’s also one of the most powerful tools in breaking the cycle of poverty and ensuring children are empowered to reach their full potential.
Many girls face a unique set of barriers that prevent them from achieving an education, including long distances to school, lack of safe washrooms, local gender norms, and early pregnancy.
4. Child Soldiers
Today, an estimated 250,000 children, boys and girls under the age of 18, are involved in more than 30 conflicts worldwide.
Children are more likely to become child soldiers if they are separated from their families, displaced from their homes, or living in conflict areas with limited access to education – factors that make them vulnerable to recruitment by armed forces and groups.
These children are forced to endure the horrors of warfare – a reality which not only robs them of their childhoods but also has detrimental effects on their mental and emotional development.
5. Lack of access to clean water
2.1 billion people lack safe drinking water at home, and more than twice as many lack safe sanitation such as toilets.
Without these basics, the lives of millions of children are at risk. For children under 5, water- and sanitation-related diseases are one of the leading causes of death. In fact, every day, over 800 children die from preventable diseases caused by poor water, and a lack of sanitation and hygiene.
6. Female Genital Mutilation
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is defined as “all procedures involving partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”
Today, at least 200 million girls and women have undergone FGM, and the average age of a girl who undergoes FGM is 10 years old.
This practice – which is a fundamental violation of of girls’ rights – is typically upheld by deeply entrenched social norms, and is also a manifestation of gender discrimination.
7. Lack of access to healthcare
Every child has the right to quality healthcare, however 5.6 million children under the age of 5 years died in 2016, with the leading causes being preterm birth complications, pneumonia, birth asphyxia, diarrhoea and malaria. This translates to 15,000 deaths per day. With adequate access to quality healthcare, many of these deaths could likely have been prevented.
In addition, complications related to pregnancy and childbirth is the leading cause of death for girls under 15. As with education, girls face many unique barriers to exercising their rights to healthcare, with the most common barrier being gender norms and inequality.
What is Plan International doing?
We’re dedicated to creating sustainable change for vulnerable children by breaking down the barriers that keep them from accessing their rights, reaching their goals and unleashing the power of possibility.
In partnership with children, families, communities and governments, our programming is centered on addressing the root causes of violations of children’s rights by focusing on these 9 core areas:
- Water and Sanitation
- Child protection
- Economic Security
- Child participation
- Sexual health, including HIV
- Gender equality
help children realize their rights
It won’t be easy but we can defy what is normal for so many children around the world and change the status quo so that all children can thrive!